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Computer Viruses?  What really is it?

written by Roderick Hames

One might think of a computer virus as a tiny computer program designed to perform mischief. Most computer users have heard about computer viruses. A computer virus is the result of a destructive program that someone has written and placed inside a computer program, which unsuspecting people then place in their computer system.

Some viruses can erase all the information from the place where it's stored on the computer's hard disk. But each virus is different. Some display strange messages on your computer screen; others make small changes in your computer programs.

Where do these viruses come from? They certainly don't float around in the air like some human viruses. Instead, like any other computer program, a human must create them.

Why do people create them? It's hard to say. Some people create these programs out of meanness to get even. While others create them just as a challenge. Why do you thing people create these very destructive programs? How does your computer get a virus? Almost exactly the way humans do. The computer gets exposed to one. Well, its not quiet that easy.

Many people get contaminated computer programs by trading programs with other people. Others get contaminated computer programs through the use of modems, which allow computers to communicate over telephone lines (ie. The Internet)

Most of the time, programs that arrive by modem or a trade are perfectly safe to use. However, you do stand a chance of getting a program that has been tampered with. Here a computer program virus is hiding inside the normal program. Many computer programs that are traded were copied illegally.

When this program enters your computer through your input device, it hides in your computer's memory and starts to duplicate itself like a disease. When you save your data, you also save the virus. Slowly but surely, the virus crowds out your data and causes major system problems.

The virus can't affect the computer's ROM (Read Only Memory), but it can affect RAM (Random Access Memory) and your computer disks. When your shut off your computer a virus that has been picked up will be lost, just like any other memory that is held in RAM.

If the virus is on your disk or hard drive, it will return to the computer when you use the program again. If you switch from one program to another without shutting down the machine, the virus will attach itself to the new program. In this way, it can slowly infect all your programs before you know that it exists. Today millions of dollars are being spent to rid and protect computer systems from these virus programs.

Commercial and shareware programs have been created with the sole purpose of detecting and fixing suspect programs that might be viruses infected. These detection programs should be ran when any disk is put into your disk drive or every time your computer is first started up each day to scan the computer's hard drive.

Directions: Answer the following questions in your own words based on the following article you have just read and use Brainpop to watch the video on Viruses and take the quiz at the end.


1. What is a computer virus? _____________________________________________
2. What are some of the things that viruses can do? _____________________________________________
3. Where do viruses come from? _____________________________________________
4. Why do people create viruses? _____________________________________________
5. How do computers acquire viruses? _____________________________________________
6. Can a virus affect the ROM of a computer? _____________________________________________
7. What can be done to avoid getting a computer virus? _____________________________________________
8. What can be done when someone knows they have a virus? _____________________________________________

Video of the Day

Video:  Computer Virus/Worm Video

This site was created by Roderick Hames
for the primary purpose of teaching and demonstrating computer & business skills to 6th grade students
Any distribution or copying without the express or written consent of
Alton C. Crews Middle School or its creator is strictly prohibited.
Any questions, comments or suggestions concerning
this page or this Web site should be forwarded to
Roderick Hames, Computer Science / Business Education Teacher
Copyright© 2011, Alton C. Crews Middle School: CS Dept - Articles

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