Where do viruses come from?
I get asked this question fairly frequently. It seems to be THE most common question when a computer gets infected, often followed by “why?” In the following article I’ll answer these questions and hopefully shed light on the mystery of viruses.
Viruses are the creation of computer programmers. For a variety of reasons, which I’ll list later, some programmers choose to create a piece of software that gains access to a computer through unplugged security holes and design flaws. The virus software acts like a virus in real life in that it is engineered to replicate itself and spread between computers.
Why do programmers create viruses?
Programmers create viruses for a variety of reasons. Most viruses have a reason behind their creation. From stealing information to making money, the virus creator usually has an end result in mind when writing them. Here is a list of the most common reasons.
- Identity Theft – many viruses simply sit in the background and gather information such as websites you visit, usernames, passwords and text you type then transmit the data back to its “home” server.
- Money – viruses such as the MoneyPak virus simply want your money. They lock your computer until you pay them money at which time they allow you to use your computer again. Another example of this is the fake-antivirus software. The virus poses as antivirus software and gives you popups that your computer is infected. After you subscribe to their service the pop ups stop (for a while). Often a week or two later they’ll want you to pay more money for more “protection.”
- Bragging rights – Yes… for the fun of it… Typically these types of viruses are less destructive but can still be very damaging. Stealing information from super secure systems is worn as a badge of honor in the hacker and cracker community. The trouble is that it could be your information that is stolen!
- Botnet via Zombie Computers – What is a zombie computer? A zombie computer is an infected computer that is being operated remotely without the computer owner ever KNOWING! A zombie computer is most often used for specific purposes such as sending SPAM emails and performing DDoS attacks on a website. DDoS attacks are “distributed denial of service” in which thousands of zombie computer, also called a botnet, simultaneously work together to bring down a website.
How do viruses get into my computer?
A virus can infect your computer through a variety of methods. You can take precautions and preventative measures but nothing is 100% unless you unplug your computer from the internet and never plug anything (such as a USB drive) into it. So what are the ways a virus can get in?
- E-mail attachments (and hyperlinks) – even email from friends and known acquaintances can be dangerous. Often email accounts are hacked and spam is sent out without them knowing. A good example of this is an unsolicited UPS or USPS message with a clickable tracking number. Otherwise useful information is often forwarded without the sender knowing there is a hyperlink to a bad site in the message. One wrong click can infect your computer with malware.
- Clicking without reading – Many times you’ll get a pop-up while surfing the internet. Perhaps there is an OK button that you mindlessly click on and BANG you have more popups and in the background a virus is infecting your computer. Always read before clicking.
- Installing or updating software – While installing or updating a program vendors will bundle “other” software with their own. When going through the install wizard the checkboxes to install the additional software are already checked and it gets installed along with the valid software.
- Pirated music, software, and movies – If you’re trying to get free stuff on the internet there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that what you get will be infected with a virus. Using sites like Pirate Bay and other “warez” sites is almost guaranteeing you’ll get infected, not to mention its ILLEGAL! Prices have really come down for music and movies. Check out Google Play All Access for music and Amazon Prime Instant Video for TV and movies.
How do I prevent viruses from getting into my computer?
Besides keeping your computer up to date the most important thing you can do is be careful what you click on while surfing the internet. Don’t download free software. And if something looks fishy – close the window using the X in the top-right corner.
- Keep Windows and Software Up To Date – Microsoft and other software vendors regularly update their software to plug security holes, correct design flaws, and prevent hackers from infecting your computer through their software.
- Antivirus Software – Running Antivirus Software on your computer is a MUST. Paid is usually better the free. Here is a list of good paid, free, and ones to avoid.
- Best Paid: ESET NOD32 Antivirus, Vipre Business Premium, Malwarebytes (Vipre Bus Prem updates 3rd party software on your computer as well as itself. It is not sold “per license” from Vipre but you can purchase a small quantity, 1-5 licenses, directly from us. Contact us or call (239)303-4343).
- Best Free: Avira, Avast! (although Avast may slow down your computer, its a little heavy)
- Avoid: McAfee, TrendMicro
I hope this article sheds a little light on the how and why of viruses and how you can stay virus-free. Remember, be careful what you click on – read before you click. update your software, and run good antivirus software.
Stay tuned for our next article – “What’s the difference between a virus, malware and spyware?”