As you probably know, a computer virus is a type of malware that attaches to another program and can rapidly replicate and spread after human interaction. Most viruses can destroy all kinds of data and slow down or crash your machine in the process.
A Brief History of Computer Viruses
In 1949, mathematician, engineer, and polymath John von Neumann theorized that computer programs could self-produce. Over thirty years later, fifteen-year-old Rich Skrenta tested his theory with the Elk Cloner microcomputer virus, which was one of the first malware to spread outside of a controlled environment.
Elk Cloner was a gentle virus, though, displaying a poem on infected Apple II computers. It spread through infected floppy disks at a time when floppy disks were king.
Two years later, computer scientist Fred Cohen defined a computer virus as a program that infects others “by modifying them to include a possibly evolved copy of itself” in his 1984 graduate thesis paper. Cohen’s definition stands the test of time.
It wasn’t until 1986 that the world saw its first infectious PC virus. The Brain virus, developed by two Pakistani brothers and software engineers to enforce copy protection on their heart-monitoring software, targeted Microsoft’s early operating system, MS-DOS.
Although the Brain virus didn’t harm computers, it displayed an on-screen message asking pirates to pay for the brothers’ software. However, the virus went further than the two had imagined. Eventually, the brothers were fielding unhappy phone calls from Europe inquiring about how to eliminate the virus.
Computer Viruses Today
Modern computer viruses are less of a threat because of the sophisticated nature of today’s cybersecurity technology. Whether you’re treating your computer for an old or new CPU virus infection, you need the latest antivirus software to do the job.
New Breed of Malware
Cybercriminals understand that computer viruses aren’t a very profitable type of malware. That’s why they’re concentrating their efforts on developing more complex and lucrative malware like the following:
- Ransomware: A ransomware is a nasty malware that encrypts PCs, Macs, smartphone devices, or large networks. Then, it asks victims for money to decrypt the data. Some types of ransomware that corrupt files and folders can be defined as a virus.
- Spyware: Spyware is a type of malware that can send your files, folders, emails, messages, pictures, videos, etc., to a threat actor without raising your suspicion.
- Keyloggers: A keylogger is a simple but dangerous type of spyware that records your keystrokes. With access to your keystrokes, a hacker can gain your usernames, passwords, and confidential documents.
Threat actors can use several different mediums to deliver malware. For example, they may use an exploit to take advantage of security holes in your software to install malware. They may trick you into installing disguised malware with a Trojan horse attack. They may also send you a fraudulent email or text message that carries an infected attachment or encourages you to open a corrupt link.
Regardless, the best way to protect your machine from viruses and other kinds of malware is to use advanced antivirus software that uses proactive anti-malware technology to stop threats in their tracks. Additionally, a little vigilance goes a long way. Avoid suspicious websites, emails, and links at all costs to keep your data safe and secure.