What is a virus? How do I get viruses? And how can I protect myself?

What is a virus? How do I get viruses? How can I protect myself from a virus? What is Malware, Adware, Ransomware or Trojans? These are questions I am asked constantly by clients after their machines have become infected with nasty and detrimental computer viruses. Let’s address these questions and see if we can start avoiding these nasty bits of code.

What is a Virus?

A computer virus is much like a medical virus, such as the flu, it’s designed to spread from host to host with the ability to replicate itself. Just like the flu a computer virus requires a host cell to reproduce and spread, this may be hidden in a file or document. A computer virus operates by adhering or embedding itself to a program or document that executes code via macros. At this point the virus has the ability and potential to cause unanticipated and malicious effects, this may include damaging the system software, corrupting applications or corrupting and destroying data.

How Do I Get a Virus and What is Adware, Malware, Ransomware or a Trojan?

Once the virus is attached to the document, file, email or program it will remain dormant until an action causes the device or computer to execute the code. For a virus to infect your computer you have had to run the infected program, this in turn will execute the virus code. A virus may remain dormant on your computer, without presenting any symptoms until this execution. However, once infected a computer may infect other computers on the same network. This may lead to the theft of passwords or data, keystroke logging (Essentially recording everything you type, this opens you up to recorded passwords etc), file corruption or encryption (holding your files for ransom thanks to the horrible ransomware viruses), spamming of the email accounts, installing false software with the intent for you to purchase illegitimate software (this is known as malware and is highly effective) or even just take over your machine and just really provide some irritating symptoms such as slowing down the machine, changing webpage settings, popups (that in-your-face-guy know as Adware) or just crashing your system entirely.

The spread

With the huge network we have created viruses can spread in so many ways, through all different devices. If the device or program is connected to a network, it has the potential to be a host for a virus. Viruses may spread through anything from email and text message attachments, internet file downloads, social media scam links, socially shareable content such as greeting cards, audio files, video files and shady app downloads.

How Can I Avoid Infection?

To avoid coming in contact it’s very important to exercise caution when on the internet or emails. I like to use real life scenarios to explain when and where not to click links or trust sources. Let’s say for example you received an email from the tax department stating you have this surprise tax refund of $5,000 just click the link and they’ll process the payment. Let’s put this in a real-life scenario. A man knocks on your front door and states he’s from the taxation department, he has a $5,000 return for you and all you need to do is get in his black van and he will take you there, would you go??? Of course, you wouldn’t. So just like avoiding the van we should avoid these shady looking links. If it doesn’t sound real chances are it isn’t.

How to avoid email viruses. A good rule of thumb is to always check who the email is from. The display name may say Australia Post, but when you look at the email address it was sent from it may be coming from [email protected], we know that Australia post will only send from their domain so their email must end in @auspost.com.au. Other common fake emails are from PayPal and eBay again all emails will end in @paypal.com or @ebay.com. Another way to check the legitimacy of an email, is check the links before clicking. If an email is directing you to click a link for further action, you can hover over the link, the address of the link will be displayed generally over the link or in the bottom left hand corner. Again, if it’s an email from PayPal asking you to action a case but the link is sending you to http://deals.crayexcitingsources.com you know that it’s sending you to a page not affiliated with PayPal in anyway. This is a definite red flag. Another simple check is to look for the logos, the layout and spelling. If it has spelling and grammatical issues and the logo looks out of place, it’s more than likely a virus. It’s all about looking and seeing if something looks shady it probably is, just like our man with the van.

What Can I Do?

As you can see we all need to protect ourselves from viruses, and in today’s ever evolving landscape, the viruses are become smarter and more effective. We all need a traditional antivirus to protect us but is there anything more you can do? A managed antivirus is the best solution. With managed updates and patches and a monitored system that can alert a team of technicians if you have an issue, you can protect yourself with a proactive solution. This offers many more benefits than reacting to the infection, which, in some cases, may be too late. Click this link to register to learn more about managed antivirus and how it may protect you and your home or business.

If you want to learn how to safely secure your photos, so if attacked they are safe and secure click here to learn more.

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