What are computer viruses?
Viruses are malicious computer programs designed to spread themselves from computer to computer, with the potential to cause damage, and harmful or unexpected outcomes.
What is malware?
Malware is a contraction of “malicious software”. Broadly speaking, malware can be any kind of malicious code including adware, spyware, keyloggers, trojans, worms and viruses.
Adware – software that may install on your machine without your knowledge and display ads to you, generating income for the developer.
Spyware – obtains your personal data by stealth and sends it to unauthorised people. Can be used maliciously to control or even damage your computer.
Keyloggers – record every keystroke you make and transmit to the person controlling it. This can allow a third party to obtain your passwords and other sensitive information.
Trojans – malicious software that is disguised as legitimate software.
Worms – self-replicating code that spreads itself from computer to computer
Viruses – the distinction between worms and viruses can be quite subtle: a virus will usually need someone to run the associated file or program so it can take effect, but a worm can spread itself across networks automatically.
Who is vulnerable to viruses and malware?
People usually understand that Windows computers and devices are vulnerable and before you connect to the internet, you should have anti-virus protection installed. There’s a common misconception that Apple/Mac devices are safe but don’t be too complacent – Mac malware does exist, and it is prudent to protect your Mac with security software.
I’ve been asked to run a scan of my computer. How?
This will depend on the anti-virus or anti-malware package you’re using. For most, it should be a matter of opening the program and selecting scan. If you are having trouble with this, you can often find a guide to using common programs on YouTube. If you suspect that your device is infected and you are unsure how to fix it, you may wish to consult an IT professional for assistance.
What should I use to protect my PC, Mac or other device?
Some commonly used programs are:
Microsoft Security Essentials
Tech blogs and publications are constantly testing and reviewing security software and can offer some informed insight into the best options. Some current articles that might be useful are linked below.