What is a computer virus?

By Sharika Hafeez


A word that has gripped the world in a frenzy of terror for the past month is “virus”, which is a harmful microorganism that carries diseases and spreads them among humans and animals alike, attacking specific biological functions.

A computer virus is something similar, but it attacks electronic devices. It is a malicious software that spreads from computer to computer and copies itself to other programmes in the computer. Unlike flu viruses, they don’t spread through air.


How do computer viruses spread?

Computer viruses spread through emails, email attachments, internet file downloads, fake social media links, free game downloads, or even by connecting an infected USB device to your computer, sharing music files, or clicking on infected online advertisements. Sometimes, they can also be hidden in online pictures, greeting cards, and audio/video files.


What do they do?

Computer viruses can be extremely deadly. They are usually created by hackers and blackmailers with the intent of stealing personal data from unsuspecting users. These viruses can delete important files, damage essential programmes, and sometimes even erase all the data from your computer. They can be programmed to simply replicate themselves continuously, which would lead to heavy internet traffic and slow performance of even the smallest tasks.


How do you detect them?

Since we are constantly browsing the internet for essential information and clicking on unknown links, it is highly possible that our computers could contain viruses. If your computer performance is extremely slow, or there are frequent pop-up windows, or there are emails sent from your email account without your knowledge, or you get locked out of your account with a password change that you didn’t make, or your computer keeps shutting down without warning, beware because your computer could be infected with a malicious virus!

Who created the first computer virus?

The first computer virus was created as a security test, without any harmful intentions, by Robert (Bob) Thomas in 1971. He was an engineer at BBN Technologies, and he named the virus “Creeper”. It displayed a simple message on computer screens which said “I’m the Creeper, catch me if you can”. In 1982, a 15-year-old named Richard (Rich) Skrenta developed the first malicious computer virus, although he intended it to be a joke. This virus, called “Elk Cloner”, spread across Apple II computers via a downloaded game.


How do you remove computer viruses?

  • Install an antivirus protection software and a firewall
  • Update your computer often
  • Avoid opening email attachments from unknown senders
  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links
  • Download documents only from websites you trust
  • Immediately delete spam emails


Just as information comes freely and easily with a single keyword typed on a simple search bar, so do many unforeseen dangers from hackers across the world. Therefore, by being cautious and smart, we can avoid many problems caused due to these malicious computer viruses.