Common Questions about Computer Viruses and Spyware
What is a computer virus?
A virus is malicious software designed to harm your computer and potentially steal personal information. The most common types of malicious software (malware) are viruses, spyware and ransomware.
What’s the difference between a virus, spyware and ransomware?
A virus can be designed to do several different things. Typically, the software is designed to spread to other computers and reach as many machines as possible. An example of this is when a virus attacks your email and sends out a link to all of your contacts. When one of your contacts clicks the link, they expose themselves to the same virus. Some viruses are built to delete critical files, while others attack the performance of the computer.
Spyware is also considered malware, but tracks your usage on the computer and tries to push you toward malicious sites. Ransomware is the most invasive type of malware. This software specifically targets sensitive personal files/data and then requests a ransom to release the files back to you. Typically, we recommend wiping a hard drive that is infected with ransomware, although there are other solutions we can explore.
How do I know if I have one?
Some common symptoms of viruses, malware, spyware and ransomware include slow performance, delayed boot-up, random shutdowns, unwanted pop-ups/ads and suspicious hard drive activity. If you think you have been infected, bring your computer in to one of our Certified Technicians to confirm and remove the malware.
How common is it to get a virus or malware?
Very common! If you happen to be one of the millions of computer users that get infected with a virus every year, know that there are solutions out there to help you. We complete thousands of virus scans and removals every year and are up-to-date on the most current infections.
Will my data be safe?
We recommend always having a current backup of your data. While viruses and spyware often attack specific data, it gives you a starting point for the repair. In some instances, we will need to wipe the hard drive to guarantee the machine is free of the virus, but as long as the data is backed up, we can reload the backup data on your virus-free computer and you can continue to access your data files.
How do I prevent this from happening again?
The best way to fix a virus or malware is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are several antivirus programs out there that will help protect your machine; we will be happy to recommend our favorite. Whichever AV software you choose, it is critical that your software is current (i.e. not expired) and your antivirus definitions are up-to-date. New malicious software is developed every day, and keeping your protection current is your best defense.
In addition to antivirus software, there are certain best practices that will help you prevent attacks on your machine. If a website, email, social media post or link seems to be off in any way (poor grammar, different tone of voice, etc.), then it is best not to click on it. Do not open emails, attachments or click on links from sources that you do no recognize! Some of these attacks are very sophisticated and look like they might be coming from a reputable source, but take a close look at the email address. Often times, one letter might be off from the correct spelling.