The History of Viruses and How to Protect Yourself [Slideshow]

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Since their invention in the 1970s, computer viruses have become a menace millions strong, and the threats they continue to present to your computer show no sign of abating. As always, forewarned is forearmed, and there are few arenas in your life where it is more important to be and remain savvy about the dangers you will inevitably face and how to avoid them.


Want to ensure you will be an informed consumer of antivirus software, able to choose the best virus protection for your computer? This brief, simple introduction will help you to master the basics of the history and typology of computer viruses. In addition, it will aid you in learning how to detect the presence of viruses—which do not always instantly and ostentatiously destroy what they infect. A virus is, after all, simply defined by its ability both to replicate itself and to attach itself to another computer file, leaving plenty of room for lower-key variants that are all too often often carefully designed to conceal their presence and slowly and covertly wreak havoc on your computer. This slideshow will inform you about what the prognosis is once certain viruses have been contracted, and even offer some basic tips about how to counteract them.

Viruses, as their name suggests, have proved an almost endlessly inventive and adaptive scourge of the information age, and knowing a little about their history will only emphasize how important it is to remain vigilant about ensuring you have premium computer protection. Their beginnings can be traced back to Creeper, inflicted on the world in the early 1970s, and viruses can be said to have come into their own with computer programmer Rich Skrenta's Elk Cloner in 1981, which was the first virus to make the fatal jump into “the wild” outside its native computer system. Viruses have since diversified into a wide array of subtypes (e.g. boot sector, direct action, file infector, macro, multipartite, polymorphic, resident, and web scripting).

Of course, it is also of paramount importance for everyone who owns a computer to understand that viruses aren't merely the product of bored basement-dwellers looking to spread mayhem, but that viruses all too frequently serve as the linchpin of sophisticated scams. The emergence of ransomware is one of the most insidious examples in recent history, featuring notable, devastating worms Reveton and, soon after, Cryptolocker. These demanded users pay a “ransom” to restore normal computer function, and sometimes impersonated official entities to lend credence to their demands. But viruses don't have to ask for ransom to have serious repercussions: for example, Dexter, a Windows virus that specializes in stealing user data, was observed making inroads in online banking transactions as recently as 2014.

The emergence of Dexter, Reveton, and Cryptolocker that effective virus protection (and computer protection more broadly) will always require regularly updated knowhow and a healthy respect for viruses' extraordinary versatility and destructiveness.

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