Computer viruses are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operation.
A virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your e-mail program to spread itself to other computers, or even erase everything on your hard disk.
Computer viruses are often spread by attachments in e-mail messages or instant messaging messages. That is why it is essential that you never open e-mail attachments unless you know who it's from and you are expecting it.
Viruses can be disguised as attachments of funny images, greeting cards, or audio and video files.
Computer viruses also spread through downloads on the Internet. They can be hidden in illicit software or other files or programs you might download.
To help avoid computer viruses, it's essential that you keep your computer current with the latest updates and antivirus tools, stay informed about recent threats, run your computer as a standard user (not as administrator), and that you follow a few basic rules when you surf the Internet, download files, and open attachments.
Once a virus is on your computer, its type or the method it used to get there is not as important asremoving it and preventing further infection.When you listen to the news, you hear about many different forms of electronic infection. The most common are:
- Viruses - A virus is a small piece of software that piggybacks on real programs. For example, a virus might attach itself to a program such as a spreadsheet program. Each time the spreadsheet program runs, the virus runs, too, and it has the chance to reproduce (by attaching to other programs) or wreak havoc.
- E-mail viruses - An e-mail virus travels as an attachment toe-mail messages, and usually replicates itself by automatically mailing itself to dozens of people in the victim's e-mail address book. Some e-mail viruses don't even require a double-click -- they launch when you view the infected message in the preview pane of your e-mail software [source:Johnson].
- Trojan horses - A Trojan horse is simply a computer program. The program claims to do one thing (it may claim to be a game) but instead does damage when you run it (it may erase your hard disk). Trojan horses have no way to replicate automatically.
- Worms - A worm is a small piece of software that uses computer networks and security holes to replicate itself. A copy of the worm scans the network for another machine that has a specific security hole. It copies itself to the new machine using the security hole, and then starts replicating from there, as well.