Oh no! My computer is infected!
Oct 7, 2013 / 5:00 am
Malware is short for “malicious software.” It’s not technically the same as a computer virus, but it can create at least as much havoc as a virus. It’s not a good thing.
Sometimes there is no doubt that your computer has been attacked by malicious software. If you turn it on and see a message purporting to be from a law enforcement agency demanding money to return control of your computer, your computer is infected.
Often there are more subtle signs. If you notice any of the following things, you might have malware.
- When you try to use your Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Google Chrome you see new toolbars you didn’t install.
- Your browser’s home page has changed, and you can’t change it back.
- When you search, you are taken somewhere unexpected.
- Even when you type a website address or click on a Favorite or Bookmark you end up somewhere unexpected.
- You get popup ads all over everywhere.
- Your Desktop has strange icons or icons are missing.
- Your computer is suddenly slow, or you can’t connect to the internet at all.
Get that looked at and cleaned up right away. One problem with malicious software is that once a little bit gets in, it will let in more. Pretty soon your computer is flooded with it.
How did that get in there? I wasn’t doing anything wrong?
One way unwanted items get past security programs is by tricking us. We all have a habit of clicking OK, OK, OK, OK ALREADY! during software installs.
Sadly, a "Typical" install often means "Sure, go ahead and install that MyWebSearch toolbar, Google Chrome, and the weather bug, too." If you have a choice called "Custom," or “Advanced” go for that instead of Typical, and just say no to the unwanted extras. And when you do find a program that doesn't try to sneak this stuff past you, consider rewarding the author with a donation.
How can I get rid of it and keep it from coming back?
As I have written many times, you need a layered defence against viruses and malicious software. You need a good antivirus program running all the time, and you need it do to a full scan of your computer every day. Also, you need a decent anti-malware program, like SuperAntiSpyware (http://superantispyware.com/) or Malwarebytes (http://www.malwarebytes.org/). Both programs find and kill malware that your antivirus program can’t. Both offer free and paid versions. The difference between the free and paid versions is that you have to remember to update and run the free program yourself and the paid ones will do it for you. The key to successful removal of nasty persistent malware is to get it right away.
I like the Avast! Free antivirus program. It’s effective and it also reminds me to update other critical software. I run it with the paid version of Malwarebytes and both have saved me more than once. If your computer is infected, try installing either Malwarebytes or SuperAntiSpyware to clean it. When you download and install those programs, do a custom install to avoid unwanted programs and browsers. Do the same thing every time you update your programs, too. Avast! always tries to sneak Chrome in.
It’s very important to keep your Java up to date (if you even have it installed), and your Adobe products, too, including Adobe FlashPlayer and Adobe Reader. Those updates are for security reasons; you need to allow Windows to apply them. Of course, keep your Windows Updates current, too.
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].
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