What is the first thing that comes to mind when you speak of a virus doing the rounds in your neighbourhood? Fever, cold, unpleasant sensations and most worrisome thought of all is that you are going to contract it from another person and soon life will become miserable for the next few days.
For those of you who are conversant with computers you will also have heard of this term, "virus" being used with just as much fear and disdain by the techies ( techies are people who are adept at computers and know them inside out). Computer viruses are just like biological viruses- only they infect not you and me but our computers.
Infact , they are so called, because they share many of the traits of biological viruses . Just as a virus can be passed on from one person to another , so also is the computer virus. A biological virus cannot be classified as a living thing because it is a fragment of a DNA It does not reproduce , but instead replicates itself by using material from the host DNA. A computer virus too must ride piggyback on top of some other programme or document in order to execute itself. Once it starts running it can then infect other files and documents and soon takes on epidemic propotions if people are not careful.
How does a Computer Virus work?
Computer viruses are man-made . That is people deliberately create codes and load it onto your computer through a programme or document which may come to you through e-mail or as a file. It may be downloaded by you unawares and the virus loads itself into the memory of your computer and then tries to see if it can find any other programmes on your disc. If it can find one , then it modifies and adds itself to the unsuspecting programme . Then the virus launches the "real programme" and the user has no real way of knowing that the virus ever ran. Unfortunately, the virus has now reproduced itself , so two programmes are infected and the next time either of those programmes gets infected, the cycle resumes.
But infecting is not its only misdemeanor . It can also be made to do mischievous things like printing silly messages on your computer or- far more serious- erasing your data altogether.
Apart from Viruses there are also other kinds of electronic infections today like worms, Trojan horses and e-mail viruses. A worm is a computer programme which has the ability to copy itself from machine to machine. They usually move around and infect other machines through computer networks. E-mail viruses move around in e-mail messages and usually replicate themselves by mailing themselves to dozens of people in the victims address book. A Trojan horse is simply a computer programme which claims to do one thing , but instead does damage when you run it. They cannot replicate automatically.
One of the most effective ways to keep away from the menace of viruses is to have an antivirus programme on your PC. There are many available on the market like , Mcafee and Norton . These anti virus programmes detect any infected files and you are warned before you download anything. These programmes must be updated at regular intervals. But with technologies advancing by the minute, programmes are even being written to attack anti virus software. So it is always a hands on battle between the mischief maker and the programmers writing the anti virus software. They have now become a critical component to safe guarding your system.
In the end, it goes without saying that prevention in this case is definitely better than a cure. Since computer viruses are very damaging to your system, it is extremely important to have a good anti virus programme which will keep your data safe. One important rule is, do not use software which you do not know where it came from and be especially careful in case of shared computers - not because another person may be attacking your computer but because they may not be as careful as you are. And if you do feel something is abnormal, stop using the system and check for viruses immediately.