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A computer virus is a program created specifically to invade computers and networks and wreak havoc on them.
The mischief caused can be very minor, such as causing a funny image or cryptic message to be displayed on your screen, or it can do some serious damage by altering or even destroying files, crashing your computer, or even stealing your sensitive information.
Also See: Viruses
Frequently Asked Questions
Are smartphones and tablets susceptible to viruses?
Yes. Despite what manufacturers may tell you about locking down the operating system and restricting what programs can be installed in order rule out the possibility of a computer virus, no system is immune. Devices running Android are the most susceptible to viruses, because they are the most popular mobile operating system (and, therefore, the most likely to be targeted) and they allow users to install software from unknown sources. Devices that restrict software from unknown sources, such as iPhones, are less likely to be infected, but viruses still happen. Jailbroken devices, which have had such restrictions removed, are more likely to be infected.
How can I protect my computer from computer viruses?
The first thing you should do is make sure your operating system is up-to-date. Running the latest version and patches will minimize the risk of a virus taking advantage of recently discovered vulnerabilities. You should also update your web browser, email client, and any other services you use to access the Internet. If these programs have an option for automatic updates, enable it. Once everything is up-to-date, install a current antivirus software. There are several free products available for PCs and mobile devices. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date and schedule regular full-system scans, at least once a week.
Now that you have all the sensors in place, it’s time to change your personal habits. Never click links contained in emails, as these may download viruses to your machine. If you use file-sharing networks, avoid downloading software of any kind. Be cautious when downloading software from anywhere other than trusted sources, such as your device’s app store. If you use removable storage, such as a flash drive, run a virus scan on it every time you plug it into your computer. For more advice, see our Security Tips.
How can I tell if I have a virus?
Some system bugs may be due to a virus, software issue, or hardware issue. If something on your computer is behaving irregularly, the first thing you should do is make sure your antivirus software has the latest virus definitions and run a full system scan. If you suspect something is transmitting information off of your computer, disconnect from the Internet while the scan is running. If the scan finds nothing, or is unable to complete, it’s time to consider other possibilities. If your device offers it, try to do a system restore, selecting a restore point before the trouble started. If you have recently installed new programs, try uninstalling them and then reinstalling them. As a last resort, perform a factory reset or clean install. Be sure to back up all of your personal files before you begin, as this will erase everything on your device. If the problem persists, it’s likely hardware related. If the device is under warranty, give the manufacturer a call. Otherwise, it may be time to call a professional.