Feel Free to reprint this article in newsletters and on websites, with resource box included. If you use this article, please send a brief message to allow me to know where it appeared: Your computer is as slow as molasses. Your mouse freezes every 15 minutes, and that Microsoft Word program just wont seem to open. You might have a virus. Only what exactly is a virus? What kind is in your computer? How did it get there? How is it spreading and wreaking such havoc? And why is it bothering with your computer anyway?

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Viruses are pieces of programming code that make copies of themselves, or replicate, inside your computer without asking your explicit written permission to do so. Forget getting your permission down on paper. Viruses dont bother to seek your permission whatsoever! Quite invasive. In contrast, there are bits of code that may replicate inside your computer, say something your IT guy thinks you need. But the code spreads, perhaps throughout your office network, with your permission (or at least your IT guys permission). These types of replicating code are called agents, said Jimmy Kuo, a research fellow with McAfee AVERT, a research arm of anti virus software-maker McAfee Inc. In this post, though, were not speaking about the good guys, http://buyoemsoftware.biz or the representatives.

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Well be talking about the bad guys, the viruses. A long, long time ago in computer years, like five, most viruses were comprised of the same strain. They entered your computer perhaps through an email attachment or a floppy disk (remember those?). Then they attached themselves to one of your files, say your Microsoft Word program. The virus replicated and attached itself, when you started your Microsoft Word application. These could be other files, the files furthest away from your Microsoft Word program, or other random files on your own hard drive, based on the way in which the virus writer wanted the virus to act. This virus code could contain hundreds or thousands of instructions.

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When it replicates it inserts those instructions, into the files it infects, said Carey Nachenberg, Chief Architect at Symantec Research Labs, an arm of anti-virus software-maker Symantec. The type just described is called a classic virus, because so many other kinds of viruses exist now. Classic viruses still exist but theyre not quite as prevalent as they used to be. (Perhaps we could put classic viruses on the shelf with Hemingway and Dickens.) These days, in the modern era, viruses are known to propagate through vulnerabilities in web browsers, files shared over the internet, emails and computer networks. In terms of web browsers are involved, Microsofts Internet Explorer takes most of the heat for spreading viruses because its used by more people for web surfing than some other browser. Nevertheless, “Any web browser potentially has vulnerabilities,” Nachenberg said. For instance, lets say you go to a site in IE you might have every reason to think is safe, Nachenberg said.