dreamstime_13292204The most common computer threats are viruses.  A virus is a computer program which changes the way in which the computer operates without the knowledge of the user.

A virus must execute itself and it must replicate itself, or make additional copies of itself. Some viruses are a threat to system integrity: they damage computers by altering programs, deleting files or other malicious activities. Others simply announce their presence by audio, video or text messages.  Even viruses which don’t do any real damage are a nuisance as they can reduce system performance by wasting memory or slowing down a computer.

Most viruses can cause a system to behave oddly and some can cause the system to crash, often making it difficult to restart.  Some viruses are a threat to data security, as they attempt to steal confidential data from a machine and transmit it to someone.

Viruses can spread by many methods, including attaching themselves to other files such as programs and documents. Viruses are given different names depending on the way they spread. Simply spreading from computer to computer is not itself a major problem. Most viruses contain a payload, a program that they will execute in addition to spreading themselves. The effects of common virus payloads include deleting or corrupting files or disks and passing on usernames and passwords.

Next: Types of Virus