Malware – How to Prevent and Remove Malicious Software From a PC
Unlike the conclusive destructiveness a computer virus does to a PC, malicious software or malware, is designed to operate behind the scenes, beyond the reach and know-how of the PC user. Malware lurks in the background and functions to steal system resources and potentially personal data from the host PC. Malware infections can manifest as low-grade annoyances like odd PC behavior and slower system speed or a more severe infection where your PC is near stand-still having lost functionality and system resources to the infection’s background activity.
The stories of malware rackets boggle the mind. The parasitic, body-snatcher nature of a malware infection is akin to science fiction-one ill-advised click and ‘ZAP!’ your PC goes from loyal, healthy pet, to a tail-wagging zombie with a three-legged walk. And because it’s a remote and potentially lucrative crime-thousands of people fall victim to rogue software every day and some actually pay to download it.
In fact, new ground was broken earlier this year in malware sophistication with ‘rogue security software’-malware posing as anti-virus or anti-malware software. The viewer gets an unsolicited email or a pop-up alert saying their system has been compromised in some way and a free scan or anti-virus/malware software download is needed to clean the (phantom) infection off. It’s the download being offered, that carries the malware trojan. Computer security analysts estimate more than 100 million PCs have been struck by this form of malware in 2009 alone. (One in ten victims actually paid for the malicious software they downloaded on blind trust, too!) The average scammer takes in ten thousand dollars a day running a rogue security software racket.
Search the term ‘rogue security software’ on Wikipedia and see a partial, (but LONG) list of the software names malware poses under. Note the similarities in naming conventions to authentic products. The ‘severity of infection’ bar was set to a new height just a few months ago with the spread of System Security 2009 Virus, also known as Systemsecurity 4.51, a name that plays off of Symantec’s Norton System Security products. Once downloaded, the malware replicates copies of itself more deeply into the PC’s registry database; deactivates End-Task functionality; disables in-place anti-virus protection; prevents download of new anti-virus programs; and bombards you with a pop-ups demanding payment for fixing the mess. Essentially this malicious software ‘paints you into a corner’ and extorts a payment for a fraudulent ‘fix’ you don’t even get. While there are ways to get rid of it, the infection is so elaborate that manual file deletion is strongly discouraged. If you suspect you may be infected by this one, check security-related online forums for successful techniques others have used to get rid of it.
Security experts estimate 90% of PCs have some form of malware infecting them–most are low-level annoyances like minor odd behavior and slower PC performance. It’s important you scan and clean your system with anti-malware software regularly because even low-level infections can grow worse as the software ‘holds the door open’ to other forms of malware, tracks your computer usage, or steals personal data. Given newer, more sophisticated forms of malware are sure to come, PC users need to be better prepared to avoid falling victim to system-sapping malware or more severe ‘rogue security software’ rackets. Here are some pointers:
1. Install, use and regularly update a well-rated anti-virus suite from a software manufacturer that regularly updates their product. You can buy a product subscription or use a well-rated, reputable free AV product like AVG Free or Trendmicro House Call.
2. Install, use and regularly update a separate, well-rated anti-malware program from a manufacturer that regularly updates their product. (There is a helpful link at the end of this article to a well-rated, well-supported free option along with instructions for using it!)
3. Always qualify the safety of unsolicited email attachments or download offers prior to opening or downloading them. Even with the best protections in place, your choice to open or download is the last line of defense your PC has. Be aware malware is packaged inside offers of ‘freebies’ like browser tool bars, screensavers, gadgets, games, movies, music, even file swapping services. Confirm a source is safe and reputable, before you download.
4. Check out sources by doing Google searches on the software title. Even review online forums talking about the product or service to qualify other’s experiences before you download.
5. Never react to unsolicited pop-up messages. Rogue security software capitalizes on ‘social engineering’- the manipulation of people by fear or too-good-to-be true (free) enticements. Set your browser security to reduce or stop all pop- ups, if you are not using ‘Firefox’, which is built to prevent 100% of pop-ups.
6. Be aware of redirects off of legitimate websites or Google search results pages. Scammers operate sophisticated ‘funnels’ online to redirect unsuspecting surfers onto infected websites by compromising legitimate websites or seeding infected URLs into search results pages.
7. Keep your operating system up-to-date with the latest updates as they are offered. Updates for Windows and other operating systems are often security patches for loopholes scammers have demonstrated an ability to exploit.
Just running an anti-virus suite is no longer enough protection for your PC where malware can enter a PC by user error. Remain vigilant as protector of your PC investment by enacting the above measures and knowing where to get answers when you notice PC performance dropping off–an obtuse sign of malware infections. I have had great results using a well-rated and free anti-malware program that I learned about from computer expert and author Kim Burney in her latest e-book, the DIY Computer Maintenance Guide.
Get instructions on a proven way to clean off malware from your PC by downloading a free excerpt from the “DIY Computer Maintenance Guide”, by computer expert and author Kim Burney by clicking here: http://www.ZappingTheCrap.com
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