Malware spotlight: What is a virus?


People have many misconceptions about computer-based viruses. This generally involves treating virus as a generic umbrella term for malware, in the vein of Kleenex and Coke. Viruses are actually one specific type of malware that operates a certain way, apart from other information security maladies affecting systems. 

This article will go into detail about viruses, including what they are, how they operate, the different phases of virus attacks and some different types of viruses that are around today. Viruses are not as prevalent as they used to be, especially with the rise of the other types of malware in recent years, but knowing how they stand on their own in the world of malware will still be useful.

What are viruses?

A virus is a type of malware that hides within legitimate application code and replicates itself until its programmed task is done. When not reproducing itself, a virus can modify legitimate programs in the compromised system and insert its own code. Computer-based viruses behave like viruses in our physical world, which is the reason for their name.

Viruses are some of the oldest pieces of malware, around long before the prevalent use of the internet. Floppy disks infected with viruses were the main infection vectors and spreading from computer to computer required circulating these infected disks. With changes in technology came new ways to infect computers (such as USB drives) and with the proliferation of the internet came more effective methods to spread virus (such as email and infected code on websites). 

How viruses operate

Viruses are not standalone computer programs. Rather, a virus is a piece of code that inserts itself into a legitimate application. This means that the virus cannot do anything on its own but needs to depend on the user to activate (Read more...)

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Infosec Resources authored by Greg Belding. Read the original post at: