History and Origins of Computer Viruses and How to Protect Your Computer from Them

Turning on your computer to discover that it has been infected with a virus can be just as frustrating and upsetting as waking up to the realization that you’ve become really sick overnight. Computer viruses operate in much the same way as a biological virus in that they thrive on being passed from computer to computer. In other words, if you have an infected computer you’re likely to pass on that infection to all of your friends’ computers in the same way that you’d also pass the common cold onto them. Unlike a biological virus, however, your computer can infect the computer of a friend who isn’t even in the same country as you. Virus protection software is getting more advanced each day but it is still important for users to take precautions, especially with their e-mails.

(image courtesy bodycoach2)

Computer viruses trace their origins back to the end of the 1980s. At that time, home computers were starting to become very popular and it was common to see them in businesses and on college campuses. During these early days of home computing the computers were manufactured and shipped in the most bare bones way possible; operating systems didn’t even come pre-loaded and were instead accessed by utilizing a boot up floppy disc. Although the majority of today’s younger generation wouldn’t even be able to recognize a floppy disc, there was a time period during which they were the most important aspect of everyone’s home computer system; both the operating systems and the programs that were developed, many of which were the precursors to today’s modern PC games, were very small and a large amount of them could be stored on a single floppy disc.

The fact that new data could easily be written to floppy discs opened the door for programmers who had the desire to unleash chaos; they simply created a virus script and then hid it on a floppy disc before passing that disc on to someone else. It was common practice for discs to be passed around and copied which allowed the viruses to spread quickly. As is the nature of a virus, most people had no idea that they had obtained one until it was far too late to stop the damage. Early usage of the internet consisted primarily of bulletin boards. They provided users all over the world with access to a multitude of different programs and were seen by many as one of the best aspects of home computers. Unfortunately they also lead to creation of what is now referred to as a Trojan horse. Much more insidious than most viruses, a Trojan horse wreaks havoc on computers by deleting data and, in some cases, by completely destroying the computer
system. All of these early issues quickly taught computer users to be much more careful about what they downloaded and people began looking for a way to protect their computer systems.

As computer technology continues to advance, so do the viruses that are unleashed by unsavory computer programmers. Protecting your computer from a virus is crucial, especially with the quantity of personal data that most people store on their hard drives. Viruses are now passed most commonly via e-mail attachments so it is very important that you don’t open any .exe, .vbs or .com files. While most e-mail and internet providers offer at least a basic level of virus protection to their customers, it is not their responsibility to ensure that their customers’computers do not become infected. Therefore it is prudent of users to be cautious about the websites that they visit and the files that they download.

Choosing which web browser that you use can also make a big difference; some browsers, such as Internet Explorer, are well known to have a higher instance of security lapses, which leaves your system wide open for an attack. It is becoming more common for internet providers to bundle basic malware protection into their installation software; although this can also help to protect your computer, this free software typically only provides the most basic protection delivered via a warning message before connecting to sites that are suspected of having malware.

Overall, the best option is to always run virus protection, along with malware, spyware and a firewall. It is also important to secure your wireless network. If you follow all of these steps and also avoid opening any suspicious files or going to any suspicious websites your computer should remain virus free. If it begins acting strangely, however, make sure to get it looked at by a professional computer technician right away. Also, always remember to back up your data so that a virus doesn’t destroy more than just your hard drive.

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This is a guest article by Ruben Corbo, a writer for the website Broadband Expert where you can find high speed internet providers in your area and compare prices on different deals for your wireless internet necessities.

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