What is a computer virus?
A computer virus is not unlike a biological virus. It passes to a computer system, wrecking havoc on the inner workings of that particular system, then moves on to a different computer, repeating the process, much like what happens with the common cold. Seemingly, once a person you know and are close with, whether it be a co-worker, family member or a friend, catches a cold, it will run rampant throughout everyone’s bodies that they come in contact with. A computer is no different from us in these terms, if it comes in contact with an infected machine, most likely that virus will seize that opportunity to spread itself to a new host, this being your computer.

How does a virus spread itself?
How does a virus accomplish all this you might ask? Well, a virus is a small executable program that attaches itself to other programs. When you then run those programs, the virus itself runs as well, continuing to spread itself and preserve its lifecycle. As an example, say a virus attaches itself to your Microsoft Word program. Every time you then use Word, the virus is activated too, spreading itself to perhaps your favorite chat program. The next time you go to chat, the virus activates itself again and continues to spread. Here, inlays, its strength and its weakness. The strength is what was just outlined a moment ago. The more programs it attaches itself to, the more havoc it can wreck. The weakness is that it must replicate to survive. A virus is only a success if it moves on to a new host. Once you pinpoint a virus and take away its ability to mass-produce, you have defeated it by simply denying it the one thing it must do to live on and thrive, which is to replicate.

How can I protect myself from this?
Protecting yourself against most viruses will involve 3 simple steps. The first thing to do is to download a competent virus protection program. This step is like installing a dead bolt lock on your front door. Sure, you may never get someone trying to break into your house, but if you do, you will sure be glad you have that extra line of defense to thwart such an attack. The peace of mind gained from doing so far outweighs any time or money spent on having to do so. However, just downloading an anti-virus program is not going to be enough. This leads up to our second step, which is to update your anti-virus software. This is nothing more than simple maintenance, much like a flu or an immunization shot that you get before getting sick, to help prevent such things to happen to our systems. It is vital to give your anti-virus software these updates, or shots, to keep your system strong to fend off new types of viruses. The third step is much easier than the first two, as no updates or downloading is required. Simply use common sense. Do not download emails or programs from people you do not know. That is comparable to inviting strangers into your house and leaving them unsupervised and trusting that they won’t steal or damage anything. Sure, some people would not do that, just like some programs or emails from strangers won’t infect your computer with viruses. But you’ll be sorry you made this a common practice once you get one that did infect your system. Your anti-virus software, as great and helpful as it is, is not the perfect solution. It needs your help as well to make sure your computer system stays clean. By keeping the software itself up to date and by applying common sense, you can help yourself stay free of viruses and all the headaches that they involve.