What are computer viruses and how to deal with them?

What are computer viruses and how to deal with them?

By carolc

Today computers are not only used as ancillary tools in our lives, but as an effective means of obtaining and distributing information. Computing is present today in all fields of modern life, greatly facilitating our performance, systematizing tasks that we previously performed manually.

This computer spread has not only brought us advantages but also problems of great importance in the security of information systems in businesses, homes, government, in short, in all aspects related to society. And among the problems are computer viruses whose purpose is to cause harm to the computer user. They can cause minor disorders such as the appearance of on-screen messages up to the formatting of your computer’s hard drives, and effectively this may be one of the biggest damage a virus can do to a computer.

Some viruses are simply annoying, but most are destructive and are designed to infect and take control of your device. A virus can spread across computers or networks by making copies of itself, just as a biological virus is transmitted from person to person.

What is a computer virus?

It is a general term that includes many different types of viruses, delivery mechanisms and impacts. As for their exact operation, computer viruses can be divided into two categories: those that start infecting and replicating as soon as they reach the computer and those that remain inactive, waiting for you to activate them by clicking or running a program that reached them by mail or on a removable storage medium running inadvertently.

How are computer viruses spread?

Computer viruses can spread over the Internet through various infection mechanisms. Viruses can reach your computer in the following ways:


Email, the favorite method of cybercriminals, can carry harmful attachments (in the form of executable files like .EXE or .ZIP) and malicious links, or even contain an infection directly in the body of the message, in the form of HTML.

Hackers can hide viruses in applications, in documents sent through file-sharing services, in add-ons, and almost anywhere you can think of where there are files to download.

Messaging services

Viruses can be spread via SMS or messaging services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Older software

If you haven’t updated applications or the operating system in a while, you’re almost certain to experience vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to sneak viruses into you.


There may be viruses hidden in online advertisements like “banners” ads. Malvertising is very insidious because criminals can hide their malicious code even on legitimate and trusted websites.

What is a computer antivirus?

Computer antivirus is a piece of application software that aims to detect and remove computer viruses from a computerized system. That is, it is a program that seeks to remedy the damage caused by these invasive forms of software, whose presence in the system is not usually detectable until its symptoms, such as biological viruses, are evident.

During the 1980s, with the emergence of digital information exchange technologies such as floppy disks and later the Internet, it became possible to successively contact numerous computers. This led to the emergence of computer viruses, and then spyware, malware and other forms of harmful software that enter without the user’s consent to the machine and cause various types of damage: a configure key sequences, delete personal files, hijack private information, etc.

Classification of antivirus

Standalone antivirus software

Standalone antivirus software is a specialized tool, designed to detect and eliminate certain viruses. It is commonly referred to as portable antivirus software because it can also be installed on a USB and administrators can use them to perform emergency scans of an infected system.

Security software packages

As indicated in the title, security software packages are more than antivirus programs. In addition to being able to detect and remove viruses, they are also equipped to fight all other malware and provide absolute protection at all times for your computer and files.

Cloud antivirus software

Cloud Anti-Virus Software is a new type of antivirus technology that scans your files in the cloud rather than on your computer. In order to free up your computational resources and enable faster response. These programs are usually composed of two parts; the client that is installed on your computer and performs periodic virus and malware scanners, without taking up too much memory and the web service that processes the data collected by the client and inspects it for virus and malware matching from its database.

Techniques used by antivirus

The main purpose of antivirus is to detect and remove malware programs from your computer. As the first step is to detect, there are some techniques for that.

Detection techniques included:

  • Signature Verification
  • Heuristic Verification
  • Behavior Blocking

Signature verification technique

Signature Verification determines the characteristics that a file leads to whether or not it is considered malware. It is verifies features such as: file size, sequence of binary statements, among others. When a file is recognized as malware, it receives its own identity, with its respective signature. These signatures determine each malware that is part of the antivirus definition list.

Heuristic Verification Technique

Heuristic Verification is the ability of an antivirus to detect malware, without possessing a vaccine specific to it. That is, the idea of heuristics is to anticipate the discovery of malware. There are anti-spam software that work with the same philosophy. The big problem with this type of detection method is the possibility of generating a very high number of false positives. False positives are files that possess some features that may make it look like malware, although in reality they are not.

Behavioral Blocking Technique

Behavior Blocking is the technique that analyzes the actions executed by the programs (suspicious actions), in order to identify possible attempts at invasions or infections. In accordance with the actions performed by some software, it may be considered a malware and not allowed to run it.

How to fight viruses?

Some of the tasks that we can perform to combat computer viruses are: regularly perform backups, defragment the hard drive periodically, try to use original software, use the anti-virus options of the computer BIOS, keep antivirus programs up to date and finally have a list with your computer’s settings, including the parameters of all cards, disks and other devices.

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