A computer virus is a malicious program or type of code designed to disrupt the way a computer functions. Viruses are written to spread from one computer to another and to self-replicate. A computer virus works by attaching itself to a legitimate document or program to activate the infected code. If activated, the virus can damage software, corrupt data, or destroy information.
What Is a Computer Virus?
How do computer viruses attack?
Computer viruses remain dormant until their code is activated. This means viruses can lie in wait—attached to a file or document—until you run the infected program. While the virus is dormant, it can be difficult to detect. But once your computer is infected, any other devices on the same network are also vulnerable to infection.
The amount of devastation varies from virus to virus, but some of the most common things a virus can do are listed below.
- Log keystrokes
- Steal passwords
- Send spam email (with infected code) to your contacts
- Access and steal data
- Corrupt files
- Completely take over your computer
Some computer viruses are designed to create mischief (like turning all of your files into pictures of squid), which is irritating, but usually manageable. But other viruses target financial data or aim to destroy your hard drive.
Compare the best internet security products
|Best parental control||$99.00/yr.||Unlimited devices||Email and social media monitoring||View Plans||Read review|
|Best antivirus/malware software||$19.99/yr.||Protects up to 5 devices||Includes VPN and parental controls||View on Amazon||Read review|
|Best VPN||$11.99/mo.||Works on 6 devices||5,100 servers|
|View Plans||Read review|
|Best identity theft protection||$17.95/mo.|
$1 million recovery insurance
|Two-factor authentication||View Plans||Read review|
|Best password manager||$0.00||Unlimited devices with Premium plan||VPN and dark web monitoring with Premium plan||View Plans||Read review|
Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change. SafeWise uses paid Amazon links.