The term “virus” is borrowed from biology. A virus is malware that infects a host, and then reproduces and spreads. Viruses may be malicious or benign, but in either case it’s disconcerting to have low-level software, written by some stranger, nestled down in your system without your approval.
Viruses often linger innocently in your system until a predefined moment when they unleash some malicious behavior (such as reformatting the machine’s hard disk or deleting data). Less malicious behaviors include displaying a message announcing the presence of the virus (but doing no actual damage to the system). Other viruses never actually announce themselves, but remain invisible.
What can you do to fight viruses?
For most systems, anti-virus software is an absolute must. Personal computer operating systems have become more resilient to viruses and other malware since the early days of the worldwide web. For Windows, the most popular antivirus software programs are McAfee, Symantec and Sophos.
Even if you use an anti-virus program and firewall, you have no guarantee that your computer will always be safe no matter what you do. If you indiscriminately download software from the Internet and install it, you may be inadvertently installing malware. You need to be absolutely confident about the source of any software you download from the Internet and install on your computer.
Internet Safety Podcast Episode 20: Viruses and Other Media
Photo by Tom Thai.