History and Background
The virus was one of the first ever threats to computer security. It brought a whole new fear upon computer users. Bugs and glitches could cause damage unintentionally, but a virus created havoc intentionally, and therefore often caused much more damage then just glitches in software. Technically a virus must be in a host file and spread manually by people, versus a worm which spreads by an automated process and doesn't require a host file, but we will include worms as part of the term virus. Therefore, the threat of viruses quickly multiplied expotentially. One computer infected by a virus is manageable, but a virus spreading uncontrollably and automatically can cause damage to sometimes entire populations. And with the introduction of the Internet, billions of computers worldwide could be accessed with a click of a button. These abilities are what made the virus probably the greatest security to personal computers in the 21st Century.
What kind of damage will it inflict?
Since up to 100 new viruses are discovered every minute by anti-virus industries worldwide, the damage they inflict varies considerably. Some will display an annoying popup. Some will swap your mouse buttons. Some will uninstall Internet Explorer. Some will delete all your personal files. And some, though rare, will slow down your computer fan to the point that your computer processor starts smoking. All have 1 thing in common - they reduce your productivity in some way and they inhibit you from comfortably using your PC. Therefore you must take several precautions to insure you do not to become infected with viruses. With just a few simple security measures, the chances of getting infected with a virus can be cut down by over 90%.
The most important step - Be careful of everything you do on the Internet! It is extremely rare for a computer to get infected by a virus if you only download and browse trustworthy sites and emails. If an email has an attachment and looks suspicious it is very likey to be a virus. If a site is providing illegal or inappropiate content, it should be considered a risk. These are basic rules of safe browsing of the Internet and unfortunately, most people only learn these rules after a disaster. Don't learn from experience! Don't let it happen in the first place. Keep your system up-to-date. Nearly every major virus threat to operating systems are patched soon after discovery. Visit your operating system update website often, which is www.windowsupdate.com for Windows users. Get a reliable antivirus solution. The most common is Norton Antivirus, but I personally do not like its unreliability and incompatibility with many PCs. On the otherhand, it is probably the most user friendly antivirus solution on the market, and is probably best for PC beginners. If you're looking for a free yet extremely reliable and easy-to-use antivirus solution, Avast may be your answer. I am currently running Avast and am very happy with it. I previously tried Norton Antivirus, Norton Client Security, NOD32 Antivirus and McAfee Antivirus, but each had their own individual problems and so I had to constantly change antivirus software until I finally reached Avast.
Some people go overboard and install many other security measures but I don't recommend this. These measures only hog resources, confuse users and cause conflicts with other software. Some of this software includes firewalls, memory explorers and file protection.