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Computer Virus

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

What is a Computer Virus?

A Computer Virus is a computer program that adversely affect other programs by modifying them in such a way as to include copies of their destructive code. When infected files are run, implanted code will be executed which searches out and infects other executable files. By attaching itself to legitimate programs, viruses have the ability to reproduce without a users consent or knowledge.

Viruses emerged on personal computers before the days of widespread networks and the Internet, when information was transferred between systems through the exchange of physical media such as floppy disks. When infected floppies were booted, ones system files would become infected, which would subsequently pass the infection onto other media that was used on the system.

With the growing use of modems and the Internet on PCs in the late 80s and early 90s, computer viruses were increasingly distributed over digital pathways, rather than through the physical means of the past. In many cases, malicious programs were disguised as desirable and popularly traded software in order to fool users into downloading, running, and unintentionally infecting their own systems.

As computer viruses became more widespread, and their effects began to disrupt personal as well as corporate activities, there was an increased need to detect and remove these malicious programs. Technology companies began to develop anti-virus software, which would scan system memory and disk drives for malicious code. Upon detection, antivirus software gives users the ability to quarantine, clean, and delete files, directories and disks that contain viruses.

Today, the techniques of computer viruses have evolved from the traditional method of infecting the boot sector and executable files of single systems, to concealing infectious code within non-executables, by mutating their structure and actions with time, and by propagating themselves through massively distributed emails.

Virus Protection

The majority of viruses are spread online through network services including email, web sites, file sharing systems, and instant messages. Therefore, any computer connected to the Internet runs the risk of of being infected with a computer virus. To protect computers from being infected with a virus, anti virus software should be used. Anti virus software runs in the background of a computer, preventing viruses and other malware from causing harm.

Anti virus software utilize two primary methods for detecting and removing viruses – virus definitions and heuristics. The virus definition method, the most common technique for detecting viruses, scans all potentially malicious files against a master list known viruses. Most anti virus software includes an auto-updating feature that enables the program to download definitions of new viruses so that it can provide protection from the latest threats. The second method of virus detection, heuristic virus scanning, identifies viruses based on common virus behaviors, enabling protection from viruses that have not yet been added to the software’s virus defintions.

Top anti virus software companies include McAfee, Norton, Computer Associates, and AVG.

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