So much of our lives is tied to the internet today: we work, we play, we shop, we move money. We transmit and store sensitive information. Our entire business networks are online. This makes our computers prime targets for cyber thieves and ad campaigns, both of which utilize a form of malware. Use this guide to remove malware from an infected system and to prevent future infections from occurring.
You Are Infected: Malware Removal
Perhaps your system is crashing often, running slowly, or you see constant popups or strange error messages. The bottom line is your computer is infected and what now?
Remember the old stop, drop, and roll fire drills as a kid? If you think your computer is infected with malware, it’s time to Stop online shopping or banking, Disconnect your computer from the Internet, and Enter Safe Mode. While Stop, Disconnect, and Enter Safe Mode may not be as catchy, it just as vital to minimize the damage and restore your computer to proper functioning. In Safe Mode, your PC will only load the minimum necessary programs making malware removal much easier. If you have a pre-Windows 10 PC, simply reboot and continuously press the F8 key until a menu appears with the Safe Mode option. If you are running Windows 10, unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated. Login to Windows, stand on one foot, pat your head, blow our nose 3 times and say “Windows 10” backward. Ok, so maybe it’s not that crazy, but it may feel like it. Here’s what to do:
Here’s what to do:
- Click the Start button.
- Select the Power button, but don’t click. Instead, hold down the Shift key and then click Reboot.
- Select Troubleshooting from the menu.
- Select Advanced Options
- Select Startup Settings
- Click Restart button on next screen
- Select #4, Safe Mode or select #5, Safe Mode with Networking (if you intend to use an online malware scanner).
Cleanup and Backup
You may be able to speed up the removal process by deleting your temporary files. Use the Disk Cleanup tool before installing a malware scanner. It is also a good idea to backup files such as documents, videos, and photos. Program files should not be backed up as they are likely housing the infection.
Download and Run Malware Scanner
You are likely already running a real-time virus scanner, but do not use this to try to remove the malware as it likely didn’t detect the infection in the first place. No one antivirus or anti-malware program can catch everything. Download a good on-demand malware scanner. Note: you can only run one real-time antivirus program at a time, but you can and should use multiple on-demand malware scanners. Run a scan. The scan results will indicate infected files and removal instructions. Remove threats.
Restart Computer (Normally) and Run Secondary Malware Scan
To confirm you are malware free, run a second full malware scan using a different antimalware product.
Prevent Future Infections
The best way to prevent future malware infections is to practice smart online behavior. Be aware of methods criminals use to infect your system with malware. If anything looks or feels strange, it probably is. Never download anything you are not certain about. Research questionable downloads before agreeing to anything. Be wary of links in emails, strange emails, and spam emails. Scan any files received from anyone, whether electronically or via physical media. Do not click on pop-ups offering free system scans claiming your system is infected. Close these popups using Windows Task Manager by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Pay attention when downloading legitimate programs. Certain types of malware are often included by default, and you will need to uncheck the box for anything you do not intend to download. Stay away from file-sharing services. Not only are they illegal, but you are opening your front door wide and inviting malware in.
In addition to being smart online, there are other preventative measures you can take regarding your system and software.
Keep Everything Updated
Windows, your browser of choice, and your antivirus software all normally come with an automatic update option. This is the easiest way to ensure your system is always up to date. Malware exploits bugs and issues in all three of these and updates fix the bugs and issues.
Keep Firewall Running
Whether Windows Firewall or a third-party, make sure you have a firewall running at all times. Think of the firewall as your computer’s security system, complete with locks, alarms and security cameras. You can’t afford not having one.
Antivirus and Anti-malware
Keep both updated. Your antivirus should run real-time detection in the background. It is also advisable to run a separate anti-malware program frequently, as no one program can detect every threat.
Be Smart. Be Safe.
On a network like your company network, it just takes one computer to become infected, and the entire company system can be hit very quickly. Take steps now to ensure this doesn’t happen to you. Enstep is a Managed IT Services provider for the small to medium business market in the greater Houston area. For help protecting your company network from malware or for malware removal assistance, Contact Us.