A virus is a computer programme that can copy itself and infect a computer. A virus might corrupt or delete data on your computer, use your Internet connection and emails to spread to other computers in the network, or erase all the contents of your hard drive. A virus is active once you execute an infected programme or application, or start your computer with a disc that contains infected files. Once the virus becomes active, it loads onto your computer’s memory and attaches itself into the hard drive or replicates itself into applications or system files you use.

Viruses are also often spread through attachments in email messages or instant messaging chats. This is why it is essential that you never open email attachments unless you know who the mail is from and you are expecting it. Viruses can be camouflaged as attachments of images, or audio or video files.

Signs that You have a Virus

After you open and run an infected programme or file, you might not realise that your computer is affected by a virus, unless you notice something isn’t quite right. Here are a few indicators that your computer might be virus-infected:

  • Your computer runs more slowly than usual.
  • Your computer stops responding or freezes up frequently.
  • Your computer crashes frequently.
  • Your computer restarts on its own and then fails to run properly.
  • Applications on your computer don’t run the way they are supposed to.
  • Hard drives or external drives often become inaccessible.
  • You are unable to print correctly.
  • You see unusual error messages too frequently for your comfort.
  • You see distorted menus and dialogue boxes.

How to Protect Your Computer from Viruses

Protect yourself from viruses with the following steps:

  • Install anti-virus software and a firewall in your computer. Make sure they are updated frequently.
  • Avoid installing programmes from unknown sources. Purchase and install programmes only from trusted sources.
  • You should never double-click an email attachment that contains an executable. A file with an extension like EXE, COM or VBS is an executable, and an executable can do all sorts of damage, should it actually be a malicious file.
  • Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know. Even if you know the sender, stop opening the attachment unless you are 100% sure of what it is. The sender may be unaware that it contains a virus.
  • Make sure your operating system is up-to-date with the latest security patches.

A virus can undo everything that you’ve compiled over the years in a matter of minutes. Therefore, it is essential to identify the source and deploy corrective measures accordingly to keep your computer and your data safe.