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How this tricky malware works. What is a computer worm? How this self-spreading malware wreaks havoc. Malware explained: How to prevent, detect and recover from it. What is a computer virus? Computer virus definition A computer virus is a form of malicious software that piggybacks onto legitimate application code in order to spread and reproduce itself.

What do computer viruses do? How do computer viruses spread? Types of computer virus Symantec has a good breakdown on the various types of viruses you might encounter , categorized in different ways. There are a couple other types you might want to be aware of: A macro virus infects macro applications embedded in Microsoft Office or PDF files. Many people who are careful about never opening strange applications forget that these sorts of documents can themselves contain executable code.

Don't let your guard down! A polymorphic virus slightly changes its own source code each time it copies itself to avoid detection from antivirus software. Computer virus protection Antivirus software is the most widely known product in the category of malware protection products. Computer virus symptoms How can you tell if a virus has slipped past your defenses? Norton has a good list ; symptoms include: Unusually slow performance Frequent crashes Unknown or unfamiliar programs that start up when you turn on your computer Mass emails being sent from your email account Changes to your homepage or passwords If you suspect your computer has been infected, a computer virus scan is in order.

Computer virus removal Once a virus is installed on your computer, the process of removing it is similar to that of removing any other kind of malware — but that isn't easy. Computer virus history The first true computer virus was Elk Cloner , developed in by fifteen-year-old Richard Skrenta as a prank. Other major viruses in history include: Jerusalem : A DOS virus that lurked on computers, launched on any Friday the 13th, and deleted applications. Melissa : A mass-mailing macro virus that brought the underground virus scene to the mainstream in It earned its creator 20 months in prison.

Related: Antivirus Malware Security. Josh Fruhlinger is a writer and editor who lives in Los Angeles. VS MALWARE - Do you need Antivirus?

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