Viruses are everywhere in the news at the moment, but have you ever wondered why malware is sometimes called a “computer virus”? The fact is that a computer virus is very similar to influenza, coronavirus and other viral infections.

Here’s some of the similarities.

Email is like a sneeze

Have you ever had cold that makes you sneeze all the time? Every time you sneeze, tiny droplets containing the virus leave your body at great speed. If someone else comes into contact with those droplets, they could catch your viral infection.

Cybercriminals use a similar technique – spam. Tens of thousands of emails are sent out, each carrying an infected attachment. Anyone who opens one of those attachments will (probably) install a virus – just like breathing in infected droplets.

Malware infections can kill

Serious viral infections can cause serious illness – or even death. And computer viruses also have the potential to kill.

In most cases, computer malware cause data loss, steal personal information and occasionally, cause physical damage to the infected computer. But if cyberattackers target national systems, like the electricity grid or hospital computers, there is a very real chance that the knock-on effects could kill.

Computer viruses are highly infectious

The influenza virus has naturally evolved to use an infected person’s body to spread. Sneezing is not just a side-effect of the infection – it also helps to ensure the virus can infect other people too.

Computer viruses rarely stop at a single infection. Most are designed to spread to other computers whenever possible. Some will hijack an infected computer to send out infected emails, while worms use clever network exploits to attack other computers on the same network. The more computers a hacked can infect, the more data they can steal or add to a botnet under their control.

You can be infected without showing any symptoms

Many viruses take time to grow inside the human body – it may be several weeks before the infected person even realises they are sick. During this ‘incubation period’ they are still infectious, and may pass the virus onto other people – again without realising there’s a problem.

The same is true of computer viruses – particularly botnets and trojans. These malware variants will remain on your computer undetected until triggered remotely by a hacker. This dormant period may last weeks or months, although it may try to spread itself to other computers in the meantime.

Anti-malware, the computer vaccination

Many serious viruses – measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tuberculosis – now have vaccines that prevent people from becoming infected. Children are routinely vaccinated against these viruses to prevent infection as they grow.

Computers can also be vaccinated against viruses with an anti-malware tool like Panda Dome. Like medical vaccines, Panda Dome identifies potential viruses and prevents them from being installed – or from infecting your computer.

By preventing your computer from becoming infected you also avoid the trouble of trying to recover lost data, reinstalling software and repairing any damage to the system. And you can protect yourself today – download a free trial of Panda Dome here.

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