Computer viruses are the worst threat to computer systems currently in existence, next to trojan horses and worms. A computer virus is a program that can copy itself and infect a host computer by inserting itself into the host’s programming code. The term ‘virus’ is used for these types of programs, but it is also used colloquially to describe other forms of malicious programming like malware, adware and spyware. Malware, or malicious software, is software designed to deliberately harm a host computer by damaging its operating system.

Adware, or advertising software, is software that operates similar to viruses in that they infect host computers but instead they induce repetitive, obnoxious advertisements to constantly appear when the computer is in use. This prevents the owner from using the computer at all. Adware is extremely hard to get rid of without the proper knowledge and tools.

Spyware is actually a form of malware. This type of malware infects a host computer and then collects information about the user without the user’s informed consent. Spyware can even interfere with the user by hijacking Internet browsers and deleting critical files.

All these forms of software are technically classified under the name ‘virus’, even though a virus is a specific type of malicious program. Antivirus support programs can help computer users disinfect their computers, and some brands even come with malware, adware and spyware detection and removal kits.

Many operating systems come with antivirus programs already installed, but these can quickly grow out of date as the automatic subscription expires. Using quality software from trusted brands is the best way to protect your computer from the threat of viruses, malware, adware and spyware. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Comparison Shopping

The simplest and most obvious tip is compare different products in terms of functionality, offered services and prices. Since antivirus software must be updated regularly to keep its known viruses list current, if the program needs to be upgraded there is a cost associated with that service. Make sure you read the fine print before purchasing.

2) Verified Protection From Wild Threats

In-the-wild threats are computer viruses that are free-floating programs hiding in different traffic venues. Popular websites are good targets for computer virus makers as this affords them the opportunity to infect the greatest number of computers. Antivirus programs may not protect you against these threats, so consult with antivirus program rating websites in order to determine the best one.

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