A computer virus, much like a biological virus, is designed to spread from host to host and has the ability to replicate itself. Like its name-a-like, the biological virus like COVID or the flu virus cannot reproduce on its own and must hijack a cell to wreak havoc on the infected organism, the computer virus also follows the same trait. A Computer viruses cannot propagate and spread without a host program. A computer virus is not itself a standalone program, instead it is a code snippet that inserts itself into some other application. When that application runs, it executes the virus code, with results which can range from irritating to the disastrous. As historic pandemics have proved, biological viruses have always been a potent threat to humanity, recently with the end of 2019, we faced a crisis with the Wuhan Virus, which even brought the biggest of economies and world class medical systems to its knees. Its no wonder viruses became an ideal weapon model in a totally different world — a world of 0’s and 1’s.
The word virus originates from Latin and means “poison” or “slime.” Gross as the term is, it well describes the consequences when a computer virus infects your PC. In the worst case, a virus can cause a complete system failure with the system being un-usable. The first computer viruses were created as early as in the 1970’s. Starting as pranks, they evolved to become a major threat to the stability of computer networks across the world. The term ‘computer virus’ was first formally defined by Fred Cohen in 1983. He is an IT veteran who programmed the first PC virus in the year 1983. Today Fred Cohen is not a hacker, instead is a researcher and professor of computer security at the University of New Haven, but the viral code he developed laid the foundation for many dangerous computer viruses known today. Cohen is best known for his pioneering work on computer viruses, the invention of high integrity operating system mechanisms which now is in widespread use, and automation of protection management functions.
What is a Virus
A virus is a small program designed to cause trouble by gaining access to your device. One noticeable trait of a Virus is that it always piggybacks onto legitimate application code. A virus is deployed by attackers to damage or take control of a computing devices. It has the capability to copy your personal data or slow your device down to a point where it is in-usable . A virus spreads by duplicating and attaching itself to other files. It’s to be noted that Virus are always induced by people i.e. the virus requires someone to knowingly or unknowingly spread the infection without the knowledge or permission of a user or system administrator.
While some viruses can be playful in intent and effect, others can have profound and damaging effects like stealing passwords or data, logging keystrokes, corrupting files, spamming your email contacts, and even taking over your machine are just some of the devastating and irritating things a virus can do. Not to forget its capable of causing permanent damage to your hard disk and at the worse some viruses are designed with financial gains in mind.
What Does Virus Do
Once created and released, its diffusion is not directly under human control. It’s so elusive because after entering a device, the virus attaches itself to another program in such a way that execution of the host program triggers the action of the virus. In other words, it can self-replicate, by inserting itself onto other programs or files, infecting them as well in the process. Now, not all computer viruses are destructive though, however most of them perform actions that are malicious in nature – such as destroying data. Some variants wreak havoc as soon as their code gets executed, while others lie dormant until a particular event gets initiated, which would causes their code to run in the computer.
A virus typically attaches itself to a program, file, or the boot sector of the hard disk. Once the virus attaches itself to a file or program on the host, the device is infected. The virus can stay dormant but as soon as the infected application or file runs in the computer, the virus activates and executes in the system. It continues to replicate and propagate itself to other files and applications in the host machine. A virus can remain dormant on your device, without showing major signs or symptoms. However, once the virus infects your devcie, the virus can infect other computers on the same network as well.
How Does Virus Spread
With the reach of WWW the world is ever more connected than it was before. A device can catch a Virus at the same pace a human can catch a flu. Viruses spread when the software or documents they get attached to are transferred from one device to another using a network, a disk, file sharing methods, internet file download. Most widely it is spread through, p2p file sharing, infected e-mail attachment from an known or unknown source and social media scam links. We should be careful when visiting infected shady websites, downloading free games, toolbars etc. The bad guys are finding more and more lucrative idea’s to fool potential victims and share their evil brain child idea and create havoc without the victim even realizing they are a victim of a cyber act.
Types Of Virus
This section seems to be stretching more than that we expected. To keep this short and precise we are moving the Types Of Virus to a different page as just the topic on type is vast and will be a bit overwhelming. We will keep on updating the types regularly. If you are interested learn more about the different categories of Viruses click here.
How to Protect against Virus
Though most computer viruses target devices that running Microsoft Windows on the other hand, Macs enjoy a reputation as virus-proof super machines. In reality, a quick rain check shows, Macs are not inherently safer. The fact is that there are more Windows users in the world as compared to Mac users and bad actors simply choose to write viruses for the OS with the largest number of potential victims.
Whatever OS you choose, be it Windows, Mac, Linux or even Android don’t worry too much, because viruses just aren’t a thing anymore. That is right..you read it right. If you are on the internet you are susceptible to fall prey to someone’s mischief. It is a fact because Cyber criminals are not creating new viruses, instead they are focusing their efforts on more sophisticated and lucrative threats. Usually when a Virus is reported its often found out to be a computer worm. Criminals are getting more and more creative in developing and distributing the virus. There had been instances where even a standalone device in an airtight room was found to have virus. How? That is food for thought maybe… an insider job, a mistake by a user etc. We need to understand no system in fool proof. However, said that there are ways we can ensure that we can increases the chances of not contradicting or at the least an early detection before damage is being done. As the old wise guys said, try to follow these best practices.
- Keep your device OS up to date and do regular updates and patching for the OS.
- Don’t open email messages from unfamiliar senders, or email attachments that you don’t recognize. Beware of lucrative Email Phishing Scams on the internet
- Install Antivirus software and keep them up to date with latest updates and patches. Run Regularly Scheduled Scans with Your Anti-Virus Software.
- Buy legitimate software, from legitimate source and register it. Avoid cracked software. Control your urge for free software’s. Always make sure the software is up to date.
- Secure Your Network. If possible invest in a firewall.
- Regularly backup your device or at least keep important files in a secondary storage
- Use a Strong Password
- Avoid suspicious websites. Instantly leave the websites you have been routed to without your consent. Have a pop-up blocker running on your web browser.
- Educate Your Family & Staff. Knowledge is power.
- Know the signs of Infection and act upon it.
- Repeated error messages
- Unexpected shutdowns
- Computer suddenly slows down
- Takes too long to shut down or restart
- New toolbars you didn’t install
- Changes to your homepage
- Rapidly draining battery
With this it brings us to the end of this topic. On the closing note, we don’t know what kind of challenges viruses of either type will cause in the future, but understanding how they infect, the symptoms they induce, how they spread, and the damage they can cause can help us fight both. Some viruses use different stealth strategies to avoid their detection from anti-virus software. For eg. some can infect files without increasing their sizes, while others try to evade detection by killing the tasks associated with the antivirus software itself before they can be detected. Some old viruses make sure that the “last modified” date of a host file stays the same when they infect the file. Pretty smart huh?
The terms “virus” and “malware” are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. That is not true, a computer virus is a type of malware but not all malware are computer viruses. A virus lies dormant until it is activated due to its design. This contrasts with a worm, which can execute on its own with no human intervention. You can accidentally download a virus to your PC, but it will not do any harm until you run the file or open the document it’s embedded in. At that time when virus code is activated, it can execute payload, which might include stealing passwords, emailing itself to the contacts in your address book, or taking over your PC in a ransom attack.
The pure computer viruses are very uncommon today, comprising less than 8% of all malwares. It is a good thing though as Viruses are the only type of malware that “infects” other files in the device. This trait makes them particularly hard to clean up because they get executed from a legitimate program. Even the best antivirus in the market struggle with doing it correctly and in most of the cases will simply quarantine or delete the infected file instead.
Hope this section was informative. Check out our other interesting articles. Happy learning.