How Does a Virus Spread?

December 14th, 2020
Virus Scan

You are asleep. Something goes bump in your attic. You also hear strange noises coming from your walls. You’ve watched plenty of horror movies in the lockdown, so this is familiar. You think your house is haunted.

You decide to dig a little deeper. You see insulation damage. The duct work has been gnawed on, the roofing is damaged, and entry points are chewed through. You breathe a sigh of relief. There’s no ghost – you are experiencing is a squirrel infestation.

You can leave this infestation alone, thinking, what’s the worst squirrels can do? But this decision might cost you. They leave behind a health hazard, and the continued damage to insulation and ducting can be a fire risk.

So, what do you do? You take essential steps to remove the squirrel infestation.

Now, when you think of a virus infection and its spread, first think of the above example. In case of a virus, though, your system is the home, and the tell-tale signs of a virus infection is your system behaving in a manner that it is not supposed to. If you’re lax getting rid of the virus you are in danger of losing access to personal files on your computer or of cyber criminals accessing sensitive information that can be used for monetary gain.

The dirty deeds of a virus

Think of a scenario in which an application you use regularly has been infected by a virus. Upon user request, the illegitimate code executes and finds its way into the CPU memory; the legitimate code executes after the virus code is loaded. The virus then makes its merry way across your system, infecting other applications. It keeps inserting malicious code whenever possible. Something you need to keep in mind is that there are viruses that can actually infect files even when they are not open.

Once the virus is in your system, it executes its payload. This means it starts doing what the cyber criminals want it do, putting the nefarious designs of its creators into action. It can scan your hard drive for all kinds of sensitive financial information. It can log key strokes as you enter your password or credit card number and steal all information that you thought was only in your head. It can actually go the distance and convert your system into a botnet that can be used by attackers to launch a botnet or DDoS attack. Long story short, once a virus infects your system, it can cause havoc, unless you are able to get rid of it.

The spread of the virus

Infected applications move from one computer to another easily because users are unaware their application is infected and will share, transfer, or install them without a care in the world. Some users are unaware that their email software is being controlled by the virus (mail hijack) and viruses are actually emailing themselves to the contacts in the email contacts list. Users can also download viruses if they are using pirated apps, or have accessed an infected code repository.

But a virus can only propagate if it the application or code on which it resides is executed by the user – that is, you. Another way that viruses can infect computers is by running as a JavaScript inside a web browser. By doing so, the virus can take advantage of some of the security holes to infect programs.

Should I be afraid of a virus infection?

Truth be told, there are plenty of people out there who are very scared of viruses is these days. No, we are not talking about the pandemic, but rather about the data breaches that are occurring across some of the biggest companies in the world. The fear is that if this can happen to an organization with a massive investment in cybersecurity, a home user is a miniscule target in comparison.

But it is imperative that you keep your protection-tinted glasses on. Remember, you need to get your cybersecurity hygiene right every single time, while attackers need to succeed just once to infect your computer.

Protecting yourself from a computer virus

A world without computer viruses is a utopian dream. They are a part and parcel of the tech ecosystem. You, therefore, must learn to live with them and not lower your guard at any point of time.

If you are looking for one foolproof solution to the virus problem, the bad news is there isn’t any one way to stay safe. Protecting your system from a virus is essentially a multi-pronged approach, backed by informed decision making.

Here are some of the things you can do to keep viruses at bay:

  • Install a powerful antivirus solution on your computer. Make sure it is running at all times; update it regularly (happens automatically), and scan your system often. This is an absolute must. It requires very little effort to ensure your system is protected by the best antivirus available on the market and making sure that it is used they way it is supposed to.
  • Maintain internet hygiene at all times by ensuring you do not click on links in emails, especially those from unknown senders/sources or those that look suspicious.
  • Do not visit websites that are malicious or that can potentially host viruses, e.g. gambling or porn sites.
  • Keep changing your passwords and always back up all sensitive data.
  • Before you open any file or program that has been received from external sources, such as removable media, scan it.
  • Do not use pirated copies of software; these are not only illegal but also serve as ideal attack vectors for malware and other types of advanced threats.
  • Always keep a look out for tell-tale virus infection signs.

Antivirus is a prerequisite

Do not compromise. Look for business-grade security for your home computer, something that is simple, intuitive, and affordable. With Sophos Home, you get the benefit of unparalleled defense against advanced threats, both known and unknown, that have your Macs and PCs in their crosshairs.

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