In this digital age, your PC or laptop has become quite an important tool. You need it for work, online shopping, and whatnot. Sometimes, while downloading a template for a PPT, you may get a warning for virus detection. That’s what your antivirus software does. It offers your computer protection against malware and cyber criminals. The term “computer virus” is used synonymously here. It hypothetically defines a problem that most computers experience at some stage. A virus affects the smooth functioning of your computer, and can be placed into any commonly used program.
How does a virus infect a device?
A virus can infect executable files in a PC or laptop. Some of these executable files are system files, system extensions, control panels, and application programs like word processing and spreadsheet programs. It can enter your computer through the Internet, downloaded or shared files, and other similar sources.
Computer viruses function in similar ways in both Windows and DOS machines. They infect the .ZIP or .EXE files, and then reproduce it. The virus attaches itself to added programs or creates copies of it. The damage caused here includes corrupt data, alterations in data, degradation of performance, excessive utilization of resources, and consumption of disk space, or memory.
Apple’s Mac computers have long been known for being quite immune to viruses. They have a built-in security system that helps keep the same away. The working of an antivirus is based on data collected from applications, files, software, etc. and takes into consideration the entity of your device. Once it searches your device, it then identifies the threats to your PC. It also monitors and tracks the behavior of your programs. Any suspicious program is then flagged.
You may think that by just using safe sites or ignoring unknown mails on your system, you can stay safe from malware. But that’s not true! You also need to exercise caution while using the Internet or sharing a storage device — but you need quality antivirus software to ensure the safety of your computer or laptop.
Types of viruses
Computer viruses can be categorized into the following groups:
This computer virus can infect some kinds of data files like excel sheets, PowerPoint, Microsoft Office files, and other similar databases. These viruses make use of the visual basic macro language incorporated into most Microsoft Office applications. They have similar characteristics like the computer worm, especially in the way it spreads across networks.
Direct Action Virus
Referred to as a non-resident virus, this form of the virus gets installed in the computer memory. Here, it also remains hidden. So, this makes it easier for the virus to attach itself to specific files and impact the computer. User experience and performance of the system do not get impacted.
Boot sector virus
This form of virus affects the boot records, consisting of floppy disks, hard disks, DVDs, and CDs. This virus does not have to boot the computer it infects, and hence any non-bootable sources may also spread this virus. After booting, this virus remains in the memory of the computer. Over time they have become rare with reduced use of floppy disks.
Master Boot Record (MBR) computer virus
This virus is compatible with the boot subdivision viruses, but they infect the MBR rather than the boot sector.
Also known as Cavity viruses, this type of virus leverages the empty spaces in the code and fills up these spaces. Though it doesn’t cause any damage to the file, it is still an issue.
File infector virus
As the name suggests, this virus contains executable codes like .EXE and .COM files. Many of these are memory residents, which implies that they tend to remain in the computer and affect other programs on execution.
Multipartite viruses have common features of more than one virus kind. For instance, a multipartite computer virus can contaminate both boot records and program files.
This virus gets implanted in the memory of the computer. There’s no need for the original virus program here for infecting any new application. Though the initial virus can be deleted, another version of it is retained. This is a troublesome one because it hides in the system’s RAM.
Installed as an illegal rootkit, this virus infects your system and makes the computer vulnerable to attacks. It gives the attacker the option to disable a particular function or program. They can also modify the same because some of the rootkits have the potential to bypass antivirus software.
System or Boot-record Infectors
This is a virus form that can impact or infect executable code, which is found in some parts of a disk. It attaches itself to USB thumb drives and the DOS boot sector on diskettes or the Master Boot Record on hard disks. However, with less reliance on physical storage media, this virus is less seen.
There are some facts about computer viruses that most people don’t know. These are:
- The computer virus will not affect or infect your computer till it is inactive.
- The virus becomes active only after the execution of an infected program or application.
- Active viruses can load into the computer’s memory, hard drive, or applications.
- A virus can be specifically programmed to damage data and corrupting files. It can delete certain files.
- Some viruses merely make sounds or verbal comments.
- Viruses can lead to your computer crashing.
- A virus cannot infect the hardware; it only hampers the software.
How can one get rid of the virus?
One should get rid of the virus as soon as one is aware about it, as it infects your computer immediately. Install antivirus software, and upgrade it regularly, and run them on the computer. The virus would not be able to infect any protected files, documents, etc., and warning signs are projected in case of virus detection.
Tips to protect your computer from viruses
Advancement in technology comes with an array of benefits. Everything from your bank account details to work-related documents can be stored on your computer. But with technology, spyware and malware too tend to infiltrate the privacy of your computer. Any kind of virus, spyware, or malware can lead to a complete shutdown or even wreck the internal system of your computer. Here are some tips on combating the same.
- As a rule of thumb, always update your software. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle fix bugs and update their software to avoid any kind of hacking. These updates are available easily on your computer, and are mostly visible at the bottom right corner. You simply have to download and run them to keep your PC safe.
- If you are not familiar with a sender or get an unknown email, never click on the links in the body of the mail. At least 45% of viruses come via emails from unknown senders, who then gain access to your computer with these viruses.
- There are free and paid antivirus software options available. Check what is compatible with your computer and subscribe to it. Ensure that you also upgrade your software from time to time. Common ones include Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast, which are free antivirus programs.
- Remember to always have a backup. Valuable data should be duplicated on your hard drive, online backup, cloud storage for MAC users, etc. Check for Google Drive that continually backs up your files.
- Always keep a strong password that shouldn’t be just numbers or just alphabets. It is suggested to use a mix of alphabets, numbers, and letters to make the password complex and hard to access. Avoid common passwords like 123456, 12345678, or QWERTY.
With these simple tips, you will be able to safeguard your computer from malware, spyware, and even viruses.
What are the best antivirus options in the market?
You must get dedicated protection for your computer and protect it against viruses. There are many different types of antivirus software available in the market. They cater to specific issues like webcam hijacking, identity-theft protection, etc. Listed below are some premium options to consider.
Norton 360 Deluxe
Norton has about 8 antivirus products — all of these ensure efficient protection against malware. Unlike their earlier products, the new ones are much lighter and do not create any system-performance loads. There are different kinds of features available in the different software — and hence the price varies. The Norton 360 Deluxe is worth a special mention. Here are some of the benefits you get:
- Up to 50GB of online storage space
- Dark-web personal-data monitoring
- Password manager
- Unlimited VPN service
- Parental controls.
Two of their other retail products — Norton 360 Premium and Norton 360 Platinum — provide you with added online storage. There is an option to increase the antivirus and VPN coverage to 10 and 20 devices, respectively. If you are concerned about complete identity protection, Norton has three products that offer variety in LifeLock service. A bonus is the online storage space.
Kaspersky Total Security
Regarded as top-notch software, this has scored high when it comes to malware detection. It has a moderate impact on the system’s performance as well. In the basic version, one can get:
- Ransomware protection
- Convenient online portal account
- Virtual keyboard.
For mid-range packages, there is Kaspersky Internet Security. And there’s also the premium antivirus suite, Kaspersky Total Security. The following features are provided in Kaspersky Total Security:
- Backup software
- File encryption
- File shredder
- Unlimited password manager.
Trend Micro Maximum Security
This is another product, which like Norton, offers you excellent malware detection. But it also tends to have a heavy system load. So when you are doing scans, you could also get a large number of false-positive results. However, it has several pros as an entry-level product. This includes a Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, which includes some extra tools and a secure web browser. Other features of the Trend Micro Internet Security antivirus include:
- Parental controls
- System optimizer
- File shredder.
The top-end package of Trend Micro Maximum Security can provide you with:
- A password manager
- A secure browser
- File encryption.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is popular as a basic antivirus product. It offers excellent malware detection. Additional features of the antivirus include:
- Light impact on system performance during scans
- Great value for money
- Unlimited password manager
- Secure browser
- Wi-Fi network scanner
- File shredder
- Protection against encrypting ransomware
- New web privacy software.
If you are looking for some added protection, then Bitdefender Internet Security is a good option. It offers:
- File encryption
- Webcam protection
- Parental controls
- Two-way firewall.
Bitdefender’s Total Security is top-notch in antivirus protection and has a feature for protecting laptops against threats. They also provide you with a system optimizer and licenses for Bitdefender Antivirus. Smartphone users can use the Bitdefender Mobile Security for both Mac and Android phones.
While talking about Trend Micro antivirus software, its plans do not come with a two-way firewall. It does not have any webcam protection either. The premium product of this brand, however, gives you access to cloud storage, software for backup, or a VPN service that some of the best antivirus brands like to add as premium features to their flagship packages to attract customers.
Remember that when it comes to antivirus protection, there is no one-size-fits-all rule. You need to evaluate your requirements and then invest in one. You should try to research and review the options available. A reliable subscription-based program can provide you with a budget-friendly solution. As a rule of thumb, do check if your antivirus packages offer recovery functionality. With a good recovery option, you can clean any malware that has entered your computer.