What is a Computer Virus and What Does It Do?

What is a computer virus?

Think of a biological virus – the kind that makes you sick. It’s persistently nasty, keeps you from functioning normally, and often requires something powerful to get rid of it. A computer virus is very similar. Designed to replicate relentlessly, computer viruses infect your programs and files, alter the way your computer operates or stop it from working altogether.

In 2013, the botnet virus Gameover ZueS was discovered to use peer-to-peer downloading sites to distribute ransomware and commit banking fraud. While tens of thousands of computer viruses still roam the internet, they have diversified their methods and are now joined by a number of malware variants like worms, Trojans, and ransomware.

How does a computer virus find me?

Even if you’re careful, you can pick up computer viruses through normal Web activities like:  

  • Sharing music, files, or photos with other users

  • Visiting an infected website

  • Opening spam email or an email attachment

  • Downloading free games, toolbars, media players and other system utilities

  • Installing mainstream software applications without thoroughly reading license agreements

What does a computer virus do?

Some computer viruses are programmed to harm your computer by damaging programs, deleting files, or reformatting the hard drive. Others simply replicate themselves or flood a network with traffic, making it impossible to perform any internet activity. Even less harmful computer viruses can significantly disrupt your system’s performance, sapping computer memory and causing frequent computer crashes.  

What are the symptoms of a computer virus?

Your computer may be infected if you recognize any of these malware symptoms:  

  • Slow computer performance

  • Erratic computer behavior

  • Unexplained data loss

  • Frequent computer crashes

How to protect against computer viruses

When you arm yourself with information and resources, you’re wiser about computer security threats and less vulnerable to threat tactics. Take these steps to safeguard your PC with the best computer virus protection:  

  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall

  • Get antispyware software

  • Always keep your antivirus protection and antispyware software up-to-date

  • Update your operating system regularly

  • Increase your browser security settings

  • Avoid questionable Web sites

  • Only download software from sites you trust.

  • Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.  

  • Don't open messages from unknown senders

  • Immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam

An unprotected computer is like an open door for computer viruses. Firewalls monitor Internet traffic in and out of your computer and hide your PC from online scammers looking for easy targets. Products like Webroot Internet Security Complete and Webroot Antivirus provide complete protection from the two most dangerous threats on the Internet – spyware and computer viruses. They thwart threats before they can enter your computer, stand guard at every possible entrance of your computer and fend off any computer virus that tries to open, even the most damaging and devious strains.  

While free antivirus downloads are available, they just can't offer the computer virus help you need to keep up with the continuous onslaught of new strains. Previously undetected forms of polymorphic malware can often do the most damage, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute, guaranteed antivirus protection.

Find the right cybersecurity solution for you.