A worm, for example, can exploit security vulnerabilities to spread itself automatically to other computers through networks. A Trojan horse (or simply ‘Trojan’) is a program that appears harmless but hides malicious functions. Zeus (and its derivatives such as Gameover Zeus) is an example of a Trojan, capable of being used to carrry out many malicious and criminal tasks. Viruses may harm a computer system's performance or data. Some are noticeable to the computer user, but many run in the background, unnoticed by the user. A virus may be designed to replicate itself.
Spyware is a type of virus that is specifically designed to steal information about your activity on your computer. Spyware writers have a number of different objectives, mainly fraudulent financial gain. Spyware can perform a number of illicit functions, from creating pop up advertisements to stealing your bank login details by taking screen shots of the sites you visit and even logging the keys you type. Spyware may also be self-replicating.
Potentially, a virus could arrive on your computer in the form of a Trojan, it could replicate itself before moving on to another computer (a worm) and also be designed as a piece of spyware. Viruses and spyware are types of malware, which also includes rootkits, dishonest adware and scareware.
Viruses and spyware can attack your computer via the following means:
Viruses and spyware can cause very serious consequences including:
Internet security (antivirus/antispyware) software
It is vital to keep your internet security software up to date in order to provide the most complete protection. Thousands of new viruses are detected every day, to say nothing of the variants of new and existing ones. Each has a set of characteristics or ‘signatures’ that enable internet security software manufacturers to detect them and produce suitable updates.
Most internet security software automatically downloads these updates (sometimes referred to as ‘definitions’) on a regular basis, as long as you are online and have paid your annual subscription (for a paid-for product). This should ensure protection against even the latest virus threats.
Internet security software scans for viruses in a number of different ways:
Some internet security software also scans USB connected devices (eg memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players), as they are connecting. Some also highlights suspect websites.
Internet security software will not protect you against:
It is not effective if it is switched off or not updated with the latest virus signatures, and do bear in mind that no internet security software is infallible, so a new strain of malware from a fraudulent attachment or bogus website may still evade your software.
Choosing internet security software
For personal and home office use there are a number of choices that you can take to decide which internet security software to buy. Whichever you choose, make sure it is a repuable brand from a mainstream supplier, and get the best you can afford.
There are a number of internet security software independent reviews available on the internet, including this one from Tech Advisor: www.techadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/security/best-antivirus-3676938/
Some manufacturers and retailers provide various security software bundled with the computer. You do not have to use the security software supplied, but if you decide to keep it, do not forget to subscribe once the free trial period is over so that it stays up to date.
Where to get internet security software
Antivirus/antispyware software and internet security packages are available to purchase from a variety of high street and online retailers as well as from the software manufacturers’ own websites. When purchasing in store, it is normal to load a disk and then download updates over the internet when prompted. When purchasing online, you will automatically download the latest version incorporating all updates.
Free antivirus/antispyware software and internet security packages as described above, may be available from some internet service providers (ISPs) and banks as part of your account.
Virus & Spyware Protection
Apart from installing internet security software and keeping it updated, we recommend a number of other ways in which to keep your computer protected against viruses and spyware. After all, prevention is better than cure.
Safe Internet Use
Some valuable tips on using the internet safely.
Downloading & File Sharing
Simple measures needed to safeguard you when browsing and downloading.
Software updates are essential. Find out why and how to install correctly.
Everything you need to know about operating system updates.
Using the internet to send and receive email safely.
Spam & Scam Emails
A few simple rules about dealing with spam and scam emails.