What is a Virus?
Have you ever had the chicken pox? This common childhood illness has another name—the varicella zoster virus. Like all viruses, varicella replicates itself, spreading though the body, and eventually appearing as itchy red blisters all over the body. But the virus doesn’t stop there; it can spread to other people through physical contact and through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It’s not a very fun illness to have.
Viruses don’t just affect humans; there are viruses that can affect your tech devices. A tech virus is a malicious program file that can also replicate itself and infect other devices through techniques like malicious links and sketchy downloads. But unlike the chicken pox where the virus eventually appears on your skin, a virus could be wreaking havoc on your device and you might not even know it!
Computer and mobile viruses can take many different form factors, but all are usually intended to do harm to your device, steal your personal info or money or both. Some examples of viruses include a Trojan Horse, which masquerades as something neutral or benevolent, but is programmed to infect the hard drive or even crash it. Spyware is a virus that observes your activities like logging into your bank account, collects this data (e.g., password, answer to secret question, username) and sends it to the hacker. And a worm, like other viruses, can corrupt files, steal sensitive information, or modify system settings to make your machine more vulnerable, but it’s different in that it can replicate and send copies of itself to other computers in a network without any human interaction.
There are several clues that could mean that your device has a virus. For example, if you notice your device is suddenly running at a snail’s pace. Another example is programs or apps opening and closing on their own. Or a major sign would be if you receive an email from a friend responding to a mass email you supposedly sent promoting some great deal on a pharmaceutical (that you never actually sent).
Just like there are things you can do to prevent the chicken pox, like wash your hands and stay away from infected people, there are ways to prevent a virus from getting on your device.
- Be wary. Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know.
- Think before you click. Don’t click blindly. Check the link URL to make sure you are being directed to a legitimate site.
- Keep your OS and browser updated. Make sure that you install the latest updates for your operating system and browser as well as any hardware updates that are available for your device as these often close up security holes.
- Install security software. Use comprehensive security software that protects all your devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™.
Here’s to keeping all your devices nice and healthy!