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What is a computer virus?

What is a computer virus?

A computer virus consists of a small amount of code that operates with the intention of altering the way that a computer processes information. The implementation of a computer virus is typically completed without the permission or knowledge of a user.

How do computer viruses spread?

Computer viruses can replicate quickly, making clones of itself, just like a biological virus. Because of this, computer viruses can infect a large number of machines in a short time span.

In the same way that biological viruses can wreak different kinds of havoc on the body, computer viruses are not uniform in the type of damage that they inflict on machines. Some may inflict limited damage, while others may denigrate hardware, software or files.

Nearly all computer viruses take the form of executable files (.exe). In theory, a user could download an executable file, without actually opening the file, in which case the malicious program wouldn’t launch. A person typically has to open an executable file to launch a computer virus.

How can organizations prevent computer virus infections?

  1. Experts recommend anti-virus solutions. As an alternative to an array of individual anti-virus solutions, consider investing in a consolidated security architecture. This can help you protect all of your networks and devices at once, and comes with easy management options.
  2. Implement a firewall. At least two major computer operating systems come with built-in firewalls, which are designed to thwart intruders and viruses alike. With new computers, ensure that firewalls are enabled before employees access the internet.For supplemental network protection, which may as well be mandatory for commercial enterprises, you can purchase a firewall from a security vendor. These are more robust than operating system firewalls, and they can protect your entire network.
  3. Organizations that deal with a high-volume of proprietary information, intellectual assets or intelligence are frequent targets of spyware. Spyware is a type of software that enables external persons (hackers) to secretly parse through and steal data from your organization. Anti-spyware is often a part of vendor-offered security packages.
  4. Encrypt your organization’s data. Encryption makes your data unreadable to external eyes, even in the case of data theft. Install full-disk encryption to safeguard all of your organization’s devices, from computers to smart phones[1]
  5. Consider installing surge protectors and uninterruptable power supplies (UPS). This is recommended in order to give your organization enough time to save sensitive data in the event of power disruption. Test and replace UPS’ and surge protectors in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. [2]
  6. Set-up web and email filters. These will ensure that users cannot browse nefarious websites and will also ensure that malware-laced emails do not make their way into employees’ inboxes.
  7. When ready to offload of older machinery, be sure to wipe all valuable hard-drive information ahead of recycling or disposal. Determined hackers can otherwise riffle through your waste bins, potentially accessing sensitive documents, or your network.
  8. Provide your employees with cyber security awareness trainings on a routine basis. Research shows that employees regularly catalyze cyber events. Engaging, well-thought out training can reduce human errors and lower your organization’s cyber risk.

[1] Business News Daily, 12 Ways to Secure Your Computer from Hackers, Jackie Dove, January 10, 2019

[2] Industry Week, How to Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks, August 5 2019