Cough, cough. It isn’t flu season yet, but winter is just around the corner. Viruses such as the flu become more common during winter months because people spend more time indoors which makes the transfer of nasty bugs easier. Unfortunately, when it comes to computers, viruses are always in season and the internet is a hotbed of infection.
The scary truth is that a computer can obtain a virus, malware, or spyware without their owner even realizing it. Sometimes, the simple act of visiting a website is enough to contract a virus while in other cases internet users unwittingly download viruses by clicking false links that install the bad code. Computer viruses are nasty agents that can compromise personal information, cost a lot of money, and ruin machines. In order to protect your PC, internet users need to understand the most common threats, how to detect them, and, most importantly, how to avoid them.
How Can I Get a Virus From a Website?
The computer science behind a virus is actually quite simple. A virus is a piece of code or a program that can copy itself and runs without approval from the computer owner. There are dozens of different ways that you can get a virus from a website, some of the usual suspects are e-mail scams, torrent sharing, and video downloads.
When you visit a website, your web browser automatically reads, interprets, and displays the content for you. Unfortunately, there are deficiencies in all programs, including web browsers called “exploits.” These exploits are targeted by hackers as easy ways to spread their evil creations. That is how a computer can become infected without a person doing anything. Just by doing its job, a web browser can expose a computer to a virus.
Beyond automatic infection, viruses can be hidden within other files or disguised as other programs entirely. Torrent sites, which are popular for sharing pirated video and audio files, are a very high risk environment because they are not moderated. Anyone can upload files for download, including hackers.
Similar tactics are used to disguise viruses in other files. Pop-up ads, fake security breach warnings, and software updates are all common hiding places for malware. Watching pornography is another famous threat to computer integrity but is safe compared to the torrent sites. Many porn websites, like it or not, are businesses with an interest in maintaining a safe website, and therefore screen their files for viruses.
What Kinds of Viruses Are Common?
There are as many different types of viruses as there are routes to infection, but the three most common are called Trojans, botnets, and fake anti-virus software known as “scareware.”
• Trojans – These are programs that take their name from the Trojan horse and are anything that is disguised to be something else. Download a Trojan and it will download its accompanying virus to your computer.
• Botnets – A botnet is a network of infected PC’s that hackers use for a variety of evil tasks. Most recognizably, botnets are responsible for the majority of spam e-mails which are used by fraudsters to phish for personal information.
• Scareware – A pop-up appears on your computer screen: WARNING! Your computer is infected. Download this program now to “protect” yourself. If you click on the pop-up your computer most certainly will become infected.
What Can I Do To Protect Myself?
The number one way that computer users can protect themselves is with common sense and awareness. Never download something that you do not trust, never download something that you have not read, and try to avoid threatening websites.
Besides policing your online behavior, antivirus software can remove existing viruses and help to detect online threats in the future. Another step that internet users can take is keeping software up to date. Most software updates are released to increase security and reduce vulnerability by closing exploits.
The bad news is that viruses are everywhere on the web. The good news is that they can, in large part, be prevented. Take care to protect yourself by updating software and browsing responsibly, it’s Vitamin-C for your computer.
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