In medical terms a virus is “a minute infectious agent which lacks independent metabolism and is able to replicate only in a living host cell.”
A computer virus is similar. It is a small software programme, which has really no purpose other than to cause harm. It is infectious in the sense that it is transmitted from one computer to another. Like a biological virus, it has the ability to replicate – make copies of – itself, while it is within your system. A computer virus can therefore be defined as:
A malicious piece of software that is designed to spread from one computer to another with the intent of causing damage.
Virus programmes are written by clever programmers who want to cause wilful harm to as many computers as possible. Their intentions are not noble.
The Microsoft Windows environment is the main target of viruses. If you are working under Apple Mac or an open source operating system, you are unlikely to be infected by a nasty virus.
Some viruses create more damage than others. The harm may range from being a mere nuisance to causing system failure. Some of the effects that you could experience if your laptop is affected by a virus are:
- unsolicited emails may be sent to everyone in your address book from your laptop
- your laptop may restart constantly so that it becomes impossible for you to work on it
- some of your documents may be emailed to strangers
- some of your data files may be erased or corrupted
- all the data from your hard disk may be erased.
A virus attack is one of the greatest threats to your laptop and against which you must have adequate protection.
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