One of the most common fears that people have when owning a computer is the chance of getting a virus or spyware. Viruses can be lethal to the computer, often deleting various parts of your system and making it run slowly or outright destroying it to a point you have to reinstall windows. Not every virus is damaging to your computer, however. Many viruses aim to steal your information, data, and log every key you press so that when you enter your password, the keys you press are sent directly to the hackers.
What types of malicious programs are there?
There are actually many different types of computer viruses. To give you a general idea of what they are, here are just a few of them.
Trojans, or trojan horses, are disguised as useful programs such as antivirus software or video games. Unlike other viruses, these typically don’t spread around the system and are usually confined to the software that they are pretending to be. They often log your information and key presses which are then uploaded direction to the person who made the software. In short, trojan viruses trick people into downloading popular software when in reality, they’re malicious pieces of software designed to steal your login details and private data.
Then there’s the ever-malicious directory virus. This virus is also known as a “cluster” virus and only has a single goal: to make your computer suffer. It infects your computer but changing and adding extra files, but also toying with their directories and filenames so that they point to different files. In other words, when you run your internet browser, it could point to a completely different file and instead, open up another virus or spyware. It’s not simple to repair, and the original virus could be possible to locate since it will be hidden as another file.
There is also malware to be afraid of.
is typically not malicious in a sense that it doesn’t delete files or make your computer unusable to a point it requires reformatting or replacing the hard drive. In most cases, malware is a massive annoyance and it continues to replicate itself unless it’s removed. There is adware which will show pop-ups and other annoying advertisements as you use your PC. There is spyware which monitors your computer and collects information such as key presses, the programs you run and sometimes the websites you visit. There is ransomware, which locks your files or alters your system in a way that can be fixed if you pay them money—they are essentially holding your computer for ransom.
How do viruses get into my computer in the first place?
Every computer has basic protection against viruses and spyware. For example, when you download a program with the Google Chrome internet browser, you are automatically given a warning to let you know what exactly you are downloading and if you want to accept it. Sadly, not everyone notices these warnings and clicks accept instinctively, and this can often lead to downloading a malicious file by accident.
Certain email attachments can also contain viruses. Once opened, they can typically run a piece of malicious code that downloads or runs and a virus and then it spreads throughout the system to wreak more havoc. In some cases, infected files can also spread via a home or office network, and if you insert an infected external hard drive or USB pen drive, then the virus could automatically transfer itself to your main PC.
Assuming you don’t currently have a virus on your hard drives or computers in your home or office network, then the only way you can get a virus is by downloading and running a malicious program or opening an infected email attachment. There’s no way they can be spontaneously created within your own computer.
Prevention is the best way to stay safe
As with most real-world medical problems, the best method of staying safe and protected is to practice prevention. For example, make sure you check emails and read them properly before opening attachments. In many cases, fake emails will pretend to be important clients or urgent messages that will tempt you into clicking on a website or opening their attachment. Anything that looks even slightly suspicious should be avoided.
When browsing the internet, make sure you are reading every pop-up box that appears. You don’t want to accept a download or open a program by accident that could lead into you downloading a virus by mistake. It’s best to avoid shady websites that promise ridiculous things, such as the advertisements that promise to give you money, or ways to get rich in just a week. Anything that’s too good to be true should be avoided at all costs.
As long as you practice safety on the internet and with your emails, you should be much safer than you were before. If you’re extremely strict with what you browse and the email attachments you open, you could potentially be virus-free without using antivirus or even a firewall, although it’s always recommended that you have at least some security programs.
What kind of software is there to help me?
If you have been infected or want to have an extra layer of protection, then look no further than a service like Nerds on Call to help you remove the viruses and also optimise your computer for more protection.
The standard trinity of security software is an antivirus, antimalware and firewall. An antivirus software will deal with viruses and scan your computer regularly for offenders. Keep in mind that antivirus software has to be constantly updated to detect and remove new viruses. Antimalware focuses on removing malware. There are times when an antivirus software can do both, but since they are different types of malicious software it’s best to have a program that specialises in removing malware.
Lastly, a firewall is an extremely useful program that allows you to restrict internet traffic coming in and going out. For example, if you have someone trying to remotely access your computer, then you’ll see a warning appear that someone wants to connect to your computer.