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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
computer virus
▪ A computer virus A watch with a second hand doing double time.
The Collaborative International Dictionary
computer virus

Virus \Vi"rus\, n. [L., a slimy liquid, a poisonous liquid, poison, stench; akin to Gr. ? poison, Skr. visha. Cf. Wizen, v. i.]

  1. (Med.) Contagious or poisonous matter, as of specific ulcers, the bite of snakes, etc.; -- applied to organic poisons. [Archaic]

  2. the causative agent of a disease, . [obsolescent]

  3. any of numerous submicroscopic complex organic objects which have genetic material and may be considered as living organisms but have no proper cell membrane, and thus cannot by themselves perform metabolic processes, requiring entry into a host cell in order to multiply. The simplest viruses have no lipid envelope and may be considered as complex aggregates of molecules, sometimes only a nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) and a coat protein. They are sometimes viewed as being on the borderline between living and nonliving objects. They are smaller than living cells in size, usually between 20 and 300 nm; thus they pass through standard filters, and were previously referred to as filterable virus. The manifestations of disease caused by multiplication of viruses in cells may be due to destruction of the cells caused by subversion of the cellular metabolic processes by the virus, or by synthesis of a virus-specific toxin. Viruses may infect animals, plants, or microorganisms; those infecting bacteria are also called bacteriophages. Certain bacteriophages may be non-destructive and benign in the host; -- see bacteriophage.

  4. Fig.: Any morbid corrupting quality in intellectual or moral conditions; something that poisons the mind or the soul; as, the virus of obscene books.

  5. (Computers) a program or segment of program code that may make copies of itself (replicate), attach itself to other programs, and perform unwanted actions within a computer; also called computer virus or virus program. Such programs are almost always introduced into a computer without the knowledge or assent of its owner, and are often malicious, causing destructive actions such as erasing data on disk, but sometime only annoying, causing peculiar objects to appear on the display. The form of sociopathic mental disease that causes a programmer to write such a program has not yet been given a name. Compare trojan horse[3].

computer virus

n. (context computing English) A program which can covertly transmit itself between computers via networks (especially the Internet) or removable storage such as CDs, USB drives, floppy disks, etc., often causing damage to systems and data.

computer virus

n. a software program capable of reproducing itself and usually capable of causing great harm to files or other programs on the same computer; "a true virus cannot spread to another computer without human assistance" [syn: virus]

Computer virus

A computer virus is a malware that, when executed, replicates by reproducing itself or infecting other programs by modifying them. Infecting computer programs can include as well, data files, or the boot sector of the hard drive. When this replication succeeds, the affected areas are then said to be "infected". The term computer virus was a misnomer until it was coined by Fred Cohen in 1985. Viruses often perform some type of harmful activity on infected hosts, such as acquisition of hard disk space or CPU time, accessing private information, corrupting data, displaying political or humorous messages on the user's screen, spamming their contacts, logging their keystrokes, or even rendering the computer useless. However, not all viruses carry a destructive payload or attempt to hide themselves—the defining characteristic of viruses is that they are self-replicating computer programs which install themselves without user consent.

Virus writers use social engineering and exploit detailed knowledge of security vulnerabilities to gain access to their hosts' computing resources. The vast majority of viruses target systems running Microsoft Windows, employing a variety of mechanisms to infect new hosts, and often using complex anti-detection/stealth strategies to evade antivirus software. Motives for creating viruses can include seeking profit, desire to send a political message, personal amusement, to demonstrate that a vulnerability exists in software, for sabotage and denial of service, or simply because they wish to explore artificial life and evolutionary algorithms.

Computer viruses currently cause billions of dollars' worth of economic damage each year, due to causing system failure, wasting computer resources, corrupting data, increasing maintenance costs, etc. In response, free, open-source antivirus tools have been developed, and an industry of antivirus software has cropped up, selling or freely distributing virus protection to users of various operating systems. Even though no currently existing antivirus software is able to uncover all computer viruses (especially new ones), computer security researchers are actively searching for new ways to enable antivirus solutions to more effectively detect emerging viruses, before they have already become widely distributed.