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Definition: a computer program that automatically copies itself, thereby “infecting” other disks or programs without the user knowing it, and then plays some kind of trick or disrupts the operation of the computer. Viruses have existed as academic pranks since the 1960s, but 1987 saw the first malicious viruses, apparently the work of disgruntled programmers trying to sabotage their competition. Nowadays, most virus infections result when the user of a computer is tricked into running a malicious program by opening it as a file. To avoid viruses, never open a file that arrives unexpectedly in e-mail, even if it’s from someone you know and trust (see WORM VIRUS). Always run antivirus software; keep your antivirus software up to date; and always install software from the manufacturer’s original disks rather than from copies made on a potentially infected machine. Knowingly spreading a computer virus is a crime under common law and under specific laws in various states.
Source: Downing, Douglas, et al. Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms. 10th ed. New York, 2009. Print.