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Like a virus that affects the human body, a computer virus is an "infective agent" capable of growth and multiplication, causing various damage and harm. A computer virus is typically hidden or buried within another seemingly harmless program, often associated with a hyperlink or e-mail attachment. Once the source is tapped, the virus replicates and spreads throughout the computer system, causing the destruction of data and/or interfering with the functionality of the computer itself. A virus is often referred to as a "worm" for the way it worms or tunnels its way into and through the computer system.

All computer users, including genealogists, are subject to having their computers attacked by a computer virus. The first line of defense is to have a good virus checking program installed on your computer to detect and destroy viruses. Second is never to open unsolicited e-mail attachments. Those who would send viruses are unscrupulous and may obtain your e-mail address by stealth means, even appearing to come from someone you know. Always retain a healthy suspicion and verify unsolicited attachments. Finally, back up your data. Should the worst come to pass, having your data backed up to disk or other external source will save much grief and sorrow.

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