Removing Malware & Prevention of Malware

malware

The names have been changed to protect the innocent, even though they work in the IT field.  Me!  Yes, I am a victim; but to be fair it was my family that did it.  That is my story and I am sticking to it.  But statistically, if you haven’t been attacked by Malware as of yet, it is only a matter of time until it does attack you.

First of all let me state that ITConnexx partners with Reflexion, a Sophos Company, for the best Malware and Anti Spam software in the industry.  Only the best for ITConnexx and our clients!

So, you either have Malware on your PC now or you want to know how to best protect yourself from Malware.

Your first reaction, once infected, might be; “But my anti-malware software I have installed “should” have taken care of this.”  Let’s review prevention and the recommended steps for removing malware and reducing the chances it’ll happen again.

So Let’s Start with ‘A Word About Prevention’

If there’s only one thing to take away from this post, it would be this:

Prevention is much less painful than the cure.

The steps to remove malware can be painful and time consuming.  While it might seem like work, knowing your role in CyberSecurity is mush easier by comparison.  Check out ITConnexx Blogs for other safe computing information.

So, Prevention has failed.  Now what to do?

Back Up

It is strongly recommended that you start by taking a complete image backup of your system.

Why would you want to back up a system you know is infected with malware?

A backup taken now is an “it-can’t-get-any-worse-than-this” fallback.  Some of the techniques used to remove malware run the risk of breaking things and making the situation worse.  With this backup at the ready, you can always restore and start over with nothing lost.

Restore a Prior Backup

Maybe you have been taking regular backups.  Good for you!  This is often the most expedient step and can save a lot of time and energy.

Simply restore your machine completely from the most recent full system backup.  Don’t forget any incremental backups (often handled transparently by your backup software) taken before the infection occurred.

Except for having learned from the experience, you’re be done.  The old slogan, “The school of hard knocks has the highest tuition.”

Update Your Anti-Malware Database

Having anti-malware software isn’t the solution in and of itself.  The anti-malware database MUST to updated.  Be sure to run updates if you don’t already have them running automatically based on the settings you have established.

Almost all anti-malware tools use databases of malware definitions, which change daily, if not more often, and as a result need to be updated regularly.

Perform a Full Scan

Quite often, anti-malware tools will regularly perform a “quick” or fast scan.  That’s typically quite sufficient for day-to-day operations.  Open up your anti-malware tools and run a full/advanced/complete scan of your entire system drive – typically the C: drive.  If you have a single tool, that might be one run; if you use multiple tools, such as separate anti-virus and anti-spyware tools, then run a full scan with each.  This may take some time, but let the tools do their job.

Know What You Are Getting with Anti-Malware Software

When selecting an anti-malware tool it MUST be stressed: stick with reputable tools.”  When a machine is infected, most people tend to panic and download just about anything and everything that claims to be an anti-malware tool.  Don’t do that!  There are many less-than-reputable individuals out there ready to take advantage of your panic.

Do some research before downloading anything, or you may just make the problem worse instead of better.

Research Specific Removal Instructions

If your anti-malware software tells you the name of the specific malware you’re dealing with, that’s good information – even if it can’t remove it.

Search for that malware, and you’re likely to find specific removal instructions at one or more of the major anti-malware vendor sites.  These instructions can be somewhat technical and intimidating, so take your time to follow them precisely, or dare I say get a techie friend to help.

Some sites offer free tools you can download to remove specific malware.  Once again, use caution.  When the tools are from reputable sources, they’re a quick way to avoid some hassle.  When the tools are really just more malware in disguise, they’ll only make your problems worse.

If you download anything to help address the problem, make sure that wherever it is comes from, it’s an organization you know and trust.

Surrender

This is the only sure-fire way to remove any virus. 100%. Guaranteed.

The only way to be absolutely positive that you’ve removed any and all viruses is:

  • Back up.  If you haven’t already, back up the entire system. You’ll use this to restore your data after we’re done.
  • Reformat.  Reformatting erases the entire hard disk of everything: the operating system, your programs, your data, and most important of all, any and all viruses and malware.  This may be part of the next step, as most Windows set-up programs offer to reformat the target hard drive before installing Windows.
  • Reinstall.  Yes, reinstall everything from scratch.  Reinstall the operating system from your original installation media. (Or restore the system to an image backup you took when you got the machine, which preserved the “factory original” state.) Reinstall applications from their original media or saved downloads.
  • Update.  Update everything, in particular making sure to bring Windows as completely up-to-date as possible for the most current protections against all known and patched vulnerabilities.  Applications, particularly your anti-malware tools, should be updated as well.
  • Restore.  Restore your data by carefully copying it from the backups you created when we started.  By “carefully,” I mean taking care to only copy the data you need, so as not to copy back the malware.
  • Learn.  Take stock of how this happened, what you might have done to get infected in the first place, and what might have helped you recover more efficiently.  Consider instituting a frequent system backup.

Safe computing is the key.  Be safe!