Various terms within cyber security have much in common and are therefore often used as synonyms. The term computer virus is such a term. Computer viruses are probably the most well-known form among the population when it comes to cyber security. But what is it exactly and is a virus the same as a worm? In this article, we explain it to you in understandable language.

Like the flu virus, the purpose of a computer virus is to replicate and spread from host to host. Computer viruses cannot multiply and spread without an action being taken by the host, such as opening or installing a file. In more technical terms, a computer virus is malicious code or software designed to disrupt the normal operation of a computer and spread from one computer to another.

A virus and worm are not the same in their behavior. An essential difference with a computer worm is that a worm can spread itself and does not require the activation of the host.

Cybercriminals do not often produce new viruses; instead, they focus on increasingly complex and profitable threats. When people say they have “caught a virus” on their computer, they usually mean one or more types of malware, whether it is a virus, computer worm, Trojan, ransomware, or another type of malicious software. Viruses and malware evolve, and criminals often choose the type that offers the greatest reward.

1. By what method does a computer virus spread?

When a virus attaches itself to a piece of software, a file, or a document, it remains inactive until the computer or device is forced to execute the code. In order to infect your computer with a virus, you must first activate infected software, which causes the malicious code to be executed.

This means that a virus can stay dormant on your computer for a long time without showing any symptoms. However, when you install/open/activate the software, the problems may start.

When a virus infects your computer, it can spread to other computers on the same network. A virus can steal passwords or sensitive information, track keystrokes, delete files, spam your e-mail contacts, or even take control of your system.

Some viruses are created for entertainment, but others can have far-reaching consequences. They can lead to data loss or irreversible hard disk damage. In several cases, there may also be a financial interest at stake.

2. What are the ways in which computer viruses spread?

In today’s world, where everything is connected, a computer virus can be acquired in various ways, some easier than others.

Email attachments, Internet file downloads, and phishing links are all methods by which viruses can spread. Your mobile devices and smartphones can become infected with mobile viruses as a result of downloading suspicious software. Viruses can appear as funny pictures, greeting cards, or audio and video files posted on social media.

To avoid contracting a virus, use caution when browsing the internet, downloading data, and opening links or files. To be safe, do not download unusual text files or e-mail attachments, or any data from unreliable websites.

Viruses can spread through various channels, including networks, DVDs, e-mail attachments, and external storage devices such as USB sticks. Because communication between workstations was considerably more limited in the early days of the computer age, the first computer viruses were spread via infected floppy disks.

With the widespread use of Internet-connected devices, viruses can now spread more quickly and easily. Malicious e-mail attachments are the most common method for computer viruses to spread, according to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

3. Antivirus software

Antivirus software has come a long way in identifying computer viruses and stopping them from spreading. A significant proportion of existing viruses can therefore be removed with the help of such software. However, especially for new types of viruses, this is not always the case and it is often a case of waiting for a solution.

Antivirus (AV) is designed to protect computers from viruses. In addition, there is also such a thing as Anti-malware (AM). AM is a type of threat defence that tackles both current and newly discovered malware threats. If you have to choose between an older antivirus with limited threat detection capabilities and a modern anti-malware solution with all the bells and whistles, definitely choose Anti-malware (AM).

4. How do I protect my business against viruses?

Returning to our initial analogy, getting rid of a virus requires a robust immune system. Your computer can be characterised in the same way. A robust immune system can be compared to a good anti-malware program. Anti-malware examines your system for files and malicious code that do not belong there and then removes them in the same way that your immune system detects and destroys invading virus cells.

In addition, cyber awareness among your employees is the first line of defence against any form of cybercrime. Therefore, make sure you also provide thorough cyber security awareness training for your employees.

Finally, invest in high-quality cyber security software.