Computer viruses are somewhat similar to their organic counterparts since they function under the same principles of infecting a system they are introduced to and focus on replication. However, computer viruses are not a natural aspect of software programs; rather, they are purposefully created to carry out various functions, some of which are malicious in nature. Actions such as compromising the integrity of a computer’s security system, introducing flaws in the programming architecture to cause errors, or even cause the hardware to malfunction resulting in its destruction. These are only a few of the possible actions that a computer virus could be responsible for and, as such, show why it is necessary to know about the different types of viruses out there, how they can infect systems and what measures can a user take to either prevent infection or get rid of one.
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Types of Virus
The infection vector of a macro virus is through programs that utilize macros such as.doc,.xls, or.ppp. While the extensions may not be familiar, they consist of Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. A macro virus infects these files and spreads when it is shared across various emails and USB drives.
Memory Resident Virus
A memory-resident virus is one of the most resilient types of viruses out there since it resides in the RAM of the computer and comes out of stasis every time the computer’s OS is activated. As a result, it infects other open files leading to the spread of the virus.
A worm is a self-replicating virus that focuses on creating adverse effects on your computer. This can consist of deleting critical system files, overwriting program protocols, and taking up valuable CPU processing space. Worm infections are identifiable based on process errors happening all of a sudden as well as a noticeable decline in the performance of your computer.
Trojan viruses are aptly named since they stay hidden in a computer’s system subtly gathering information. Unlike works, the impact of trojans is rarely felt since their primary purpose is to collect information and transmit it to a predetermined location. Banking information, passwords, and personal details are what Trojans are usually after since this enables malicious hackers to use the information in identity theft as well as to illegally access online accounts and transfer funds.
Direct Action Viruses
This type of virus takes action once certain conditions have been met such as when they are executed by the user (i.e. opened or clicked). They are typically found in the system directory and infect the various therein; however, some varieties of direct action viruses tend to change location depending on how they were initially programmed.
While these are only a few examples, they do represent the various types of computer viruses out there and show why it is necessary to devise different methods of combating them.
Why is it Hard to Prevent the Creation of Computer Viruses?
The problem with computer viruses is that they are often created by people that are looking for exploits in computer systems. Since they are intentionally looking for “holes” in the security to use, it is not surprising that it is hard to create a truly impregnable system that can withstand all manner of computer viruses. The problem lies in the fact that computer viruses are not static entities; rather, they continue to evolve based on new programming architecture. This “evolution” is not the viruses itself evolving. Instead, it is the programmers themselves who create new viruses based on additional principles they learn as technology and in turn software development continues to improve. It is due to this that attempts at creating more efficient anti-virus prevention solutions are met with new types of viruses that try to circumvent them. The only way this practice were to stop altogether would be if all virus creation were to stop, an event that is highly unlikely to occur.
Standard Practices to Prevent Infection
Install an Anti-Virus Software Program
One of the best ways of stopping infection is to install an anti-virus program (ex: McAffee, Symantec, Avast). They specialize in scanning programs, identifying a virus based on information from a database, isolating the file, and deleting it if possible. Do note that anti-virus programs are not infallible since new viruses are created almost every day and, as such, the battle between anti-virus companies and virus creators is never-ending.
Do Not Visit Suspicious Websites
Suspicious websites fall under the category of sites that have questionable content or lack the necessary SSL certificates or verifications. These sites often try to draw visitors via advertisements that indicate that free games can be downloaded from the site, or it has other types of content that a person would usually need to pay for to obtain. Torrent websites are often the most visited of these sites since they offer a wide variety of free content that has been illegally obtained by hackers. However, while it may be tempting to download different movies and games, some of these torrent files are often mixed with viruses that can compromise your system’s security. This can lead to instances of identity theft which can cost you several thousand dollars more than the original price of a movie or game that you illegally downloaded. Utilizing anti-virus programs and following the various instructions in this paper should result in a relatively low chance of your computer.
Be Wary of Foreign USB Drives
USB drives are a ubiquitous method for sharing information around campus; however, since people tend to share these drives among their friends, there are instances where an infection in one computer can rapidly spread to others from that single USB. It is due to circumstances such as these that computer owners need to be cautious with any USB drive that they accept. If you know that the drive has been continuously shared, you need to perform an anti-virus scan on it.
Complete System Reformating
In cases where a computer system has become unavoidably infected and has slowed CPU processes to a crawl due to junk data, it is often necessary to perform a complete system reformat. A system reformats consists of the OS and BIOS of the computer being erased and reinstalled. This helps to get rid of any viruses that remain and enables the computer to work properly again, though this is at the cost of all the files on the computer unless they have backups.
All in all, computer viruses can cause considerable damage if the proper precautions are not taken. Utilizing anti-virus programs and following the various instructions in this paper should result in a relatively low chance of your computer.