Dangers of Computer Viruses: Protect Your Devices

A computer virus is a malicious program that penetrates vulnerable devices to alter the way they function. There are many types of viruses, and new ones are constantly being created. This means that you need to have a robust security plan in place to deal with these ever-changing threats.

Replication is the singular feature that makes viruses so dangerous to computers. Once inside the host program, the virus will start to make copies of itself. It often spreads rapidly, and it can cause widespread damage to other software programs inside a device. It can even spread across networks and reach any systems connected to the network, damaging other endpoint devices and taking total control of the entire system. The virus can be challenging to eliminate once it gains access to the system.

What is a Computer Virus?

A computer virus is an illegal, harmful, or malicious program that can change the way your computer runs and behaves. Some of these programs seek to cause as much damage as possible to the endpoint devices they infect, like altering software programs or corrupting data. Other viruses will attempt to gain access to sensitive information. This information might include personal identifying information, credit card numbers, bank information, addresses, and other financial data. Other viruses will seek to steal information and also cause damage to your system.

What Causes Computer Virus Infections?

The best way to detect, block, and avoid computer viruses is to know where they’re coming from or what causes them. After answering the question, “what is a computer virus?”, the next step is to identify its types. Here are some of the common causes of computer viruses:

  • Opening suspicious email attachments
  • Attaching unsecured removable or external storage devices (e.g., flash drives, external hard drives, memory cards)
  • Accessing malicious websites
  • Clicking malicious ads
  • Downloading malicious and unlicensed applications

How Does a Computer Virus Spread Infection?

Computer viruses have many characteristics and behaviors that create signs of an infection, so if there are any sudden changes in your computer’s performance, scan it immediately. A virus begins as a malicious program that requires a host computer or device to launch. It can embed its code onto the device. From there, it could turn into many variations. These viruses can get onto the system when you open a link or an email attachment that contains a malicious code, for example.

Many viruses will directly infect your system with malicious codes through different means. Dependent viruses need to be downloaded and installed through a host program. If the virus does require a host program, it won’t become active until the program is launched. But if the virus is independent, it will not need a host program. This kind of virus can attack systems without using the resources of a host. The damages caused by these viruses can be significant; some estimates are in billions of dollars every year—$4.5 billion in households and 55 billions in workplaces and businesses. The global cost of malware infections and damages is estimated to reach $6 trillion by 2021. This whopping potential cost, as well as the mental and emotional repercussions on a personal level, are excellent reasons to stay away from any sites, links, attachments, videos, images, or files that could be infected with a computer virus.

Can Computer Virus Enter the System Through Trusted Sources?

Many viruses can get on the system when the computer user clicks on an unsafe link. But other viruses might enter the system from a legitimate download. They might even sneak onto the system without being detected when the user installs software that would otherwise be safe.

If the virus could attach itself to a piece of software during installation, it can get into the deepest levels of the computer and remain there undetected. By the time the damage is apparent, it could be too late to do anything about it.

Some programs target the user’s email account even if the malicious link or attachment will appear to be coming from a trusted source. Some programs can sneak onto the system and avoid detection even for experienced computer users with licensed software programs. This is why preventing infection is the best course of action. Monitor your behavior online, and avoid any potentially infected sites or links. Antivirus software can also help allow the computer owner to scan the system and detect any malicious programs.

What Are the Common Types of Computer Viruses

Computer viruses can compromise your system and all of the information on your hard drive. This is why it’s helpful to learn about the most common types of computer viruses; this information can help you identify the best course of action to take.

Know how to ensure your privacy and security even in a worst-case scenario by learning the behaviors of these viruses and identifying the likelihood of an infection. In this way, you’ll immediately notice early signs of infection through the performance of your device. The most common computer viruses include the following:

Trojan horse

This notorious program is also simply called a trojan. These viruses appear to have a benevolent or helpful function. However, they can inflict damage once it gains access to the system—like the infamous wooden horse from the Trojan War.2

Web scripting virus

This is a very harmful kind of virus hidden in the coding of links, videos, advertisements, or code within a malicious website. If the user accesses an infected malicious website, the virus will enter the system and cause harm by breaching the web browser security.

File infector .exe

This kind of file can infect the computer when the file is launched. However, this virus can only run after the file is launched. Most file infector viruses only replicate and spread, taking up storage, but others damage host programs and licensed applications.

Computer worms

Computer worms can come from software vulnerabilities, malicious email attachments, or instant messages from social networking sites. These pernicious programs can replicate and infect entire networks of computers without the user’s permission or any human interaction. After replication, they can steal information, corrupt sensitive files, or change the computer system’s settings.


Malware is a generic computer term that refers to some kind of program that is malicious. As an umbrella term, computer viruses are then also considered malware. Common kinds of malware include spyware, adware, trojan horses, and computer worms. They can steal information, damage hardware and software technologies, or monitor users.

Spyware, one of the most dangerous types of malware, can observe user activities online or offline. It can monitor private activities, such as web browsing and online shopping. Hackers executing spyware may have the means to view your passwords, bank account information.

Detecting a Virus

Early detection is one of the vital defenses against a computer virus—after active prevention. A common sign of an infected computer is a slow operating system. Other signs might include programs launching without being prompted. Email spam can also be a sign of a virus that can generate unwanted and misleading emails in your inbox.

Installing and running an antivirus program can help you scan your computer, locate the virus, remove it, or place it into quarantine. You can execute a manual, regular, or deep scan, depending on the performance and behavior of your computer.

Tips for Avoiding Computer Viruses

Prevention is the best solution when it comes to any kind of virus. Practicing universal precautions won’t have you go through the complicated process of detecting, isolation, and eliminating the virus.

Universal precautions simply mean that you improve your security layers offline and online, so you can enjoy browsing the Internet without worries. It also means you adopt all of the best browsing behaviors necessary to keep your computer safe, such as protecting your passwords and financial details and avoiding suspicious-looking websites.

In terms of specific online behavior, it would mean adjusting your actions and behaviors when accessing websites, opening messages, and downloading applications. Some of them may look legitimate but actually carry malicious codes.

Observing the most basic precautions will prevent many infections. Get started with these list of tips to protect your computer and personal data against computer viruses:

Update your system regularly

Make sure to update your operating system, browser, and installed programs. Updates will often include additional safety features designed to protect your computer against the latest threats. Viruses can usually find an entry point from an out-of-date browser, operating system, or software application. Regularly check for software updates as much as you can or allow your device to automatically update software programs and systems.

Remain alert

Always assume the worst when it comes to links and attachments from unknown sources. Hackers and malware authors can use clickbait to lure unsuspecting internet users into clicking on a suspicious link. This action will download the virus onto the user’s system.

Check the URL

The universal resource locator, or URL, is the web address at the top of each webpage. If you click on a suspicious link, this might present a suspicious URL. Legitimate URLs begin with “https” instead of just “http” as proof that they are encrypted and can protect sensitive information. When you access a website, always check the URL and the website privacy protocols.

Install and use security features

Many antivirus and anti-malware programs are designed to protect your computer from threats. However, it’s also important to get the right kind of protection for your system. Only trust software products with an established reputation, and always download applications directly from the main website of the company, brand, or product. If you don’t want to look too far, you might want to view the features offered by McAfee’s family of security products. You can start with McAfee’s Free Security Assessment or Total Protection to know the exact security product your computer needs.

Update your antivirus software

An antivirus software always knows what a computer virus is, so ensure that it’s always up-to-date. Updated versions improve the security features by patching any vulnerable security areas of your device and software programs. They can also handle the latest cyber threats and malware programs.

New viruses are constantly being created, so back your antivirus software with the universal precautions we’ve mentioned before. Prevention is still the best line of defense against computer viruses and other malware.