What does a computer virus actually do?

No doubt you’ve heard of a computer virus, you may have been on the unfortunate end of one or know someone who has, but what is it and how can you prevent your PC from getting one? We’ve pulled together a useful summary with some hints and tips to help you out…

 What is a computer virus?

It’s basically a piece of code which is capable of copying itself. Once opened it can infect your PC and will then start to do the damage.

What makes my computer catch a virus?

There are dozens of ways a computer can become infected, but by far the most commonly known method is by opening a dangerous e-mail attachment that contains malicious code. These viruses can be disguised as almost anything, for example a funny photo or a greeting card. The message may even have come from someone you know, whose PC is likely to have been infected itself.

What does a computer virus actually do?

A computer virus acts just like a virus you catch as a person, it spreads! Unfortunately though for your computer in some cases it’s not just something it can catch and get over. One virus can be devastating for your business with the worst case scenario being the end of your company. For PCs at home a virus could delete everything you have on it – from precious photos to copying your bank account, credit card and social security numbers.

Not all viruses are the same. Each virus has a completely different task to try and do when infecting your computer.

How will I know if my PC has a virus?

Unfortunately, knowing your PC has a virus isn’t as straight forward as you may think or hope – the symptoms aren’t always the same and are constantly moving. Here are a couple of signs your computer may have a virus:

  • Freezing – we’ve all been there, you’re busy working away and suddenly everything comes to a stop! Your mouse curser stops moving and no matter what button you press nothing happens.
  • Slow performance – Are you sat there pulling your hair out, waiting for the simplest of things to load that you know from previous times it use to open within seconds?
  • Frequent computer crashing – You’re browsing the web, minding your own business, and suddenly your computer has a meltdown, it restarts all by itself, or just turns itself off then starts up again but doesn’t seem to run normally.
  • Missing files – It’s the computer trying to make you feel like you’re losing your mind. Files that you knew where there have now disappeared.

All very frustrating!

Not all signs mean you’re PC infected, just like if you sneeze, it doesn’t always mean you have a cold. Same goes with your computer – if your computer starts running slower it just might need an update or you have too many programmes open at once. The best thing to do is get it checked if you’re concerned.

How can I protect my PC from getting a virus?

There are a number of ways to help protect your computer from viruses, such as:

  • install an antivirus program – a computer without any protection is like an open door to viruses
  • perform daily scans
  • don’t open an email attachment unless you know exactly what it is
  • keep your computer updated
  • immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam, don’t open them, reply or forward them
  • avoiding questionable web sites and only download from sites you trust

Unfortunately tens of thousands of computer viruses now operate over the internet, and new viruses are discovered every day, it’s a problem that’s not going away any time soon. Best to be safe than sorry!

Contact Smart for further help and advice.