A computer virus is a computer program that can copy itself and infect a computer without permission or knowledge of the user. The term "virus" is also commonly used, albeit erroneously, to refer to many different types of malware and adware programs. The original virus may modify the copies, or the copies may modify themselves, as occurs in a metamorphic virus. A virus can only spread from one computer to another when its host is taken to the uninfected computer, for instance by a user sending it over a network or the Internet, or by carrying it on a removable medium such as a floppy disk, CD, or USB drive. Meanwhile viruses can spread to other computers by infecting files on a network file system or a file system that is accessed by another computer. Viruses are sometimes confused with computer worms and Trojan horses.
A worm can spread itself to other computers without needing to be transferred as part of a host, and a Trojan horse is a file that appears harmless. Worms and Trojans may cause harm to either a computer system's hosted data, functional performance, or networking throughput, when executed. In general, a worm does not actually harm either the system's hardware or software, while at least in theory, a Trojan's payload may be capable of almost any type of harm if executed. Some can't be seen when the program is not running, but as soon as the infected code is run, the Trojan horse kicks in. That is why it is so hard for people to find viruses and other malware themselves and why they have to use spyware programs and registry processors.
Most personal computers are now connected to the Internet and to local area networks, facilitating the spread of malicious code. Today's viruses may also take advantage of network services such as the World Wide Web, e-mail, Instant Messaging and file sharing systems to spread, blurring the line between viruses and worms. Furthermore, some sources use an alternative terminology in which a virus is any form of self-replicating malware.
Some malware is programmed to damage the computer by damaging programs, deleting files, or reformatting the hard disk. Other malware programs are not designed to do any damage, but simply replicate themselves and perhaps make their presence known by presenting text, video, or audio messages. Even these less sinister malware programs can create problems for the computer user. They typically take up computer memory used by legitimate programs. As a result, they often cause erratic behavior and can result in system crashes. In addition, much malware is bug-ridden, and these bugs may lead to system crashes and data loss. Many CiD programs are programs that have been downloaded by the user and pop up every so often. This results in slowing down of the computer, but it is also very difficult to find and stop the problem.
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