Viruses can wreak havoc on our computers, and networks. They can bring an entire Government to a screeching halt if permitted. So we all have to be vigilant to do what we can to protect our computer systems from getting infected.
You see viruses spread from computer to computer, as long as they are connected to one another via a computer network, and Wi-Fi connections are no exception. Computer viruses does spread through wi-fi connections, just the same as they do with wired connections.
This article will discuss how computer viruses can spread through Wi-Fi and what you can do to protect yourself against them.
What are Computer Viruses?
Computer viruses are malicious codes that can cause a lot of damage to computers, resulting in loss of data, slow performance, and stolen information.
The way viruses work is that they attach themselves to another program and that’s how they run and do harm to your computer. A program could be anything, a Word document, or even a PDF file. Let’s say you receive an email with an attachment to it. That attachment has a virus, and you open that attachment, not knowing that it has a virus.
The virus runs and spreads to your computer and all its files. Now, you have an infected computer on your hands.
This is a common way that many users become victims of a virus attack, it’s called Phishing. My suggestion is to not open any emails if you’re unsure who the sender is, and if it seems like spam or a weird-looking email.
Even if you do open the email out of curiosity, don’t open any attachments or click on any links in that suspicious-looking email.
Once a virus infects a computer by infecting the files, it then makes copies of itself to be redistributed to another host. Examples of other hosts are other computers or devices connected to that infected computer via a network.
This is why computer viruses are so dangerous because they can compromise an entire organization’s network, simply by spreading from host to host. With the hosts being computers.
The Difference Between Virus and Malware
You may hear people using malware and virus interchangeably at different times, thinking that they’re the same thing. But in actuality, they are different, but similar in some ways.
Let me explain.
The term malware encompasses any type of malicious code that’s created to do harm to your computer. This can include a virus, ransomware, Trojan horse, Worm, etc. Malware covers all the different types of malicious codes. A virus is a type of malware, but malware doesn’t have to be a virus, it can be something else that is causing problems for your computer.
Malwarebytes is an awesome product that can eradicate all types of malware from your computer if your computer were ever to be infected. I use them all the time for my own computer systems as well as for my clients.
To give a better visual display of what a computer virus is, here’s a quick video that gives a good explanation.
How Do Viruses Spread Through Wi-Fi?
Just like with a wired Ethernet connection, a virus can spread via Wi-Fi just the same.
More than anything else, what needs to be understood here is the concept by which a computer virus can be spread from one computer to another. The method by which a computer is connected to a network doesn’t matter as much.
Here’s what I mean.
Once a computer is connected to a particular network, let’s say your internal office network, that computer receives what is known as an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This IP address gives your laptop, smartphone, iPad, etc. an identity. The router of your office network then grants your computer access to the World Wide Web, where all types of malware are lurking, just waiting to attack any vulnerable devices they can find.
So let’s take this a step further with Wi-Fi, as the connection protocol.
You get two new office laptops that you have decided to connect to your office’s Wi-Fi with a WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) password. I would hope you have a WPA2 password protecting your Wi-Fi network, that’s usually a given. But if not, that’ll be the first thing you need to address right away before doing anything else.
We’ll talk more about that in a sec, but for now, let’s move on.
Your new laptops have been assigned IP addresses of 192.168.1.5 and 192.168.1.6, respectfully.
These new laptops are now connected to your network and are sharing files on the network that other computers are connected to.
Now, laptop A has contracted a virus through a Phishing attack. The user opened an attachment from an unscrupulous email and activated a virus to spread to all their files and programs. This same infected laptop opened a document that resides on the company’s server, made some modifications, and saves the document back to the server.
Laptop B, then goes in and opens that now infected file on the server, opens that document, and activates the virus. Now laptop B has been infected, and possibly the company’s server.
In our example here, these are both computers connected to the network via Wi-Fi and both were victims of virus attacks. These types of attacks happen all the time, all over the Internet.
Different Ways to Protect Your Wi-Fi Network
Are you worried about your Wi-Fi security?
It’s understandable to be cautious when it comes to protecting your network, particularly your Wi-Fi network. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your network is safe from intruders and malicious software.
To start off, ensure you always have the latest security patches installed on all of your devices connected to the internet. This will help prevent hackers from accessing sensitive data on these devices. It may not be the best line of defense, but it is a starting point to add to your Wi-Fi arsenal.
Also, create a secure password for your Wi-Fi network so that only authorized people can access it. This is what I was mentioning earlier, as a very important step to take before doing anything else.
Avoid using easily guessed words or phrases for your passwords. Instead, opt for a combination of letters, numbers, and a few special characters that will be hard to crack or figure out. The harder it is for unauthorized individuals to get access to your Wi-Fi, the better it is for you.
As I have hinted at earlier with the laptop example, make sure your Wi-Fi network is secured with a WPA2 password and not just a WPA password. The reason for this is that WPA2 has higher encryption. Which means harder to break into.
Every computer on your network, whether they’re wireless or wired should be protected with a third-party anti-virus program. This is a proactive method to prevent your systems from getting infected.
I’ve already mentioned Malwarebytes as a good choice to remove viruses. Additionally, the 3 anti-virus applications that I would recommend are Norton 360, McAfee Total Protection, and Bitdefender Total Security.
As you can see based on what I’ve presented in this article, we can conclude that computer viruses do spread through Wi-Fi, and can be done in several ways. Understanding how computer viruses are transferred will help you to see that a virus can be spread from computer to computer, regardless of how it’s connected to a particular network.
As long as your computer is connected to a network, whether by Ethernet or Wi-Fi, a virus can be transferred to or from that device, regardless of its connection protocol.
Armed with this knowledge, your focus should be on taking proactive measures to protect your Wi-Fi network and your Wi-Fi computer. Doing regular updates is a great place to start, as it helps make your Operating system less vulnerable to virus attacks.
Ensure that you have reliable, third-party anti-virus software installed on your computer, that does real-time safekeeping against any potential virus that may be lurking on the Internet. Another safety measure that I didn’t mention earlier is investing in a network firewall to keep out any unwanted traffic into your network.
This will take your protection game to a whole other level but does require a little more tech-savviness to manage.
You can purchase a pretty good firewall online at an affordable price that’ll do a good job of keeping your Wi-Fi network protected.
In closing, treat your Wi-Fi computer as you would your Ethernet-connected computers, as it relates to computer viruses. It is just as susceptible to being infected with viruses and other malware, as any other device that has access to the Internet.