What is a Computer Virus?
Viruses, spyware, adware, malware, scareware, ransomware, worms (yay! one that doesn’t have ‘ware’ at the end), rootkits, bots and droppers (gross) are all potential problems for your PC. Problems that could expose you to things like identity theft and corporate espionage. But many of them are largely ignored or brought to professionals who won’t explain exactly what’s wrong with your computer.
It’s like going to the doctor and having them talk about your illness in medical-speak which is great (unless you’re like most of us and don’t have medical training) in which case it’s a little annoying because you leave the place with more questions than answers. So, to break down some obstacles and build some bridges we thought it might be a good idea to make a cheat sheet. One that you can reference at any time and one that will give you a basic understanding of what’s going on inside your computer (kind of like WebMD created by IT professionals or an always accessible Genius Bar).
What is a computer virus? This is probably the most popular digital affliction made popular by such great films as Independence Day and The Matrix. But what is a computer virus? Viruses according to Microsoft are small software programs that are designed to spread from one computer to another and to interfere with computer operation. In the good old days they were just stealthy programs that pillaged your computer with no real purpose other than to watch your world burn. Today, they’re cold-blooded assassins with all of the tools to extract your most vital information and implement DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack against you.
While viruses may be the ninja-turned-evil character of the digital world worms are the grungy underbelly of that society. They’re seedy characters that love to get their slimy fingers on any computer the can find. Like their Earth bound cousin they have the ability to copy themselves. Once they make a replica and copy it to your computer it’s lights out. Well, kind of, another feature they share with normal Earthworms is that they don’t really do much. They’ll just worm their way around your computer and be a general annoyance that will suck up a ton of bandwidth.
If you’re familiar with history you know the Battle of Troy and the use of the Trojan horse. If not, no worries, here’s a quick lesson that will give you an idea as to how the program works. Now, assuming you’re familiar with the way Trojan animals are supposed to work let’s talk about their digital cousins. Concealed within the wooden husk of a game or other application the Trojan program will conceal malicious code that will eventually do something very bad.
The Ware Family
The ware family is the biggest digital family out there. It’s filled with heroes, villains and some characters that may leaving you scratching your head as to why they’re there. We’re going to focus on the bad guys.
Spyware is the 007 of the group. He’s the coolest one in the group; he’s got the fancy car, the girl and the rest of the Ware family is jealous of him. Besides all of that cool stuff he can spy on your computer, steal your personal information and passwords before you can even sit down to afternoon tea.
When Spyware steals information and then gives it to his super shady Mad Men-esque brother. With all sorts of information at his disposal he’ll create advertisements that are designed to fit your interests. Adware can be a flighty temptress so be careful when you see some advertisements that probably shouldn't be there.
Scareware is probably the closest thing to a Batman villain in the Ware family. He’s refined, is probably clinically insane and has a long history of scamming people out of their money. Scareware, unlike it’s cousins, will not do anything to infiltrate your computer. It’s too refined for that. Instead, it will send you a bunch of fairly legitimate looking notices, warnings and sign-in pages that will force you to register for something and provide that site with your credit card information. A couple days later Mr. Scareware will be sitting on the beaches of Malibu with a martini in hand. And the scariest part about him, he’s getting more and more refined as the days pass.
There are more programs to address but this should be a nice starting block to help you understand the various afflictions that can affect your computer. If you suspect your computer has been infected please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us.