Privacy and Security

Malware – Removal and Protection

Getting infected by Malware is one of the dangerous things that could ever happen to you!

You may observe that your computer is not working properly as it should be.

You may assume that your computer is completely fine, or you may suddenly experience a shutdown, a crash, or a warning message that tells you that something has gone terribly wrong on your computer.

Malware can inhabit your computer unnoticed for months and then suddenly strike.

With malware appearing more and more in the news, you should take as much precaution as possible to guide yourself against the harm. While VPN services and backups are a very good first step, there is much more that you need to watch out for.

What is malware?

“Malware” is an abbreviated version of the term “malicious software“. The term covers a scope of categories of intrusive programs, including:

  1. Computer Viruses
  2. Trojans
  3. Spyware
  4. Adware
  5. Ransomware
  6. Scareware
  7. Clickjackers
  8. Botnet programs

Malware is not just the empire of hackers and thieves, commercial enterprises always use spyware and tracking codes for market research and targeted advertisement.

How do I know if I’m infected by malware?

A lot of malware is unnoticeable. In their natural way, spyware and tracking systems do not want the owner to know that they are on your PC. Viruses can distort the behavior of your computer and Trojans traditionally open up a sequence of sites without your acknowledgment.

In the scenario of ransomware, such as WannaCry or Petya you will get a message demanding money. In these cases, the malicious software will encrypt all of the files on your PC and ask payment to allow you to retrieve it again.

Some malware will alter key settings on your computer system by setting its preferred search engine as your default or seizing your access to the Internet by setting up a proxy server for your connections.

Some malware may actually take over your Internet access by hijacking  your DNS service. The Domain Name System is like a directory that maps between Web addresses and Internet addresses. If an invader can access this setting, he can redirect any moves you make to popular websites, such as mail systems to an invalid copy instead.

Malware can also pressure your browser to redirect to a fake website by tricking the computer’s cache.

Here are some fast checks you can easily make to look for hijacking in your computer’s system settings.

Check your Proxy Settings

Windows Proxy Settings

For Windows, you can simply follow these guidelines to check if your internet traffic is being hijacked and redirected. These steps are the same, irrespective of which version of Windows you have.

  1. Click the Start button
  2. Type in Internet Properties (or Properties) and press Enter
  3. Go to the Connections tab and click Lan Settings.
  4. Check that the Proxy Server settings are blank

Mac Proxy Settings

On a Mac, you can use the following guidelines to find out if your network is being hijacked.

  1. Choose Apple Menu > System Preferences and then click Network
  2. Select the network you are using e.g. Ethernet or Wifi
  3. Click Advanced and then click Proxies
  4. The settings should be empty

Check your DNS Settings

Instead of using a proxy to redirect traffic, malware may change your DNS settings. This will also allow hackers to remotely monitor and take control of your computer. You can use the following steps to see if your DNS is being redirected.

Check your DNS Settings in Windows

In Windows, you can use the following steps to check your DNS settings.

  1. In the taskbar right click your internet connection and click Open Network and Sharing Center
  2. Click Change Adapter Settings
  3. Right-click the Network you are using, and click Properties
  4. Double-click the TCP/IPv4 entry
  5. The settings under “Use the following DNS server addresses” should be empty
  6. Do the same check for the TCP/IPv6 entry

Check your DNS Settings in Mac

On a Mac, you can follow these steps to check your DNS settings.

  1. 1.Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences and click Network
  2. Chose the Network that you are using and click Advanced
  3. Under the DNS menu, it should be blank

Full Malware Check

While the above steps should help identify if there is some kind of malware, it is not guaranteed. The best way to check if you have malware is to use a professional software.

The best reliable malware checking and removal tools recently available on the market are Malwarebytes and Bitdefender. These are actually available for so many platforms and operating systems. Though it involves price, its way cheaper than eventually losing your data due to an infection.

How do I remove malware?

If you notice any changes in the settings that were analyzed in the previous section, then make an audit of the services you have installed. For instance, if you have a browser-based VPN installed, then this will automatically alter your proxy settings and you should let them be. If you have a smart DNS service, then the DNS setting will have values in them. In all other cases just turn off the DNS and proxy potentially by clicking on the radio buttons at the top of those settings sections. This reaction will wipe out any settings written into those sections.

Malware removal software

Thankfully, there are so many malware removal applications out there. Many of them are actually free and you can be safe if you choose tools that are designed by trusted software companies.

Check out any of these five awesome malware removal programs:

  1. Bitdefender
  2. Malwarebytes
  3. Spybot
  4. SUPERAntiSpyware
  5. Emsisoft Emergency Kit

The challenge with malware is that you never know you have it until it is just too late. Top quality malware detection programs like the Malicious Software Removal Tool from Microsoft can’t detect a malicious program if it is asleep at the time of a sweep.

Rootkit programs also get into the operating system to camouflage their presence. By associating themselves with other, lawful programs or blocking the task manager from noticing their activities, they transform their processes into unseen or sustainable programs that malware removal tools would not touch. If you have actually suffered from vigorous malware, it will be very hard to remove it. The only option you have is to actually avoid getting that malicious software on your PC in the first place.

How to protect against malware

Most residential users explore the Internet through a WiFi router, which already has firewall protection built in. The potential of hackers to get into your computer remotely and input malicious software is now totally blocked.

You don’t get malicious software on your PC unplanned. Now hackers have created ways to trick you into inviting this damaging software in. The only way you can be protected from malware is to change your habits.

These are some of the Major ways that hackers use to get into your computer:

  1. PDF files
  2. Flash videos
  3. Email attachments
  4. Non-standard torrent download file formats
  5. Extra utilities for free software

You need to amp up your level of intuition on the Web and tone down your despair and hurries when surfing content on the Internet. If you notice a great free app, it could be a trick, just disguising for an install of a piece of malware.

Here is more insight on each of those warning bullet outlines.

PDF Files

The Adobe PDF format carries a number of a chance for hackers to inject secret code into a document’s formatting command. Although these files seem perfectly okay, when you open them, the malware inside will copy programs onto your computer and even design connections back to the hacker’s server. Firewalls stop unforeseen inbound connection requests but do not stop outgoing connections.

The malware hidden in PDFs usually advance antivirus sweeps, so the only way to protect yourself against these programs is to avoid opening them. Be mindful about opening PDFs that come from sources that you are not familiar with.

Three steps that you can actually take to prevent malware from getting on your system through PDF files are:

  1. Disable JavaScript in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Prevent PDFs from showing in browsers
  3. Block PDF readers from accessing the file system and network resources

Adobe Flash Player

Adding to the Acrobat format, Adobe is furthermore the owner of the Flash Player. This software gives another route for hackers to get malware onto your PC.

A streaming Flash video gets downloaded into a non-permanent folder in the programs section of your PC. The Flash file system contains figures of directories for cookies that hackers can eventually use to download malware into.

The malware isn’t concealed as a video, it piggybacks onto a streaming playback, so the firewall and anti-malware software on your computer will simply let the malicious program through, assuming it is part of the basic code needed to get the video to play.

When you make use of standard ways to clear out the cache of your browser or delete all cookies, Flash files are still left in place because they are not stored in the standard directories  belonging to the browser program’s file structure.

Email attachments and torrent downloads

The only great protection against malware in emails and torrent downloads is awareness. Email attachments you should open is the one that comes from someone you know and trust. Be cautious about downloading files that have file extensions that you don’t know. Simply stick to media files that have popular file types, such as MP3 or MP4.

You should be especially mindful of zip files. These compressed directories are good for transferring large files in a short time, but they can also be pretentious installer programs.

If you do have an antivirus program working on your PC it will alert you when you try to download or run distrusted files.

Using a VPN when torrenting can also keep you protected, nonetheless, make sure you go for a provider that supports torrenting and we wouldn’t even recommend using a free VPN for torrenting. For more statistics see our best VPN for the torrenting article.

Protection for Macs

There is nothing really special about the Mac OSX operating system that makes it resistant to malware. Over 7,000 Macs fell victim by the KeRanger ransomware in 2016. This malware actually got onto computers through the Transmission BitTorrent client.

Too bad, Mac users even have to be mindful about installing anti-malware programs, because there are a lot of fake security systems out there that are actually malware. Such as Mac Defender, Mac Protector, and Mac Security.

Apple is infamous for the level of control it has over the accessibility of software for its operating system. In the interests of safeguarding your Mac malware-free, stick to a policy of only permitting software from the Apple Store onto your computer.

Check out these free antivirus systems for Macs:

  1. AVG
  2. Sophos Anti-Virus
  3. Avira
  4. Avast

Extra utilities for free software

When you install an update or a program, you possibly want to get the installation to finish quickly, and you might even be absent-minded by another application that you are running at the same time as the installer. This is actually a mistake. Even lawful software companies use program installers to slip unwanted utilities onto computers and also install toolbars and change browser settings. You suddenly may find that you have a complete New Tab layout and your default search engine has altered.

These adjustments to the settings of your browser were probably made with your consent. All those pages you eventually have to go through in order to get a program installed most times include devious little extras. If you don’t care about what each of these pages says, but just click through on the Next button, you just give the installer your access to install extra software and alter the settings of your browser.

Your anti-virus software would not warn you about the installation of these additional programs because you already gave permission for the installer to run. The only way to guide your computer against tricky extras is to be mindful and watchful.

Backup your Data

Another necessary way for helping against the harm of malware is by constantly backing up your data. By making use of the 3-2-1 backup methodology, even if your data is compromised, whether by malware, or another reason, you will be able to retrieve all of your personal data.

The 3-2-1 backup method actually means that you have 3 total backups, in 2 different locations. Mainly, this means the following:

  1. A backup section on the computer you are using
  2. A local backup on an additional device, e.g. a NAS
  3. A third offsite backup. You can either do this yourself by hiring storage space or use a backup service for even more safety and security.

Malware in the News

Ransomware has actually become a frontline grabbing branch of malware over the last few years. Following on from the KeRanger strike of 2016, the WannaCry attack of early 2017 disabled hospital equipment and government servers as well as the personal computers of individuals. By mid-2017, another ransomware attack, called Petya hit the vanguard. Analysis of WannaCry and Petya code unveil that these two programs were actually based on the same underlying hacking procedure, which was manufactured by the NSA in the United States of America.

Ransomware

Petya and WannaCry utilized a security loophole in Windows. The software epic already had system updates to guide against this weakness, but not every individual in the world had installed this fix, leaving them unprotected. So, a crucial lesson to take away from the WannaCry event is that it is advisable to always keep all of your software up to date.

Petya had less success in finding victim PC that hadn’t been kept up to date. Nonetheless, that software had two other routes onto target PC. These involve a method that slipped through on an accounting program’s update installer.

Ransomware always gets dispense through email attachments, so avoid opening it should help you avoid an attack.

Cybersecurity companies have actually come out with defense against WannaCry and Petya. As these two programs were designed from the same hacker toolkit, it is likely that other alternatives will appear often throughout the year. Installing an immunizer should protect you against all of these future versions of ransomware.

Minerva Labs has a free WannaCry immunizer, named Vaccinator. A VPN company, called CyberGhost offers a free immunizer against Petya and other ransomware. Ensuring that your software is up to date, being mindful about downloads and attachments and installing expert protection software should keep you safeguarded when the next wave of ransomware sweeps the globe.

Malware Removal Conclusion

Malware has advanced since the early days of computer viruses. Keep your PC up to date and just avoid taking risks with downloads. Whilst, malware can be destructive, there are easy steps that you can take to reduce vandalism.

Always have a solid security solution (VPN, Antivirus and Malware Defense), and always keep general backups of all of your computer systems.

 

A Complete gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and Love in Writing Techie blogs.

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