What Is a Computer Virus?

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What Is a Computer Virus?

Short Definition: A computer virus is a piece of code designed to spread from machine to machine, having the ability to replicate itself. Similar to regular viruses, computer viruses cannot replicate and spread further without a host virus file or document.

Extended Definition: The purpose of a computer virus is to change the way a computer system operates and to spread from one machine to another. The threat is usually designed to insert or attach itself to a legitimate program or document that supports macros needed to execute its malicious code. A virus is also capable of corrupting or destroying data found on the host computer.

In terms of distribution, viruses can propagate via several methods, including networks, email attachments, discs, and external storage devices, such as USB sticks. Back in the days when computer viruses first emerged, they were mainly propagated with the help of infected floppy disks. Current viruses are mostly distributed across computers through infected email attachments. In most cases, the user should enable document macros or click a link, so that the virus is activated.

For more definitions, check out our Cyber Dictionary.

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