Protect Your Tech
How Viruses Infect Laptops, Phones
Picture it … you’re elbow deep in an urgent, important document that holds the key to your future. You then receive an email with the subject line of “A Love Letter for You.” Intrigued, you open the message and the attached “love letter.” The next day, you open your computer to find the important document missing! You’ve likely been the victim of a malicious virus.
What is a Virus?
Computer viruses are a type of program or code written to change how a computer and its programs normally operate for the worse. These nuisances are created to spread from one program or device to the next, like a biological virus.
Once a virus is present, it has access to the entire device, including programs, files, and accounts. Although some viruses cause less harm, they should never be left alone. Viruses are known to replicate themselves throughout the device, drastically slowing it down.
Computer viruses first appeared in the late 80’s with the introduction of floppy disks. An infected floppy disk would be inserted into an uninfected computer, distributing the virus.
Today, viruses are still spread through shared storage options, such as flash or thumb drives, but viruses most commonly in-fect devices through emails and unprotected websites. Through emails, the virus is stored in malicious links or attachments, waiting to be clicked on. After the link or attachment is launched, the virus springs into the depths of your computer.
Identifying a Virus
Viruses are often sneaky and infect devices unknowingly. Here are some signs to watch for if you’re skeptical of being a victim.
• Your web browsers have dramatically slowed down over a short period of time.
• Files have been modified or deleted.
• Freezing or crashing happens often.
• Programs run or close without your consent.
• Your default search engine is different than normal.
• Unusual emails are being sent without your permission.
• Pop-up ads are allowed without you adjusting any settings.
• New desktop icons appear without you installing them
Don’t live in fear of losing your computer! There are multiple ways to prevent viruses from entering your device to save your files and keep your device functioning.
Use a strong password. Make sure that passwords are at least eight characters long (16 characters is even better) and use uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters. Also avoid using the same password over multiple websites.
Update your software immediately. Software updates are meant to protect devices against the newest threats. Old software has little to no protection against emerging viruses that have cracked the old systems.
Use an antivirus solution. Golden West offers up to three licenses of VIPRE Advanced Security for internet customers. This is free to customers who bundle internet service with phone or cable. Internet-only customers can purchase the antivirus for $4.95 per month, which will be applied to the monthly bill. For more information, visit goldenwest.com/vipre.
Educate your family. Knowing the warning signs (phishing emails, unsafe websites, etc.) can prevent viruses.
Don’t become the next virus victim. These simple strategies can protect your computer from a world of hurt.
Sources: Norton, the Florida Nerds, Stony Brook University Division of Information Technology, and How Stuff Works