Understanding computer viruses

Although computer viruses come in variety of formats, they perform a function (or action) that is often destructive and unexpected. Like biological viruses, computer viruses are potentially dangerous to their host. Just as biological viruses can harm human health and transfer one human to another, computer viruses affect the performance of the computer and potentially can move from one computer host to another.

Important note

Computer viruses don’t damage hardware or do other physical damage to devices connected to the computer. The data on your computer or other sources can be destroyed, deleted, or your computer screen may show messages or graphics that you don’t expect or your work can be interrupted but no physical damage is done. In essence, computer viruses are harmless to the hardware.

There are number of actions that viruses can perform, depending on the purpose/design of the viruses. In general viruses can do any of these tasks:

  • Destroy data, files, directories (or folders) from the computer’s hard-drive. Once the data is deleted or corrupted, it may not become available again for your use.
  • Interrupt your work or computer operations. These viruses interfere with your work or computer’s operations, for example, showing you the same message repeatedly, switching windows around, giving error message forcing a computer shutdown, and so on.
  • Steal — these computer viruses steal data from the user. The user is typically lured to installing the virus program with a promise to a free service or free program. When the program is installed, the virus starts to do its work.

The bottom line is that computer viruses can perform any of these and other tasks without the user finding out that this is happening. So it is important to protect your computer against viruses. Here are some tips to know:

  • Install virus-protection software on your computer if you don’t have one. If you do have virus-protection software, make sure it is up-to-date.
  • Watch what you download from the internet. If the download file or program is free don’t use it unless you trust the source and the content.
  • If you suspect a program or downloaded a file that contains a virus, don’t use it. Keep the file away from your computer (meaning if it is in your email account, leave it there, for instance). Better yet, delete the suspected file to ensure it is not used. If you are not sure if it is a virus, consider scanning the file for viruses with your virus-protection software.
  • Install programs on your computer that are known to be safe. If someone has recommended you to use a program, ask if the program is safe and if he has installed it.
  • Searching online can also reveal any complaints or other known issues of a particular program that you are considering to install. Do this research when deemed appropriate.

This shows you number of ways you can protect your computer against viruses yet best defense against computer virus protection possibly is keeping yourself informed of any computer virus threats. If there are any computer virus alerts, it is possibly a good idea to take them seriously. A computer virus bulletin cannot alone protect a computer if the computer user does not take every possible recommended precaution to protect his/her computer.

So why do we have computer viruses? Creators of the viruses have number of motivations to come up with viruses:

  • Virus creators see the viruses as a joke or prank. To them annoying a user (or a software or hardware company) is just a prank.
  • To take revenge against other computer users or a particular hardware or software system
  • Experimenting/exploring
  • Desire to show it can be done. Viruses are perceived as noteworthy accomplishment even if it is done anonymously.
  • To make political statements
Posted on 12/17/2007
by Raj Singh