A source code virus is a computer virus that attacks source code to corrupt it in some way. It may render a program or operating system unusable, hijack a machine for a given purpose, or generate errors on the system. Viruses of this nature are relatively rare, but can be found in the wild and are sometimes difficult to combat because source code is often not human readable and thus can be hard to repair.
Source code provides the underpinning of programs, applications, and operating systems. Viruses themselves are programs or fragments of code that infect computers, usually with a malicious purpose like service disruption or compromise of confidential material in mind. In the case of a source code virus, the virus attacks the source code of one or more computer components, rather than running as its own program.
Programmers need a reasonable level of skill to develop a source code virus because they have to be able to alter source code. This requires knowledge of programming languages and the ways they can be manipulated to accomplish various goals, like making it impossible to boot up an operating system. Virus designers may look for programs with vulnerable source code, which requires being able to review and understand the raw code behind various computer programs. Some programmers rely on virus fabrication kits or code posted by more experienced programmers to build their viruses.
The user may contract a source code virus through a variety of means. When viruses enter linked networks, they can spread to other computers in the system as well. This can result in the destruction of an entire network and hours of work on the part of technicians to find and eradicate the virus. In this case, technicians need to take out the source code virus and repair the damage left behind, if possible. This may require a fresh installation to eliminate the contaminated source code.
Antivirus companies regularly peruse the Internet for emerging viruses and take advantage of reports from users to build up a library of known viruses and ways to fight them. Users can limit the risk of viral infection by maintaining such software and keeping it running at all times. It is important for the software to be up to date, as some viruses mutate quickly, and new versions are constantly released. A user with an outdated virus library may be vulnerable to a new virus that could wreak considerable damage.