Computer Tip of the Day: Computer Viruses

Computer Viruses

When IT security is discussed it seems to happen most often in the context of threats that come from the internet. Specifically, the question of whether a computer is safe from viruses often comes to mind. IT security actually encompasses a broader range of threats than just viruses but for some reason, viruses are the primary point of attention most of the time.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to viruses. It’s often believed that if something goes wrong with a computer, it has contracted a virus, even though the computer really hasn’t caught a virus. When a computer comes off the assembly line at a factory it has no viruses in it. When a computer is purchased at a store, taken home and merely plugged into the wall and turned on, it can’t contract a virus. The most likely and common way a computer gets infected with a virus is only when it is connected to the internet. Even then, some things have to happen for a virus to be able to infect a computer.

There are two very common ways that a computer can become infected with a virus. One way is connecting a computer to the internet without a software or hardware firewall. If, for example, while using a dial-up Internet connection, the firewall within the operating system (such as Microsoft Windows) is turned off and an internet connection is made, it could be a matter of seconds before a self-propagating virus called a worm infects the computer from across the internet.

The second cause of infection is finding software on the internet that’s usually free and “looks good,” downloading and installing the software only to find out later that it was tainted with a virus. In other words, viruses can come disguised as legitimate computer software; when the software is installed, a virus will be installed alongside the good-looking software. The virus usually will not show its tail until it’s too late, meaning that significant damage has been done before the computer user realizes she’s been infected with a virus.

Great care should be taken to make sure firewalls are used, and care should be taken when downloading and installing software from the internet. Complacency and carelessness are by far the driving forces behind infected computers.

Contact us for a consultation to help mitigate the threat of computer viruses.

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