Let’s talk about malware. Malware is a piece of malicious (hence “malware”) software designed enter your system or device and cause harm, and often steal information. If you don’t have a great firewall in place, they can easily infiltrate your network and run rampant; but preventing them is the easy part – getting rid of them is more difficult. There are many different types of malware, but we’re going to focus on some of the most common ones you may run across and how to address them.
A virus creeps into your system via email with the ability to replicate itself and alter how your device functions. If your computer is acting sluggishly, or if you notice continual pop-ups (even when you’re not connected to the internet), chances are you’ve contracted a virus.
To remove the virus, you’ll first want to disconnect from the internet so it doesn’t spread further. Then you’ll want to switch your system to safe mode – if it runs faster, that’s another indicator that you do have a virus. You’ll then need to delete any temporary files and run a disk clean up. Next you’ll need to run an antivirus program; if you already have one installed, you’ll need to install a second one since the first one didn’t catch it – which means your first one is either out of date or it’s not equipped to detect that type of virus. You’ll also want to fix your browser in your computer settings since one trademark of a virus is to modify your homepage to reinfect your system. If the virus is still affecting the computer, you’ll have to reinstall the operating system, so make sure all your files are backed up to an external drive.
Unlike viruses, you don’t have to open a file for a worm to infect your system – you only have to be connected to a network. Worms make use of holes in your system security and wriggle their way in to cause havoc. If you start to notice freezing or crashing, programs opening or closing without prompt, or firewall warnings, it’s likely caused by a worm.
If your current antivirus software did not stop or detect the worm, you’ll need to use a removal tool specific to the type of worm you have. Most of these dedicated removal tools are provided at no cost.
Trojans are the most common type of malware. They sneak into your device by disguising themselves as something more innocent, and then they allow another user to access your secure information – hence the name. Luckily they can’t copy themselves like the previous types of malware we’ve mentioned, but they can leave you wide open to cyber attacks. Some typical symptoms of a trojan are: applications failing to load; the device taking on a life of its own (shutting down, restarting, printing random documents, etc. all without being prompted); and general sluggishness.
Removing a Trojan is virtually the same as removing a virus – through antivirus programs, file formatting, and possible system restoration.
Of course, all of this can be avoided by making sure your system security is fully up to date and runs checks on a regular basis.