In the event the operating system was damaged, we recommend a complete reinstall rather than just virus removal. If your computer has been infected, here are a few tips that can help.
No antivirus software is 100% effective at removal, so the best course of action is to clean with several tools. This increases the odds of completely cleaning the system. Thankfully, a virus is usually only capable of fooling anti-virus software when it is newly released before being added to the databases each anti-virus developer maintains for its scans.
What’s the difference between a virus and malware?
A virus has two objectives: infecting as many computers as possible and messing up your computer. A virus is more of a programmer’s way of making his or her mark on the planet. A virus can be harmless and more of a prank but can also devastate your operating system and require a fresh install of Windows.
Malware takes the havoc a step further by seeking to hijack resources on your computer for gain, whether that means your identity, social media accounts, financial information, internet bandwidth, processing power, etc. For this reason, removing and preventing malware is a top security concern.
Can I run scans myself?
Yes, you can! We recommend Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free. We also recommend you install Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware as a complement. Be warned: when you install Malwarebytes Free, read the installation text carefully. Make sure to uncheck the box for “Enable free trial of Malwarebytes AntiMalware PRO,” or they’ll start asking for money 30 days after installation.
How often should I run scans?
Once a month should be plenty, but it depends on your habits. If you install a lot of strange software, you will likely get infected and be better off running scans often. If you are careful about what you install on your computer, you can run scans every 3-6 months instead. Malware programs run many schemes to try to get you to agree to install them. Sometimes they will accompany “free” software and trick you. Some Malware is legal, some not. The methods used are usually suspect and easier to avoid. Some are clever though. The following are some guidelines to follow.
Top tips for avoiding Malware and Viruses
Do not take solicitations
This is called “social engineering” or “phishing scams.” The Malware designer will attempt to fool the victim into thinking they are participating in something official. An example of this is the Nigerian 419 scam where an email shows up where a prince of Nigeria is in dire straights and needs to transfer their millions. Another is a fake “Missed Fedex Delivery” notice which requires you to give up personal information to “confirm” the mysterious package is yours. There are also fake domain registration notifications that ask for payment to keep your website running. Another is the Craigslist notification that informs you there’s something wrong with your account, asking you to type in your credentials immediately.
The general rule is: if something solicits you, discard it. If you’re really worried about the message, discard the message, go to the source of the inquiry directly without clicking on the link in the fake message, then check for yourself. For example, if you receive a fake email warning that your Ebay account has a problem, delete this fake email, then open your browser to Ebay and check for yourself.
Never install programs you don’t fully trust
When you download and install a program you don’t trust, you are potentially opening a Pandora’s box. A keylogger could steal any information you type into your computer without your knowledge, including email and banking passwords, credit card information and more, resulting in unauthorized charges on your credit card or even identity theft. A more subtle effect is resource theft. Imagine having slow internet for several months because some malware is using it up. There are many other ways a program that you expressly give Windows permission to install can mess up your situation.
LastPass is software that allows you to safely store your passwords online and automatically enter them for websites you visit. These passwords are stored in an encrypted vault. Nothing is foolproof, but Lastpass is a remarkable piece of software that has made life a lot easier for us at the Webformix office. Part of the advantage of Lastpass is that you don’t have to remember your passwords. This allows you to have a variety of more complex — and more secure — passwords for all your sites.
Restrict access to kids
Kids can sometimes get excited about strange offers on the internet. Out of curiosity, they can unknowingly infect your computer with all kinds of Malware and resource hogs. There are ways to lock down computers so Malware cannot be installed, but it requires a little know how. Feel free to get in touch with us if you think you might be at risk.
Secure your wireless network
If you live in a typical neighborhood and you have your wireless router up and running without a password, intruders can have a very easy time getting into your network and your computer. Unless you live in the middle of nowhere, make it a priority to log in to your router and set a password for wireless access. Every Wifi router manufacturer has an installation guide for setting up a password on the router either on the their website or in the original packaging. If you’re unfamiliar with this process give us a call and we can discuss options.
Don’t reply to spam
If you reply to a spam message your email will be flagged as a valid email by the spammer. Then you get put on a “special” list which can be sold for more money or spammed more effectively now that the spammer knows you’re checking the email box in question. Think carefully about the spam you receive. The spammer is trying to fool you with every trick in the book. Use common sense. If something sounds too good to be true or looks suspect in any way, discard it.
If it sounds too good to be true
Then it is. Does an ad promise you’ll make $2100 per week from home? Does an ad promise a free iPad? All of us have been fooled before, perhaps in a moment of weakness or mental fog, but most of the time these ‘opportunities’ are easy enough to spot. If the hair on the back of your neck stands up a little, go with your gut. If you have any suspicion at all, send us an email about it.
Suspicious email attachments
You get an email from someone you know or a stranger with an attachment. You don’t know what it is. If it’s from a stranger, just delete it. There’s nothing you can hope to gain from a stranger sending you an attachment. If it’s from a friend and you’re not expecting it, and it looks a little odd, don’t open it. Simply email your friend about it. Create a new message and ask “Hey, did you send me this attachment?” If they did, you’re probably okay, but if they have no idea what you’re talking about, then their email account has been hacked.
Better safe then sorry
Learning to read the signs takes time. Until you can , simply exercise caution. There’s a pretty good chance you’re not missing out on anything life changing by not clicking on a suspect link or opening a strange attachment. Internet security is about caution more than anything else. If you’re not 100% sure something is safe, ask someone else before getting yourself tangled up in a compromising situation.
As always, if you have questions about this stuff we’re available to help. 541-385-8532.