Computer Virus Tour

The bad guys in our digital equipment world are mini-programs of all sorts — often called viruses — that invade, infect, and incapacitate our computers. The medical metaphor is apt because digital viruses replicate and multiply just like those that infect the human body.

Different types of intrusive programs exist, though sometimes all are generically referred to as viruses. Another term, malware (short for malicious software), is often the umbrella term for the entire category.

A Few Important Terms

  • Virus – This computer program attaches itself to the computer’s system software or other programs and then copies (replicates) itself over and over, damaging and/or corrupting the system or the data.
  • Worm –  Worms are mini-programs that invade a computer and go about spreading by attaching themselves to e-mail messages, address books, and browsers.
  • Trojan – Like the legendary Trojan Horse, this may appear to be a regular program on your computer, but it’s designed to confuse, circumvent, and take advantage of the computer’s rules and regulations. Often a user installs the trojan because the mini-program represents itself as something that’s needed. One example of a trojan is a program that invades your computer and lets another person use, via the internet, your computer. Another pretends that the user needs a virus security program update and encourages the person to click and download.
  • Adware – Advertisers, some of them unscrupulous, design these mini program to display unwanted and irritating advertisements on a person’s computer. Sometimes adware is actually installed on a computer to play ads, and at other times the software, once installed, continually downloads other ads to the computer. Free applications often come bundled with adware.
  • Spyware – Mini applications known as spyware attach themselves to a computer, search for and discover information, such as passwords and even credit card numbers, and then send that information to another person or place. Sometimes adware may have a spyware component.

… and one more term.

Phishing – People go phishing for digital information by sending out e-mails that request confidential information. The requests appear to come from a credit card company or bank, except that they don’t. No reputable business will ever ask for confidential information via e-mail. People receive these masquerading messages frequently.

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