What is a virus?
A computer virus is a program designed to spread itself by infecting files or the system areas of hard and floppy disks and then making copies of itself.
New viruses are being created and discovered every day. Look at the list on the right for the latest virus reports from Symantec.
What kind of files spread viruses?
A virus can infect any type of computer file - not just program files. Some viruses infect
the boot sector of
Can they harm my system?
Viruses are software programs and they can do the same things as any other programs. The actual effect of a virus depends on the malicious intent of its writer. Some viruses are designed to damage files or otherwise interfere with your computer's operation. Others are designed to make your computer even more vulnerable to hackers, who could then access all of your data via the Internet.
So what's a worm or a Trojan Horse?
A worm is similar to a virus but has the ability to start copying itself without being manually activated. Quite often a worm is only noticed when its activity consumes system resources, slowing down other tasks.
A Trojan horse is not really a virus but simply a program that pretends to be something else. When it's innocently run it actually does something (usually damaging) to your computer.
How do I avoid getting infected?
The easy answer to this is to install reliable anti-virus software for your computer or network and make sure it's installed and configured correctly.
The speed at which new viruses are written means the software needs to be updated regularly.
As a user, you should treat ALL email attachments with suspicion: save attachments to disk and then check with a virus scanner before opening the file. If you can't positively verify what it is, who it came from and why it was sent to you, then proceed with extreme caution, and DO NOT OPEN or RUN the attachment.
Recent viruses have used the victim's own PC to secretly email itself to all the email addresses in the computer's address book. Even if it appears to come from someone you know, a risk exists.
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