Computer viruses explained

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computer virus explained

December is the most magical time of the year. The twinkling of lights, the smell of a roaring log fire, the chance to wear a chunky knit jumper and the excitement of seeing freshly laid snow. But whilst you are spreading festive cheer, malware makers are causing chaos too, as this is also the month when computer viruses are most rife.

A computer virus is a type of malicious code or programme that is designed to spread from one device to another. Causing unexpected or damaging effects, a computer virus targets the system software by corrupting, stealing or destroying data.

Just like flu, a computer virus can spread from host to host and has the ability to replicate itself. But with modern day devices and antivirus programmes, just how at risk are we of receiving a virus and what type of damage can they cause?

As specialists in computer services in Cornwall, we’ll explain everything you need to know about computer viruses and the implications of receiving dangerous malware.

What it a computer virus?

Computer viruses are common and are often caught through no fault of our own. They are incredibly contagious types of malware that are self-replicating, which means that they have the ability to copy themselves across files and to other computers without the user’s consent.

Most viruses are written so that they alter the way in which a computer operates – often with devastating effects – such as such spoiling your systems software, corrupting your data and accessing and downloading your sensitive information.

How do computer viruses spread?

There are two main types of computer viruses:

  • A live virus that infiltrates your computer the minute it enters your device.
  • A dormant virus that attaches itself to a programme, file or document and lies in wait until the user clicks on it and activates the code. With this type of virus, you could be working away on your computer for many months without even knowing it is there!

The most common ways to spread a computer virus is through emails, attachments, internet file downloads, images, audio video files and social media scams.

December is a particularly popular month for computer viruses, as we tend to do a lot more browsing online, inputting our personal details and purchasing goods. And with a rise in trend for online sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we are managing to provide even more opportunities for computer hackers to break into our devices.

Learn more about Lee Harvey’s Virus and Spyware Removal services.

What types of computer viruses are there?

Computer viruses are relatively new in comparison to the inventions of electronic devices. The first virus to ever hit our screens back in 1971, was called the Creeper virus. Although it was developed as an experimental self-duplicating program that was never intended to cause any damage, it corrupted a number of computers causing them to display the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can”!

Today, computer viruses are a lot more sophisticated and can cause serious destruction, not to mention undue stress, to those affected. Capable of stealing your passwords, corrupting your data, logging your keystrokes, spamming your contacts and even taking over your machine, are just some of the harmful things that a virus is capable of.

Worse yet, some viruses, such as ransomware, are designed with financial gains in mind. By encrypting its victims files and gaining admin control over their computer, a faceless hacker can make demands for payment in order to restore the device. Failure to do so can lead to the deletion of files or alternatively seeing your sensitive information being published online.

These types of computer viruses are either passed on via trusted emails or via exploited security holes within your software system.

Other viruses that have swept the nation wreaking havoc include ILOVEYOU – which was spread via email and overwrote system and personal files once opened – and MyDoom.

MyDoom was considered to be the most damaging virus ever released. Not only was it the fastest spreading email virus of all time, but it specifically targeted the big tech companies including the likes of Microsoft and Google.

Signs you have a computer virus

Although many viruses go undetected until you press the destruction button, there are some early warning signs that you should watch out for. These include:

  • Pop-up windows. You can’t access anything online these days without a pop-up ad plonking itself in your face. But be wary of what you click on, as they may be encouraging you to download damaging programs or spyware.
  • Emails being sent from your account. Quite often we are unaware of this until someone mentions an email that you never sent! Depending on how your computer stores information, it can be relatively easy for a hacker to infiltrate your computer and contacts too.
  • Computer says no. A virus not only attacks your software but your hardware as well. If your device freezes, crashes or starts to process slower than normal, it could be down to a virus.
  • Unrecognised programs. If you start to notice unfamiliar programme icons appearing on your start up screen, do not be tempted to click on them, as these could contain viruses.
  • Password changes. If your computer denies you access whilst logging on, it could be because someone else has control and is shutting you out.

How to prevent computer viruses?

As always, prevention is better than cure, so it is best to ensure that you are well protected against computer viruses.

This includes backing up all of your files so that they are stored in multiple places (either in the cloud or on a separate hard drive). You should also change your passwords regularly and never use the same one for multiple log ins.

Be wary of who is sending you emails or attachments and never download something from an unrecognised source.

If you can, make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software, but remain vigilant as although these add another level of security to your computer, they will not prevent a serious hacker for accessing your system.

Get rid of viruses for good with Lee Harvey Computing

Removing ransomware and spyware from affected computers, requires new tools and new techniques. Therefore, if a virus is detected on your device, then you should always contact a computer expert who can get rid of it for good and recover any damaged documents.

At Lee Harvey Computing in Cornwall, we can also advise you on how to back up your files and protect your personal data.

Having been fixing computers all over the South Coast of England for over 20 years, our mobile computing business services those in the St Austell and surrounding areas. Well established, Lee is fully qualified and Microsoft certified and comes with a loyal customer following, which is testament to the high quality of service he provides.

In addition to removing computer viruses and recovering damaged files, we can also offer a full diagnostics and repair service, as well as laptop and PC health checks, software updates and screen and part replacements for any make and model.

So, for honest, cost effective and reliable computer repairs contact Lee Harvey Computing today to make your mobile appointment.

Lee Harvey

Lee Harvey

Lee is an experienced computer repair engineer and operates across Cornwall from his base in St Austell.

Computer Repair Cornwall

About Lee Harvey

We offer full diagnostics and repair of any make and model of desktop or laptop computer as well as any software repairs on tablet computers.
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