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Why Does Removing Computer Malware, Viruses And Nasties Have To Be So Darn Confusing?

The Ultimate Hubbers Guide To Keeping Your Computer Safe From Online Threats

Virus's, Trojan, Rootkits, Email Bombs, Boot Nukers, Worms, Keyloggers, Picture Infectors, Web Hijackers, Advert Malware, Intrusive Spyware, Buffer Overflow Exploitations, Screen capture violations.......Some of these terms people will recognize, some you will not.

Everyday, it almost seems like some new type of harmful bug is ready to infect, exploit or damage the general computer user. Why does this happen? Well many years ago, young code monkeys (kids learning how to write computer code) would find and exploit vulnerabilities in the software they were using. Even something as innocuous to creating a short message to display on another networked computer was fun & cool.

Fast forward a few years and.....the main reasons are far more nefarious, they fall into one of two categories to either;

  • To exploit a system and gain insight into its use, vulnerabilities, backdoor access, or modification of code. Quite often used to gain access to a single, multiple, networked, or internet accessed system for the purpose of financial gain. (think World Of Warcraft Gold Farming | accessing individual computers to obtain password and financial records | tracking the use or even logging keystrokes to obtain personal and financial information from an individual or group of computers)
  • To exploit poorly written code, or create a small executable for the purpose of writing its own code into a program and creating an exploitation for the purpose of implementing damage, confusion, and robust ways of stopping, slowing or modifying personal computer use, internet traffic, network traffic and communications. (think Denial-Of-Service attacks using zombied accessed computers for attacking various, government, business, commercial and financial systems and/or web sites)

Before your eyes start to glaze over.....the purpose here for the INDIVIDUAL computer user is more likely one will be hit, at some stage, by either a virus attack, or a malware/spyware attack. So we will cover how to effectively protect our PC's from these types of nefarious attacks. We will also look at software, tips and tricks on further protecting ourselves.

Did I also mention that these tricks, tips and tools outlined below how to remove a computer virus or malware here, is done by using FREE tools? NO? OK, its mentioned now.

A Computer Virus - More Potential Than Your Common Cold

A Computer Virus, is simply computer code that can copy itself, and also infect a single (or multiple) computer system. Very much the same like the Common Cold, hence its original name.

A Computer Virus will obtain access to your computer, execute some code to create one of many forms of damaging your system, whilst simultaneously attempting to copy itself through the internet or network to exploit further computer systems, and therefore create more harm.

Virus of this nature have also means to protect themselves from easy removal to either operate once and no longer function, or to repeat its process in the attempt to gain access of its copies onto other systems.

Malware | Spyware - Not Your Usual James Bond Gadgets

Malware and Spyware, in the last ten years have caused more damage to individual computer system than virus writers have ever dreamed of. Whilst usually thought of as at least being under the terminology of Computer Virus, they have often been mentioned separately due to the fact that virus infection on personal computers is of much lower rate than infections via the malware/spyware route. Over time virus' tend to attempt 'big picture attacks' and malware more so for an individual PC.

Malware can be found in some of the following categories;

  • The Trojan Horse - A file that contains a virus or malware. The file usually will look innocuous to a virus scanner as the damaging code is inside a file. The file usually requires human intervention to be able to operate, the classic version of this is receiving an email and it is suggested that the attachment to email may contain nude pictures of some celebrity. You open the attachment, and it seems not to be working. It has in fact worked, but this is initially not known by you by which you have just enabled the trojan to execute its purpose.
  • Worm - Self replicating malware, a kind of malware that can copy itself without any user intervention and travel along a communication network (intranet or the internet), usually found to disrupt communications and network bandwidth. Also used to deliver bots or code to 'create 'zombie' terminals to enhance denial of service attacks. A denial of service attack is massive traffic generated from hundreds of thousands of computer communication to one specific website, therefore usually shutting down the website as it becomes unable to handle the surge of traffic.
  • Rootkit - Computer code used to modify administrator or system level files (system level files are special files that Windows itself should only be able to change) and allows hackers to access computer systems most often without a user or network administrator aware of its presence. These can infect, the boot file, the Windows Kernel, key protected Windows files or even certain programs. These are insidious and in some cases, EXTREMELY difficult to remove.
  • Backdoor Exploitation - Usually more of a function than an attack itself, backdoor exploitation is used for hackers to maintain contact with an infected computer, to maintain access to cause more harm. Most often some other delivery system is used to create the backdoor first (virus or malware infection), also used in identity theft.
  • Spyware - Most often cookies or downloaded active-X files that watch your use of internet access and websites visited to deliver targeted adverts. Usually cookies are innocuous, the most dangerous types are web hijackers, that often masquerade as malware removal tools, with constant nagging screens stating the only way to remove this is to click one of the (malware) ads and purchase the removal tool. If you do not recognize the alert message, then it is definitely NOT one of YOUR installed anti-virus or anti malware programs protecting you, IT IS FAKE, DO NOT USE OR PURCHASE.
  • Screen Capture tools | Keyloggers - software programs with the explicit task of attempting to watch your activities or log keys pressed on a keyboard to exploit and attempt to gain access to internet banking accounts or credit card numbers used in online transactions.

Confessions Of An 'In-The-Field' Computer Technician

For 4 years I enjoyed the benefit of helping hundreds of individual and small business computer users with their computer issues. Being a sub-contractor for a Computer Fix-It company was a blast during my time and though I did many wide and varied computer related hardware and software functions, over 80% of my workload was one highly sought after request, removing nasties from peoples computers.

Now most of the time, my conversations with clients was to relieve and ensure them that their computer was OK, and it would not 'blow up' or ' it was something they did wrong' or similar related questions.

Most often the case is, most people know how to use a computer, but do not know what recourse they have when things go belly up. Now the only time a customer knew something was amiss was when the computer started to behave in a manner they were not used to, so something was wrong. The computer was erratic in operation, or slow, or program screens would not function, or they could not access the internet today, and yesterday was no problem, or weird messages would pop up on the screen and not go away and return shortly after closing.

The other aspect is that most families have one computer in the home and it is used by most if not all members of the family, so if your a parent, have a look at what your children are downloading, they may think they know what they are doing, yet sometimes, if they feel they are using a program to download a song, they may also be downloading an infection to your computer and using peer to peer or torrent programs to do so, will NOT be picked up by Anti-virus programs.

What To Do When Things Start To Go Belly Up

First of all DON'T PANIC! Second, DON'T PANIC!

Almost all computer infections can be removed and without too much hassle. Even when I was in the field, I only came across a handful of infected computers that required manual removal, and only ever two computers that had infections so, so bad, it required a complete re-installation from a clean backup, or fresh Windows install.

Step One

So, the very first thing to do is - turn off your internet connection. If you think you may be infected by a nasty, turn off your internet will stop virus or malware from spreading to other computers over the internet from your computer. Malware attracts more malware, so if you remain on the internet and continue to use your computer, you may get more infected

Step Two

Run Your Virus Scanner - Doesn't matter if it is McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky, or other paid or free based Anti-Virus software, they all perform the same function. They are designed to primarily detect, find and remove virus' and some programs will also hunt down for malware.

Step Three

Remove temporary internet and Windows cached files, even better, downloadCCLEANER, this program is a small program to download and is an excellent tool for removing cached windows and temporary internet files. Very beneficial since alot of malware will sit in your internet cache. What happens if you are infected and you just happen to be reading this hub? Well, turn your internet back on, download it, and turn your internet off. Hopefully you have downloaded this BEFORE you get infected. Oh, and it is FREE to use. Now run CCLEANER it will only take about 10-15 minutes to run for the first time.

Step Four

If it is not already on your computer, download the following and they are all free to use as well;

Why these three additional items? Well, they are all excellent FREE tools to use, designed to combat find and remove all forms of malware and spyware (please note they are not designed to find and remove virus') and they all have certain strengths, one program is better at keylogger removal, whilst another is better at root-kit removal. And where one program may not find one type of resident malware on your computer, another one will. Run each of these 3 programs, doesn't matter in what order.

Step Five

If you come across an infection of some type running these 5 (Your anti-virus, ccleaner, Malwarebytes, Spybot & Adaware) programs, always select quarantine if available, otherwise select remove. When you are happy and feel your PC in no longer infected, turn your internet back on. UPDATE ALL YOUR NEW PROGRAMS INCLUDING YOUR ANTI-VIRUS and guess what, run them all again. This is to ensure that you have captured all nasties and also the latest ones that have made an appearance.

Continue To Perform Regular Updates And Scans

To ensure the safe operation of your computer, almost all malware/virus creators do have one thing in their favour - human nature. It is always easy to think. Well I can deal with a virus when it occurs and this is exactly what hackers and malware/virus creators think as well. They know most people are uneducated about protecting their computers and rely on people not performing CONSISTENT maintenance.

So to combat this we can also do the following as a preventative nature.

  • Run all 5 programs as outlined above once a week, you can set some of them automatically to run on a schedule and you can always choose to run them manually at any time.
  • Ensure you also have them UPDATED to the latest patterns (information about new nasties downloaded and patched into the anti-virus or anti-malware program) to ensure you have the latest protection from new threats.
  • If you have children using the computer, engage with them in their activities, this also ensures that you know what is happening with the computer, its an investment, and everyone suffers when all cannot use it.

What To Do When All Here Has Not Helped

It will be uncommon for an infection to be so bad that the steps taken as outlined by what I have suggested above. But it can happen.

If you have tried all these suggestions and feel that there is still something wrong, please contact your local computer Fix-it services technician. I suggest this rather than well meaning friends or family members, who may on occasion be the inside computer help. If an infection is bad enough, although well meaning, more damage can be done if not done correctly. When I was in the field working, about half of computer infections were after well meaning friends had taken a look. I certainly would not let a friend look at the breaks on my car, UNLESS, they were a mechanic by trade.

The cost is small compared to the initial outlay, yes it may cost $50.00, but what cost if you cannot access your precious videos, photos, emails and music. This is especially true if you are reliant on your computer for operating a computer home based business.

The other option is getting YOUR data, your videos, photos, emails and music, with obtaining  specialized data retrieval, from those companies that usually deal with damaged, or burnt out hard drives. Yet the cost to the home user is prohibitive at several hundred dollars.

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