University of California, Riverside



What is a Virus and Anti-virus software?

A computer virus, much like a biological virus, infects a host and tries to spread itself. Computer viruses usually spread via email, malicious web sites, or operating system (i.e. Windows or Mac OS) exploits. Anti-virus software protects email, instant messages, and other files by removing viruses and worms. Anti-virus software downloads new virus protection updates to protect against new threats. It also quarantines infected files to keep a virus from spreading and can repair infected files so the files can be used without fear of damaging the computer or spreading a virus to other computers.

What is Spyware and Anti-Spyware software?

Spyware is software that gathers information about users web-surfing habits for mainly money-making purposes, while taking up memory and space on each computer. Spyware (also referred to as adware or malware) installs itself on unsuspecting users machines by ‘piggybacking’ on programs people choose to download. Many times the very fine print user agreements mention ‘free’ downloads and services as long as it is agreed the company will use spyware to monitor web habits for business research purposes.

Most spyware does this either by generating pop-up advertising on a computer, hoping the user will click on the ads and make purchases, or by stealing information (either personal information such as credit card numbers or sensitive corporate data) from the computer and passing it on to third parties. Some kinds of spyware, called keyloggers, actually record everything that is typed on the computer and pass that on to a third party.  As with anti-virus software, anti-spyware software also needs to be updated regularly in order to get the latest version to protect users from the latest variants constantly being produced.

How does Anti-Virus software protect me from viruses?

Anti-Virus software works in two ways: it prevents viruses from executing, and it removes them if it finds that one has already executed. In order to do this, AV software maintains a database of known viruses and instructions on how to remove them, and updates to the anti-virus program periodically happens to ensure that the computer is protected from the newest threats. Anti-virus software constantly watches the computer, and when it notices a virus trying to execute its code, it will stop it from running and quarantine the file (i.e. lock it up in a special directory where it is unable to harm the computer). Most Anti-virus programs can also be run by the user if an infection is suspected; it will scan the files and folders on the computer, stop any viruses from running, and remove the associated files to the quarantine.

It is important to have antivirus software on the computer to protect not only the computer from damage viruses can cause, but the havoc caused to the campus network. Some viruses are malicious and destructive causing destruction to an individual’s data and can also bring a network to a near halt.

Many Anti-virus programs also include an Anti-Spyware component included, so as it is running to protect the computer from viruses, it is also looking for spyware.  

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Computing & Communications
Computing & Communications Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-4741
Fax: (951) 827-4541