If you have been on the internet, or even just watch the news, you have certainly heard about the evils of internet viruses and the destruction that they cause. You may have even experienced this destruction first hand. Computers are literally overwhelmed with the infection of a virus and stop working in the worst case, or work much slower and less dependably. You also probably know that there is an answer to this growing problem and that is antivirus software. What you may not know is specifically what the virus is doing to your computer and how the anti virus tools can fix and/or prevent this destructive work.
First viruses are by definition self replicating computer programs that use a host to spread to other computers. This is done most often by inserting itself in an executable code of certain programs that can then propagate this code to other computers. It is important to note that viruses are only one subset of malicious software or malware and that antivirus software is not necessarily protective from all the different forms. People often get one of these anti virus tools and feel as if they are then immune when in reality they remain very vulnerable to a host of other types of destructive software. Other types include worms and Trojan horses and have other properties that require specific safeguards. Important to know about but not within the scope of this article to cover all of the different forms.
So lets talk about viruses specifically since they are the oldest form of maleware. Viruses are thought to have begun sometime in the early 1980s. At this time the world wide web and other large networks that are so popular today were not the way that viruses spread. In fact early on computer viruses were mainly spread via removable media, mostly floppy disks. There are many reasons for these viruses to be written including mere destructive tendencies, as research, as specific attacks on specific computers, as pirates of information, and even as art forms that computer programmers do in their spare time.
They can do all sorts of kinds of damage the most common of which is self replication to the point of overwhelming the computer’s memory resources causing it to either run haltingly, slowly, or not at all. The can jamb up networks and shut them down much like a power outage. It is important to note however that the damage is limited to the software on a computer and therefore if you have not gotten antivirus software and have become infected you may have lost a hard drive’s worth of valuable information but at least you haven’t lost the whole computer.