How Serious are Viruses?

While serious if you have one, viruses are only one way your data can be damaged. You must be prepared for all threats; many of which are more likely to strike than viruses.

It’s important to keep viruses in perspective. There are many other threats to your programs and data that are much more likely to harm you than viruses. A well known anti-virus researcher once said that you have more to fear from a cup of coffee (which may spill) than from viruses. While the growth in number of viruses, the introduction of the Microsoft Word macro viruses, VisualBasic Script worms, and socially-engineered Trojans now puts this statement into question (even though you can avoid these by just not clicking on them to open them!), it’s still clear that there are many dangerous occurrences of data corruption from causes other than from viruses.

So, does this mean that viruses are nothing to worry about? Emphatically, no! It just means that it’s foolish to spend much money and time on addressing the threat of viruses if you’ve done nothing about the other more likely threats to your files. Because viruses and worms are deliberately written to invade and possibly damage your PC, they are the most difficult threat to guard against. It’s pretty easy to understand the threat that disk failure represents and what to do about it (although surprisingly few people even address this threat). The threat of viruses is really no different; lost concentration or a Zero Day AttackWeb Popup can give you the same kind of problem a lost hard drive can. There are no “cures” for the virus problem. One just has to take protective steps with anti-virus software and use common sense when dealing with unknown files and Web links.


  • While viruses are a serious threat, there are other, probably more serious, threats to your data.
  • If you have not taken precautions (e.g., regular backup) against general threats you have not properly protected your computer.
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Comments from Original Post:

Melissa Fourt
Said this on 2011-09-14 At 10:58 pm
I have often wondered if what was going on with my old computer was a virus or something worse. How would I know the difference between the two (viruses or worse). Before any damage is done?

[Often you can’t tell. Just keep your protection program(s) up to date and then watch your system behavior. For example, if your computer starts having problems booting then it could be an early indication of hardware problems with the hard disk (or not). Keep a good, current backup just in case either problem happens. –DaBoss]