How Does A Computer Virus Work?
A computer virus is a kind of malicious software that uses legitimate code to spread and replicate. Similar to other malware, an attacker uses a virus to harm or manipulate a computer. The name is derived from the way the victims are contaminated.
Keep reading to uncover the working principle of these viruses and how they damage your device and data while running in the background.
What Is A Virus?
The word 'virus' is often used as a generic term for all malicious programs, but technically it is a program or batch of code that attaches itself to a valid, executable part of the software.
These malicious codes propagate through replication and inclusion in documents, programs, or e-mail attachments.
A biological virus cannot reproduce on its own. Similarly, a computer virus isn't a standalone program, but a code snippet that inserts itself into an application.
When that application runs, it executes the code, with results that range from irritating pop-ups to complete loss of data.
How Does It Work?
Many of these ‘infections’ target the boot section on the device - the hard disk area where the startup routine code is stored.
This type of root code infection is destructive because it still runs on a computer. Some others are concealed within emails, bundled downloads, or attached documents.
Such programs tend to run normally, except behind-the-scenes; malignant code plays tricks like spam-mailing people in your contacts.
Some viruses like a worm can replicate themselves, often forcing the infected device to send similar copies to other devices within the network.
These worms work their way through the network consuming bandwidth and processing power.
Read More: Difference between virus, worm and trojan
How Do Computer Viruses Spread?
A common notion is that viruses enter your device through the Internet. However, in most cases, it is spread through other ways like removable media, email attachments, and unverified downloads.
- Email Virus - Plain-text emails can’t spread infections. It’s mostly done via attachments or rich-text emails. Once you open the email or download the attachment, the malicious code installs itself on your device.
- Removable Media - Once on your device, the infection starts looking for larger programs to piggyback. If you connect a flash drive or other removable media, the virus copies itself and replicates it on the removable media. When you insert it into another device, it spreads.
- Unverified downloads - Most people download software, games, and other things from unverified websites. When you execute the downloaded file, the infection (which comes bundled) also gets installed on the device.
The Signs Of A Virus
Many telltale signs will indicate a virus on your system. Here are some red flags you should monitor:
- Excessive slowness and lags
- Irritating pop-ups and spam ads
- Loss of access to certain files/folders or the entire system
- Unexpected changes to your default browser settings
- Unknown programs run automatically when you boot the device
- Mass spam emails sent from your user accounts
- Your device’s antivirus gets disabled automatically
- The device's battery drains out very quickly
- Constant system crashes
- Your device’s storage space keeps running out
There are ways to prevent these malicious infections. Keep reading to learn steps you should take to avoid these problems and best practices to manage preventative security for your connected devices.
How To Protect Yourself
The best way to steer clear of any infections is by using dedicated antivirus software. Other than this, you can also do the following to keep your device and data secured:
- Run frequent device scans to detect and remove any threats
- Update your device’s OS and other security patches as and when they’re released
- Use strong passwords
- Take regular data backups
- Use a firewall and enhanced browser privacy settings
- Stay clear from unverified websites
- Do not open spam/junk emails
- Use pop-up and ad blockers
No antivirus solution can guarantee 100% security from malware. Still, they do a commendable job of keeping your device and data safe.
You should make sure that you frequently update the device’s OS and other security patches. Besides, a lot of it depends on your awareness.
Try keeping away from unsolicited emails, unverified downloads, and use add-on security measures like firewalls and VPNs to keep viruses at bay.