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To all those who aren’t familiar with the “computer virus” other than mere geeko term, need to know that it isn’t a rocket science to understand its meaning behind. Before you get to know why it affects mostly the Microsoft’s Windows computers and not Mac and Linux operating systems on large scale, you ought to be familiar with its meaning and other basics of how on the first place it has the capability to dangerously affect your whole computer system.

What is a computer virus?

It is a set of code that is intentionally written in such a way that it replicates itself and spreads from host to host. The coders in most cases have a bad intention to alter the pre-existing programs that reside inside your computer’s hard-disk, leading to corrupting everything. And this could be even more devastating if it intends to run keystrokes in your PC so that your personal data such as bank passwords get revealed and unauthorized access is being made.

Difference between Virus and Malware

A virus could be called as a subset of malware. Malware, on the other hand, is a way to describe any kind of malicious software that harms a computer system or even a bunch of computers that form an inter-connected network, such as viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, and adware.

Why does Microsoft seem more susceptible to viruses?

The agenda of Microsoft was to reach every household and less they really cared of the possible security threats back then. They successfully spread across the world and this lead the desktop computer users into trouble. This is because a coder always intends to spread his/her code to as many users possible.

Since Day 1, Microsoft had a facility to execute its programs automatically because of default permit environment. This implies that just as the user is authorized to do anything, so does any program that shows-up from a third party source. This is followed unless the firewall and several anti-virus layers are installed in advance. Even the anti-virus and firewall softwares aren’t perfect and anyone could breach into the system because of Administrator privilege that anyone could get. Microsoft couldn’t even control its pirated cracked versions that were distributed in masses for free and it eventually gave up accusing each individual, because they were many across the world!

Most Windows users residing in the developing nations use the cracked version and not the original, purchased one. This invites so many kinds of malware into the system without notice, leading to unauthorized access and taking control of everything.

There was also the facility of autorun in Windows systems where the user would attach his/her USB or CD or DVD and he/she did not have to bother about how to connect those devices together. It was a good move with the perspective of an end user but quite dangerous if someone has a deep knowledge about the overall working. If the system is given administrator privileges it is much easier for a criminal to grant himself/herself complete access to the whole network of computers, intra-connected together. Imagine a USB drive being plugged-in with the company’s computer by an employee, infecting the existing data and/or retrieving the sensitive data that an organization isn’t willing to reveal. Now you know why it isn’t permitted to bring USB to any firm. On the other hand, Mac and Linux never gave privileges to everyone as an Administrator.

Microsoft claims that its latest version (Windows 10) is the safest among all its previous versions but I believe that whoever is using Windows operating system must be aware of every possible threat and work on the system accordingly. There are certain settings that could be made and prevent your desktop computer from getting at risk.

Why is Java plug-in dangerous for a computer’s health?

The Java plug-in, if enabled in anyone’s web browser, allows ANY third-party code on some random website(s) to run on your computer. There is also a type of threat which is considered as extremely dangerous, called as zero-day attack.

What is zero-day attack?

This is one of the most advanced types of threats that hackers tend to apply where they find the exact vulnerability a particular software keeps. It is termed as zero-day because the attackers do this without warning and so the coders who are supposed to fix it have to find it themselves whether the attack has been made already and what are the measures to combat this. Through zero-day attacks, hackers can manipulate the whole computer system, programs and/or a network as a whole.

Java is everywhere. It is a number #1 choice for developers across the world and as a development platform to do coding as well. Moreover, 3 billion plus mobile phones, 125 million TV devices, and 97% of desktops run through Java. This is the reason, why quite significant issues are capable to arise, that can endanger people’s bank and financial data towards disaster mode.

The security vulnerabilities can come from any source, be it from native libraries, purely due to errors, sandboxing mechanism and protection mechanisms themselves.

There’s another reason why Java is vulnerable. It is due to the fact that Oracle never released Java’s automatic updater, thereby making its older version susceptible to threats without the knowledge of the user. Whoever is using the computer, he/she doesn’t bother by pop-ups of an update and skips it entirely. If someone wants to keep his/her computer well secured, it is a must-have for them to make sure that either the Java plug-in isn’t installed at the first place or always keeps its updated version. In addition to this, the web browser also does the automatic updates of numerous softwares that the user is unaware of, even without administrative rights.

Each time a user ignores an update prompt for Java plug-ins, he/she is putting themselves into potential danger. This means that even if a particular website is a legitimate one, without its own knowledge, it might keep an exploit kit, being planted by the cyber criminals targeting thousands of clients. Once the vulnerabilities are detected, a payload will be sent into the client’s system, thereby bypassing the security settings and collecting the confidential information that aren’t meant to be leaked.

Java’s vulnerabilities cannot be fixed and so it is always recommended to never install it, or disable it in your main browser, if it is there. Therefore, do the following in case of Java based plug-in.

1. Avoid visiting those sites that require Java plug-ins being pre-installed in your browser, or a website that asks you to install it, else it won’t be able to play a certain video, open an image, etc. This is because not having this plug-in isn’t a huge loss and certainly not a requirement for any computer system, whether it uses Windows or Linux as its operating system, irrespective of the web browser. This is why uninstalling Java entirely is recommended.

2. There are certain applications (or sites) that you need to use and without the plug-in it won’t be able to get executed. In such a case, simply disable the plug-in in your main browser and use an alternate browser for that particular application or site.

What is sandboxing?

In terms of software development, sandboxing refers to isolating the untested code, so that it does not cause any sudden undetected trouble, like zero-day attacks. Hypothetically speaking, the untested codes won’t scatter here and there into the system, but instead, grouped into one roof and can be discarded altogether, once detected. The anti-virus softwares do exactly the same in order to get rid of malware. Even anti-virus softwares fail to deliver 100% successful results. Formatting your computer once in a year is the best bet to get rid of malware and all kinds of malicious softwares.

Why is Linux or Mac safer?

The prime reason behind why Linux (or Mac) is safer is – Windows malwares are widespread because its users are larger than Linux and Mac users. This does not imply that there is absolutely no threat related to Linux and iOS and the cyber criminals can never build code to breach into these operating systems. This simply means that the probability decreases if you own operating system other than Windows. Other than that, Windows permits everything when it comes to using and manipulating it. This means that if someone wants to install a new software, he will browse through the internet and download it from any random website; less he really cares about whether or not that site is trustworthy, which is obviously due to lack of knowledge.

Now, what if you want to install a software in your Linux operating system? You will open its package manager and download it from a different source, that is your Linux distribution’s software repositories. A repository is a kind of central storage system that allows all Linux users download the required software. This storage unit contains trusted softwares and the users don’t go elsewhere to search for those software suits. On the other hand, Windows owners download anything from anywhere. Linux users also don’t become the root user unless it is very necessary, unlike Windows users that get administrator permits easily. Linux wasn’t as user friendly as Windows which attracted the computer-literate geeks and not the mainstream end-users, thereby making it less of a target.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for what is best and perfect in terms of being safe always. One learns many things with experience and knowledge, and that could be used in the coming future. I recommend you to always purchase genuine system softwares and anti-virus softwares, so that you get the assistance you require, if in case a problem arises. If you install the OS and other applications for free, get ready to face issues that likely invade your computer system.