Computer viruses are damaging, self-replicating programs which can spread from one computer to another via the Internet, a network, or a detachable computer device such as a printer, floppy disc, CD or USB drive. Over the last decade, the proliferation of Internet usage in offices and homes has propagated the spread of computer viruses and the demand for virus detection and virus removal software. Due to its dominance as the most widely-used operating system, Microsoft Windows is the most frequently targeted platform for virus creators. In contrast, Apple operating systems are less likely to be infected by computer viruses, a feature which is often emphasized in Mac advertising campaigns.
The most commonly understood means of preventing computer viruses is to refrain from opening email attachments of an unknown origin or suspicious name. However, computer viruses can also be spread through text-based emails and instant messages, if the user clicks on an infected web address link within the message. Once inside a host computer, a virus may attach itself to an executable file within a certain program. Once the program is opened, the virus’s code will execute and replicate itself. In order to avoid detection, many computer viruses employ stealthy hiding techniques which are written into their code, such as the ability to even interfere with anti-virus software.
There are a number of precautionary measures one can take to minimize their risk of contracting computer viruses. Popular anti-virus systems, Norton AntiVirus™ and VirusScan® from McAfee® are available for download and purchase via the Internet, while anti-virus systems such as AVG Anti-virus and security software are available for download on the Internet at no cost. Anti-virus systems need to be kept updated at all times in order to adequately block the latest computer viruses.Computer users should also refrain from opening suspicious email attachments, clicking on suspicious HTML links, and downloading programs of unknown origin on the Internet as much as possible. To prevent data loss in the event of virus infection, computer users should regularly backup their systems to a disk or separate hard-drive.
Although anti-virus software is the best tool for detecting whether or not your computer is infected with a virus, there are a number of warning signs that are easy to spot. For example, if your computer is operating at a slower pace than usual, frequently freezes or crashes, restarts by itself, prevents access to certain discs or drives, or displays unusual error messages, you may be infected with a computer virus.