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Computer Viruses & Malware: A Brief Introduction

The word “virus” elicits anything BUT a positive connotation, and warrantably so. They can be anywhere from pesky, to fatal in the human body and the same goes for computers. Viruses are pieces of malicious code added to your computer, often by people with less-than-good intentions. Once infected, there is a range of vulnerabilities that you are susceptible to.

In the same way that conventional viruses evolve and can be difficult to eradicate, the same goes for viruses pertaining to computers.

Here are some of the most common ones:

TROJAN HORSES

The name itself pays homage to the epic Greek tale, where the Greeks infiltrated the city of Troy by hiding inside a large wooden horse. This nasty malware is typically disguised as a normal program, but once installed it can gain access to your computer’s files and your private data, such as banking information & passwords, while also being capable of modifying data.

WEBSCRIPTING VIRUS

A novel type of fast-spreading virus, webscripting viruses are little pesky bugs that hide in the background of frequently visited websites, most often- social media. They are disguised as a normal link, but then when you click- it takes all your cookies (pieces of your data; not the yummy ones). It can send spam to your system & damage data.

MACRO VIRUS

Macro viruses are typically found in Microsoft Office programs. Software infected by a macro virus may create new files, corrupt data, shift text, send files, insert images, reformat harddrives & be a vehicle to deliver other viruses and malware. Similar to other viruses, macro viruses increase the size of a file once infected as they attach their own code. It is incredibly easy to spread via file sharing

BOOT SECTOR VIRUS

A popular pest in the 90’s, boot sector viruses are one of the oldest types of virus. They go straight to the “core” of your computer, directly impacting the startup (or “boot”) process. While in the 90’s these viruses were found in floppy disks, these days they can be attached to emails or USB sticks. If you have a boot sector virus, you likely need a full system reformat

OVERWRITE VIRUS

Like the name suggests, overwrite viruses overwrite a file and wipe the original code. The original data is then unretrievable as it has been written over. It is spread via email attachments or file downloads off of the internet.

POLYMORPHIC VIRUS

Akin to the chameleon, polymorphic viruses are constantly changing. Everytime it replicates, there is a modification to the code/ functions- which makes it difficult for anti-virus software to keep up with it. It is capable of deleting files, stealing data and overall- sabotaging your computer.

BROWSER HIJACKER

These viruses take over your internet searches and then consequently, redirect you to totally random pages. Less dangerous, and more of a nuisance- browser hijacking has a direct impact on the user experience.

RESIDENT VIRUS 

One of the more common ones, resident viruses make themselves right at home in your system’s memory and only show up when you try to have your computer execute a particular task. They come from email attachments, infected internet downloads & shared files. This type of virus can also attach to anti-virus software, tackling the very thing meant to prevent it, requiring professional help.

MULTIPARTITE VIRUS

Also known as “multi-part viruses”, this versatile virus can assault both the computer's central boot sector as well as any files. This is how it varies from other viruses, which typically only impact one or the other. It is spread to .exe files, so think Word and Excel. This virus also totally eats up your virtual memory, so a good indicator of its presence may be frequent “low virtual memory” pop-ups that don’t seem quite right.

Viruses come in all shapes and sizes and show no bias in how they can infect your system. Whether the attack is indirect and discrete, or forceful and aggressive- they can all pose a certain level of risk and danger.

Some things you can do to better protect yourself:

1.Make sure that your firewall is enabled

2.Install an antivirus software

3.Don’t click on random links or visit unfamiliar webpages