Feel Free to reprint this article in newsletters and on websites, with resource box included. If you use this article, please send a brief message to I want to know where it seemed: Your computer is as slow as molasses. Your mouse freezes every 15 minutes, and that Microsoft Word program just wont seem to open. You might have a virus. Just what precisely is a virus? What type is in your computer? How did it get there? How is it spreading and wreaking such havoc?

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And why is it bothering with your computer anyway? Viruses are pieces of programming code that make copies of themselves, or replicate, inside your computer without asking your explicit written permission to do that. Forget having your permission down on paper. Viruses dont bother to seek your permission in the slightest! Quite invasive. In contrast, there are pieces of code which may replicate inside your computer, say something your IT guy thinks you need. But the code spreads, perhaps throughout your office network, with your consent (or at least your IT guys approval). These types of replicating code are called agents, said Jimmy Kuo, a research fellow with McAfee AVERT, a research arm of anti virus software-maker McAfee Inc. In this article, though, were not discussing the agents, or the good guys. п»ї

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Well be talking about the bad guys, the viruses. A long, long time ago in computer years, like five, most viruses were comprised of an identical breed. They entered your computer perhaps through an email attachment or a floppy disk (remember those?). Then they attached themselves to one of your files, say your Microsoft Word application. The virus replicated and attached itself to other files when you opened your Microsoft Word program. These could be other files, the files furthest away from your Microsoft Word program, or other random files on your own hard drive, determined by how the virus writer wanted the virus to act. This virus code could contain hundreds or thousands of instructions. When it replicates it inserts those instructions, into the buy oem software files it infects, said Carey Nachenberg, Chief Architect at Symantec Research Labs, an arm of anti virus software-maker Symantec. The sort just described is called a classic virus, because many other kinds of viruses exist now.

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Classic viruses still exist but theyre not as prevalent as they used to be. (Maybe we could put classic viruses on the shelf with Hemingway and Dickens.) Nowadays, in the modern era, viruses are known to spread through vulnerabilities in web browsers, files shared over the internet, emails and computer networks. As far as web browsers are involved, Microsofts Internet Explorer takes most of the heat for spreading viruses because its used by more people for web surfing than any other browser. Nevertheless, “Any web browser potentially has vulnerabilities,” Nachenberg said. For instance, lets say you go to a website in IE you might have every reason to think is safe, Nachenberg said.