According to Microsoft®, “computer viruses are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operations.”
A common misconception is that viruses are a PC-only problem, and that products from Apple are less vulnerable to infection. The truth is anyone, and any computer, can get a virus, so protection is important.
How do computer viruses find you? Often they get to you via email attachments or instant messages, hidden within unauthorized software or other malicious files or programs downloaded from the Internet. Once released, a virus can invade your email program and send messages in your name that prompt the recipient to click on a link that immediately infects their computer as well.
Viruses can also sneak into your system in the form of “scareware,” a fake virus alert that pops up on your screen and warns that you should click to install protective software. In actuality, it’s anything but. The software you’re prompted to download is actually hiding a virus or other potentially damaging program.
There are precautions you can take, such as not opening emails or attachments from unknown sources, avoiding suspicious online offerings, and learning how to recognize truly secure websites.
In addition, using virus detection and protection software from a reputable source is a small price to pay for peace of mind. You should also keep your system and browser updated, as many updates include new security protections designed to repel the latest viruses. If you have registered your computer, most manufacturers will prompt you on screen when updates are available. The major browsers will do the same.
Knowledge is without a doubt the best key to protecting your computer, your privacy, and your family, and Microsoft’s Top Tips for Internet Safety at Home is a good place to start!
The site also provide a list of common computer virus symptoms, a free online scanner that checks your computer, and instructions on how to remove a virus.