Computer viruses affect every PC user in every part of the world. They are transmitted through e-mails, web pages, networks, and digital media such as ipods, USB Flash drives and even CDs. One of the first well known viruses was developed by a 9th grade student and coded onto an Apple II floppy disk. The virus, known as Elk Cloner, launched after the 50th time of playing a game from the disk. It contained a simple poem. Today’s viruses are far more complex and can spread to millions of computers in less than 24 hours. A major outbreak in 2004 caused by a virus called MyDoom cost an estimated $40 billion world wide with a record of 1 in 12 e-mails infected. Prevention would have lessened that damage dramatically. It is known today to have been the fastest spreading virus ever created, spanning the globe in less than 24 hours, surpassing even the SoBig virus.
Viruses can come in all forms and have different payloads. Some collect information, while others install malicious software, otherwise known as malware or spyware onto your computer. You can get one simply by using a peer to peer sharing program, opening an e-mail attachment, or loading music into your computer from someone else via a USB flash drive or even a burned CD. So, do you need antivirus software even if you don’t download stuff, share files and you’re careful on the Internet? The answer is a resounding “Yes.”
The real issue is that many viruses are hard to detect. In fact, in many cases, you may not even know you have one. Spyware and malware both are very good at disguising themselves and have evolved into serious threats. Many of today’s viruses have evolved to a point where they are capable of taking down large networks. They can gain access, slip in unnoticed and disable any security measures it may encounter. Just as it went unnoticed in the beginning, these viruses continue to go unnoticed for some time. And, worse, they can block or re-route outgoing web searches for removal methods, block you from visiting antivirus sites and Microsoft.com should you finally suspect a malware or spyware program.
According to a report published in June 2009 by Consumer Reports Research Center, 1 in 7 users had serious problems from viruses that caused an estimated $5.8 billion in damages and 1 in 90 users lost money from phishing scams for a total of $483 million. In December 2008 alone, there were over 37,000 individual phishing attacks and 545,000 households have had to replace computers in the last six months due to viruses, spyware or malware.
To the average home computer user, a virus can be more damaging in terms of personal data loss: the complete loss of family photos, resumes, your children’s school work and other valuable items is a large price to pay if you’re not protected. With several basic antivirus programs available for free and “good” products and programs typically averaging about $30 a year, there is no excuse to go unprotected.
Having virus protection is important, of course, but just as important as the virus protection itself, is keeping that program or application updated. Viruses, adware, spyware and malware are created and released into the wild every single day. Security firms keep those virus definitions updated as quickly as possible to ensure that contamination is contained. Your antivirus software should be programmed for daily updates to protect and counter potential threats.