Virus (Computer Virus)


A computer virus is a self-propagating program. Since most computer viruses cause damage, they are considered malware.

What does the term “virus” mean in detail?

The way a computer virus works is similar to a biological virus: The computer virus injects its program code into another program, boot sector, or RAM. It uses this as a host program. When this host program is started, the virus program is also activated and executes its code, so the virus can only become active when its host program is started. Viruses spread through multiple paths, including:

  • Email attachments
  • Downloaded files
  • Macros included in certain documents
  • USB sticks, external hard drives and other removable media

Where could I encounter viruses in everyday work?

You can encounter computer viruses via their typical transmission paths, including email attachments, macros in documents and USB sticks. In everyday work, you probably encounter the issue more often in the form of the company’s own virus scanner. You can also use this to check USB sticks and external hard drives, for example before using them.

What can I do to protect myself from viruses?

Most cyber security measures also protect against computer viruses. These especially include:

  • Use of a constantly updated antivirus program
  • Always keep software and operating systems up to date, handle email very critically, especially with attachments
  • Separation of user accounts into those with and without admin rights. In everyday work, admin rights are almost never needed, but they open up many possibilities for malicious programs.
  • Regular back-ups kept separate from the system. These do not protect against viruses, but after a cyber incident, they allow the recovery of deleted, damaged or changed data.

More information from the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) on virus scanners

BSI warning against fraudulent virus scanners and recommendations for reputable programs

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