What is a virus?

A virus is a type of malware with certain characteristics that closely resemble those of a flu virus. It has the ability to replicate, spread, and infect, and carries a payload. The payload is the most dangerous part of the virus, which manifests itself in malicious activity.

Viruses come in different shapes and sizes, which can determine how it spreads, infects, as well as the payload it carries.

How do viruses work?

Viruses attach themselves to digital assets such as programs, documents, and files. Once the asset is run or opened, the virus executes and delivers its payload. The payload is essentially the ‘effect’ of the virus and what we as users see.

For the most part, the payload will depend on the type of virus, however, this will vary from one virus to another. There are different types of viruses, each of which may behave differently.

Resident virus

A resident virus is a generic term for viruses that can access system memory and execute when certain criteria are met, such as a specific date or time or specific action.

Boot-sector virus

Boot-sector viruses reside in the boot sector – the hard drive partition dedicated to loading the operating system. This type of virus is spread through hard media such as USB flash drives.

Polymorphic viruses

Polymorphic viruses are smart viruses that are able to avoid detection by altering their code after they run.

File infector viruses

File infector viruses infect executable files, which allow the virus to execute when the program is run.

Macro viruses

Macro viruses use macros such as those found in Microsoft Office files to execute when the document is opened.

Why are viruses dangerous?

Viruses are dangerous because of the payload they carry. While some payloads are relatively benign, others can be quite fatal to data, the computer itself, and the network the computer is connected to at large.

In a WordPress environment, the damage can be significant since there’s a risk of not only infecting your WordPress but the computers of your visitors and users. Infected websites may be also blacklisted by search engines and other websites – something that can be quite difficult to recover from.

How viruses can be introduced to WordPress websites

Viruses can be introduced to WordPress websites in many ways. Here are the two most common ways; either by infecting the server on which WordPress is installed or by infecting a file that users download. 

In the first scenario, the server on which WordPress is installed is infected. This can be done through a security breach or by the unintentional (or intentional) download of an infected file onto the server.

In the second scenario, the WordPress website is not infected but becomes the host of an infected file that users and website visitors download.

How to protect your WordPress website from viruses

Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to protect your website from viruses. As no solution offers complete protection, a well-rounded approach is the best approach you can take to minimize the risk and secure WordPress websites and users from viruses.

Keeping all of your software updated is an easy enough step that not only protects you from viruses, but equally can reduce the risk of other malicious attacks. It also has the added benefit of adding new functionality and fixing known bugs.

You should also avoid using null plugins, themes and any other type of software. Antivirus software can help you detect viruses that make it through your defense lines, however, they are not bulletproof, hence why you should always do your homework when choosing the best WordPress plugins for your website.

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