Malware and viruses can be very complex programs and removing them can be very difficult. Most users do not fully understand the nature of malware or its removal, and this document is intended to clear up several common misconceptions.
Virus protection (or anti-virus) programs are NEVER 100% effective. In fact, according to the 2010 Summary Report from www.av-comparatives.org, an industry organization that tests and rates internet security programs, the top 5 programs only caught between 98.3% and 99.7% of known viruses. With over a million viruses and their variants in existence, just .1% amounts to over 1,000 viruses that can potentially slip through a computer’s defenses. These numbers account only for known viruses. The detection percentages for unknown or new viruses for the top 5 contenders ranged from 54% to 61%. No one agrees on an exact number of new viruses created daily, but most estimate that thousands of new variants appear every day. That being said, the best protection is not to rely only on an anti-virus program, but to educate yourself and those who use your computer on safe internet use.
Once a system has been infected, it is nearly impossible to know the extent of damage done to the operating system (Windows), or to be 100% sure that every last malware remnant has been removed. Any technician who tells you otherwise is either lying or inexperienced. The only way to be sure that everything is gone and all operating system damage is fixed is to restore the computer to factory settings after a process called a format. There are even a rare few viruses (known as rootkits) that can survive this process. Unfortunately, a format will result in the loss of all customized settings and any programs will have to be reinstalled. The good news though is that in most cases, a competent technician can be reasonably sure that a computer is clean, and that a format would be overkill. You as a customer need to weigh the pro’s and con’s of either option. Our technicians are more than happy to help with the decision.
If you, or someone else has infected your computer once, it will probably happen again. If you do not change your usage habits, you will likely be reinfected sooner rather than later. There is nothing our technicians can do to prevent this other than help to educate you on safe computer use.
If you have any questions, please ask our staff. We are here to help and we are actively doing our part to make the internet a safer place.
Tips to Avoid Viruses & Other Malware
In order to avoid malware, we must first understand a little about what it is, how it works, how it is distributed, and why people make it to begin with. Malware, short for malicious software, is a very broad term for many different types of bad computer programs. You may have heard of terms such as trojans, keyloggers, rootkits, viruses, spyware, etc. These are all considered malware, and although sometimes very different in how they work, the same approach can be taken to avoid them all.
Malware is no longer being created only as pranks by bored college students or wayward, out-of-work computer programmers. Though these types of viruses do still exist in large numbers, most are easy to for anti-virus programs to catch and/or aren’t that dangerous to begin with. There are however organized groups of experts, kind of a cyber-mafia, who are largely responsible for today’s malware. Their purposes are many and varied. Some focus on corporate or government espionage, while others spy on individuals, looking to gather information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other personal identification. Identity theft is a big motive for current malware. Yet others create realistic looking rogue anti-virus programs hoping you will buy the “full version” in order to remove an infection. In order to protect yourself, there are things to avoid, and things you should do in order to stay safe.
Pornography, online games/gambling, file-sharing, P2P, and illegal software, music, and video sites. These sites are FULL of viruses. Some examples of these are Limewire, Frostwire, Bittorrent, etc.
Opening emails from people who you don’t know.
Opening emails from people who you do know when the subject doesn’t sound like something they would write. When in doubt, opening the email should be fine, but DO NOT open any attachments or click on any links unless you are certain that the email was written by the sender, not their infected computer.
Downloading files from untrusted sources. Anything from CNET, FileHippo, TuCows, or SourceForge should be safe as these sites test files before releasing them. Anything else, search Google first to see what others are saying about a file before downloading it. If still in doubt, after downloading, but before opening the file, scan it with an anti-virus program.
Avoid clicking on banner ads. There are no free Ipods, Laptops, TV’s, etc. You are not the 1,000,000,000th visitor. They are all links to malware or scams. Be smart. If it looks like a scam, it probably is.
Using disks that other people give you. USB drives are a popular way to spread viruses. Disable autorun and scan any new disks with an anti-virus program prior to opening anything.
Spreading malware by immediately changing your email and social networking passwords after an infection.
Fake anti-virus programs. Know the name of your chosen anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and what their warnings look like. Make sure the rest of your household knows as well. If you see a virus warning that is different, close the window immediately by clicking the red X in the top right corner of the screen, not the one in the center by the warning. This is probably the most common infection we see. Do not ignore warnings from your real anti-virus.
- Use a good Anti-Virus program in combination with an anti-spyware program. The anti-virus should have on-demand protection, but the anti-spyware doesn’t need it. Otherwise you will slow down your computer. A good anti-virus program is Avast. There is a free home version that is sufficient for most users. If you are a heavy internet user, use social networking (Facebook), have small children or senior citizens at home, or take part in any high risk activities listed above, then we highly recommend upgrading to the Professional or Internet Security versions. Prices are reasonable, and much less expensive than paying for virus removal. Super anti-spyware or Malwarebytes are both good anti-spyware programs that are free for home use. Schedule regular scans for your anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
Set Windows update to download and install updates automatically. Many of these updates are designed to close security holes that current viruses are exploiting. Set other programs to update automatically as needed.
Be careful on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. The core systems are safe, but a lot of apps and add-ins are not. Once again, Google is your best friend. A quick search should let you know whether or not something is safe. The same rules for emails apply to everything in social networking. If it doesn’t sound like something your friend would say, he/she probably didn’t. When in doubt, ask your friend about the message. A big scam right now is a Facebook app that supposedly lets you see who is browsing your profile. Avoid this like the plague.
Supervise children when using the internet. They will click on anything, especially the big flashy banner ads that lead to viruses. There are many good kid-safe browsers that are free and go a long way to protecting your computer from your kids. Ask our staff for more info.
Use an alternative browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Internet explorer is full of security holes and is an easy target for malware.
Consider using an alternate DNS service such as OpenDNS FamilyShield. It is a free service and we will install it on customer’s computers in-shop for free, or for a small charge for an entire network. Ask for details.
Run a virus scan before restarting your computer if you believe you may have been infected. If you can’t open your anti-virus, it is time to call a professional. The faster you act, the better your results will be.
Take an active role in learning about computer safety and emerging virus threats. In general just BE SMART and BE SUSPICIOUS and you should be fine.
WHAT TO DO AFTER AN INFECTION HAS BEEN REMOVED
Change all your passwords, especially for online banking, email, and Facebook. A good resource from the Mozilla Project for how to create and remember strong passwords is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COU5T-Wafa4
Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit report for the next few months. Report any suspicious activity to your bank and the credit bureaus. Keep any receipts from a repair shop as proof that you had a virus infection.
Scan any disks, flash drives, or external hard drives with an anti-virus program before beginning to use them again.
Avoid doing whatever it was that got you infected in the first place. We see many repeat infections in our shop from customers who went right back to doing what they were before.