They’re Not All Harmless – How Computer Worms Work

Green worm with pink dots and big eyes on a computers motherboard

By Jennifer Adams

When worms are mentioned, most people typically think of bait used for fishing or gummy worms. While these worms are harmless, computer worms aren’t. Once they are in your computer, they quickly infiltrate your files and spread by sending compromised emails containing identical worms to each of your contacts. This is how computer worms work and how they compromise your security.

What are Computer Worms? 

Among some of the most common types of malware, are computer worms. Cybersecurity criminals use computer worms so frequently because they are able to replicate themselves, without any human interaction, and spread from computer to computer through software vulnerabilities or phishing. Rather than damaging the infected computer, they continue to multiply in the background to eventually allow the hacker full access to your computer. 

There are different types of worms and each has a different effect on your computer. The ones most likely to affect you are: 

  • Email Worms – These worms are distributed through compromised emails with double extensions so the receiver will think the malicious program is an audio file. Once the attachment is clicked, the infected file is instantly sent to everyone on their contact list. 
  • File-Sharing Worms – File-sharing and peer-to-peer transfers are still commonly used by millions of people, although they may not be aware they are opening their networks for others to the dangers of file-sharing worms. Like email worms, this malicious software is often disguised as an audio file. 
  • Internet Worms – These completely independent programs allow the user to use the infected device to search the internet for vulnerable computers. Once found, the worm infects it.  

Symptoms of a Computer Worm 

By becoming familiar with the symptoms of a computer worm, you will be quicker to recognize them and take necessary actions to have them removed.  The typical symptoms are: 

  • Your computer is moving slow. 
  • Programs open and run automatically. 
  • The computer keeps freezing or crashing. 
  • There are firewall warnings.
  • Emails have been sent to contacts without your knowledge. 
  • Files are missing or they have been modified. 
  • Unintended files or icons have appeared on the desktop. 


How to Remove a Computer Worm:  

Should you suspect that your computer is infected with a worm, there are steps you can take to remove it yourself. If you are unsure or don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, consult with a managed IT provider and let them assist you. 

The safest way to remove it is to install a good antivirus software.  Disable system restore so that the computer does not back up the infected files. Afterwards, run a scan on the system. The antivirus software should have removed the worm, but if not, make a note of its name and do a Google search on how to remove that worm. After removing the worm, turn the antivirus software back on and turn back on system restore. Then you should be good to go! 









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