Virus: What is computer virus and how do I secure my PC

In general terms a virus is a program that runs on a system against the owner's or user's wishes and knowledge. Viruses have one or more methods they use to spread. Most commonly they will attach a file to an e-mail message and attempt to trick victims into running the attachment.

Virus Damage

In most cases, viruses can do any amount of damage the creator intends them to do. They can send your data to a third party and then delete your data from your computer. They can also ruin your system and render it unusable without a re-installation of the operating system. Most have not done this much damage in the past, but could easily do this in the future. Usually the virus will install files on your system then will change your system so the virus is run every time you start your system.
The normal effect a virus will have on your system is that over time your system will run slower. Also when you are using the internet your connection may seem to run slower. Eventually you may have trouble running programs on your system, your system may freeze, and in the worst case you may not be able to get it to boot up when you turn your computer on.

How Viruses or Worms Spread

Most commonly viruses today use e-mail to spread however they have used one or more of the following methods to spread in the past.
*. Some viruses will load themselves onto any part of a writable removable drive as possible and spread from computer to computer as people use the removable drive.
*. A worm is a program similar to a virus that will exploit a vulnerability in an operating system or application that a computer user is running. The best defense against a worm is to have either a personal firewall on your system or be behind a corporate firewall. Another good defense is to update your system regularly. All you need to do to get a worm is to connect an unpatched computer to the internet or infected network when your computer does not have firewall protection.
*. Most viruses will spread themselves using e-mail attachments. They may tell the user that they neet to open the attachment to get the rest of the information that is being sent to them. Many times the virus may claim it is an administrator and the user needs to either read the data or install a program on their system. Viruses have even claimed to be Microsoft sending a system patch as an attachment to the e-mail. Microsoft would never send a system patch through e-mail.

Securing Your System

There are several measures which you can take to secure your system. The first and most important is to become informed about how your system works and what the threats are. Reading this guide and acting on the tips contained here is a good start.
*. Personal firewall - If you are not behind a corporate firewall, purchase and install a personal firewall on your computer. This will help protect your system from many vulnerabilities that some worms will try to exploit.
*. Updates - Perform system updates often. You can go to the Windows Update siteto download updates for your system. Another way to get updates if your system is running Windows 2000 or Windows XP is to configure your system to download automatic updates. This can be done by opening your control panel (Click on "Start", then select "Settings", and click on "Control Panel". To configure updates double click the "Automatic Updates" icon and choose one of three configurations.
*. Use anti-virus software with regular updates. Be sure to run anti-virus software and download updates at least twice per week. There are many brands of anti-virus software which may be purchased at your local computer, office supply store, or on the internet. I will not be recommending any name brands in this tutorial.
*. Be aware of how viruses spread and don't open attachments unless you areSUREthey are legitimate. Call the sender if necessary to be sure they sent the email. Be sure your system settings are set so you can recognize potential virus files that may have multiple extensions such as filename.txt.exe. If the extension ends in .exe, .com, or .bat don't double click on it or run it unless you areSUREit is from a legitimate source.
*. Avoid installing bad applications. As mentioned in the section about application programs, some computer programs may come with spyware or adware. Avoiding these can be important in both securing your system and keeping your system performance from being degraded. Keep in mind that adware programs may download and install other programs from the internet. A personal firewall is one defense against this happening because it will normally notify you when a program accesses the internet.
*. Configure your system so you will see all file extensions as described on the page called "Windows File View Settings".

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