Table of Contents
The short version
What's a virus?
A virus is a program just like all the programs you have on your computer. It's created by human beings, installed on your computer, and does whatever it was designed to do. This is no different than any other program on the computer. The problem is that the program is designed to do something bad. It might try to steal data or just make your life miserable.
There are many types of malicious software:
Don't bother trying to figure out what category your computer may be infected with. The troubleshooting approach is exactly the same - find out how it works and remove it. Once the virus has been removed, any left over damage is dealt with.
How does it get on the computer?
The computer user is tricked into installing it. The infections don't just appear out of the blue. Somewhere along the way, perhaps through an email or a website link, a malicious link was clicked on, downloaded, then run. Simple as that.
Why didn't the antivirus catch it?
Most viruses are intercepted but if the infection is new enough and hasn't been documented yet, the antivirus may let it past. Antivirus program can only top what they know about or how it acts. However, the antivirus programs are pretty effective at stopping what it thinks is a virus, sometime too good. They may stop legitimate programs from running also.
How do I stop a virus?
- Install a basic version of AVG, Norton, or your preferred antivirus. No need for giant, do-it-all suites.
- Do not click on anything inside an email if it's an email you are unfamiliar with. DO NOT CLICK ANYTHING.
- NEVER click on an advertisement in a website. Ever.
I'm infected. What do I do?
Shut down the computer and bring it in as soon as possible.
"Viruses", as they are classically defined, are getting extremely rare. We have not seen an actual, undetected, live, running, virus infection in years. Windows 10 has it's own antivirus program built-in that offers an effective defense. What we see every day is:
- Endless Junk Programs. That's where the money is.
- Scammers. Much more money to be made remoting into computers and scamming people.
- Encryption Attacks. More rare than the two previous, but by far the most destructive attacks ever invented.
Hackers cannot get into your personal computer unless you allow it to happen, either by allowing scammers to remote in or clicking websites or emails that allow remote access software to be installed on your computer without your knowledge.
Email hacks are not done at your computer, they are done by logging into your email provider. You may have used the same password all over the place and when one of the sites you use gets hacked, that same password can be used to get into the email account that uses the same password.
Hacking, by our definition, occurs on systems that are directly attached to the Internet or the hackers get access to an internal computer using "phishing" techniques, then log into a service provider's servers. They can trick employees of your email service into giving up login information. That employee thinks they are talking to another employee when, in fact, they are talking to hackers.