What is a computer virus?

A computer virus is a program that can replicate itself and spread from one computer to another. A computer virus attached, overwrites or otherwise replaces another program in order to reproduce itself without your knowledge.

This may quickly use all your computer's available memory - slowing down your system or bringing it to a halt. Viruses can damage data, destroy files, format hard drives, or make disks unreadable. Viruses can enter your computer as attachments to an email, in a downloaded file, or can be hidden on a zip drive or CD. It's usually not obvious that a virus is present.

Types of Computer Viruses

Bug Icon - solid green

Now that you know what a computer virus is, you may be surprised to learn that there are many different types of computer viruses out there and each of them affect your machine differently. Below are a few of the different types of computer viruses that may infect your computer:

File Infector Virus

File infector viruses are some of the most common computer viruses. They infect executable files on your device, and once the file runs, the virus will rewrite the files’ code to perform an action which may or may not be malicious. These types of viruses can spread to other programs on your computer and should be removed as quickly as possible. 

Boot Sector Virus

Boot sector viruses are typically spread through physical means such as flash drives, but they can also be spread through email. They operate by infecting your computers Master Boot Record and are only able to infect your machine if they are used to boot up your operating system. Luckily, these viruses are not as prevalent as they used to be, but because they can be extremely destructive and hard to remove, a preventative antivirus software is recommended to ensure your machine does not contract this virus. 

Browser Hijacker

Brower hijackers take control of your web browser to spy on your browsing or to send you to sites you may not be trying to visit. The hacker does this to boost ad revenue for the site. Additionally, these viruses can steal any personal information you enter into a site if they are spying on you, so if your browser starts to exhibit strange behavior such as long load times or excessive pop-ups, we highly recommend you scan your device for viruses. They typically find their way to your computer through an infected browser extension and can be removed by running your antivirus software.

Polymorphic Virus

Polymorphic computer viruses are some of the most complex viruses your computer can become infected with. As their name would imply, they are able to alter their code, making them hard to detect and remove. They are a form of an encrypted virus and use different encryption keys every time they change their underlying code. These types of computer viruses are spread through a wide variety of media including spam, infected files, or malware. A sophisticated antivirus software or IT professional are typically required to remove this type of virus.

How do I avoid Getting a Computer Virus?

Avoiding computer viruses doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it can be easy if you follow a few basic steps.

  1. Use a reputable antivirus software and keep it up to date. Even if you don’t take any other preventative measures, using antivirus software will provide your devices with basic virus protection and monitoring. This ensures that if you do get infected, you will be notified quickly and you can address the issue before the virus has a chance to do irreparable damage to your computer. If you are looking for an antivirus program, CenturyLink offers antivirus protection through CenturyLink @Ease.
  2. Run regular antivirus scans of your computer. Even with an antivirus application installed on your device, there is still a chance you could get infected. Running regular scans of your devices ensures you know immediately if your device is infected and can take measures to remove the virus before it infects other devices or steals your information.
  3. Keep your operating system up to date. We all know that updates can be a pain, but they are vital for keeping your computer virus free. Updates often include patches to security vulnerabilities in current operating systems that could be exploited, and if you don’t update, you may be missing out on the latest protection.
  4. Secure your wifi network. Enabling a WPA password on your home wifi ensures your wireless network stays free of hackers and individuals you do not want on your system. If you need to provide internet to friends, most routers allow you to set up a guest network that lets them use the internet without giving access to your primary network, protecting you from potentially infected devices.  
  5. Click smart! Use common sense when browsing the internet. If you don’t trust the site or things just seem “off”, don’t click on anything and look for another way to get what you’re searching for. If you get an email from someone you don’t know, delete the email and under no circumstances should you open an attachment from someone you don’t know. Trust your gut! A lot of the time it is probably right. 

What do I do if I get a Computer Virus?

If you find a virus on your computer, CenturyLink's Consumer Internet Protection Program (CIPP) makes it easy for you to clean and secure your computer and network. The CIPP:

  • Notifies you of malware/virus infections on your network
  • Provides resources and tools to help you clean your infected computer
  • Informs you about good Internet habits and how to minimize the risks

We highly recommend you install and maintain well-respected antivirus software on your computer to prevent infection from virusesspyware, and malware. Scan all email attachments with a virus program before downloading/executing any, even if they come from someone you know.

Antivirus protection is available through CenturyLink@Ease. Find out more about @Ease and secure your network today.

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