A computer virus is a program designed and written to make additional copies of itself and spread from location to location, typically without user knowledge or permission. Some of these viruses may corrupt or destroy data files stored in the hard disk.

Computer viruses get into computers:

  • via email
  • by clicking on infected links (on social media sites or compromised websites)
  • from infection by other people's compromised computers
  • through the network, especially if you have not kept your software up to date.

IT Services recommends the following guidelines to help users deal with computer viruses:

  • Make regular backup copies of all data files present in your computer. IT Services recommends to back up all your University work on your University Google Drive or Shared Drive.
  • Treat all files attached to emails with caution: Some file types, particularly those carrying the extension .EXE, .COM, .PIF, .JS, .VBS, .SHS, .SCR, .DOT, are potential viral infections. Double file extensions e.g. "readme.txt.vbs", should always be treated with suspicion.
  • Scan shared USB flash (pen) disks: Some computer users may unknowingly transmit viruses via disks.
  • Be careful with program or file downloads from the Web. Software updates e.g. drivers, multimedia players, should be downloaded from the manufacturer's official website.
  • When using Microsoft software, always make sure that you keep macro virus protection enabled unless you expect the file to contain a macro and know that you can trust it. Macros are stored sets of instructions which are used within Microsoft Office applications to automate complex or repetitive tasks and some viruses may infect computer systems through these macros.
  • Never pass on a virus warning without first checking that it is not a hoax: Hoax email messages often warn recipients about non-existent viruses. Such hoaxes can be dangerous especially if recipients are instructed to delete essential system files from their computers to prevent viral infections. If there is still any doubt on the validity of any messages, these can be referred to IT Service Desk.

IT Services recommends Windows Defender as the default antivirus software for Windows 8 and later versions. Windows Defender was first introduced as an antivirus component of Microsoft Windows when Windows 8 was released. Defender provides comprehensive protection from viruses, malware, spyware, and other threats.

It is common for computer suppliers to include pre-installed antivirus software on a trial basis. Once the trial period is over, one is asked to pay a fee in order to continue using the software. On Windows 8 and later versions, removing existing antivirus software will automatically enable Windows Defender.

After removing existing antivirus software, one should check that Windows Defender is active and updated 

Mac users are encouraged to keep their OS up-to-date to help keep their device secure. For additional security, separate antivirus software may be installed. Below are some options where the companies also offer a free version of their software with reduced functionality: