Malware Prevention and Removal

Malware is a term that describes any malicious software. Examples of malware include viruses, spyware and rootkits. Often times this software can cripple a computer system or even render it useless to most users. So how do you combat this?

Most people unfortunately pay for services and software to remove or even attempt to prevent Malware. The fact is there are a lot of programs out there that are free. I do understand that some people are hesitant to use free software, or to try and fix things on their own. While I use the practices in this article on a daily basis, please keep in mind that there are always risks involved with computers. Everything I outline here, you do at your own risk.

Let’s start with preventing Malware. The first line of defense is, knowing what to avoid.
The first rule, do not download attachments from an email sent to you by someone you don’t know! It’s a simple rule, but not practiced by the uninformed users. The next rule is to watch your searches. When you use a search engine, sometimes there will be sites near the top of the search engine that do not match your search criteria. You must carefully examine the URL before clicking the search link. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to spot a URL that will lead to trouble, if it looks suspicious, don’t click it. To go along with the other 2 rules, the next rule I’m going to suggest might be the most difficult to accept. Be cautious when downloading software! I do it all the time, but I research the software a head of time, choose a trusted download site and watch the install process. I’m not saying to not install any software, just exercise some caution when doing so. The last rule I’m going to suggest is very important. Make sure you keep your system up to date with the latest security patches, hotfixes and service packs.

Now I want to continue the prevention topic by introducing some protection methods. Let’s start with software. One of the first things you should have on your computer is an antivirus program. The problem is that many people pay for such a thing, personally, I have always used free solutions, the one I’ve used for the past couple years is AntiVir. The antivirus, when kept up to date, adds a layer of protection by hopefully catching a virus before it can do any harm. The next piece of software I would recommend having is called a firewall. If you have Windows XP SP2 or higher then you already have a built-in firewall. For those who do not have Windows XP2 or higher, then I recommend checking out http://techsupportalert.com/dr/. The last thing I’m going to suggest in this section is Spyware protection. There are several free spyware protection programs that will run in the background, I will supply a list later in the article, one I’m going to suggest right is called Spyware Blaster.

Ok! So, let’s say you have a mild malware infection. This means something has broken through your protective measures. While, it is certainly true that you can never guarantee a 100% removal, I wouldn’t resort to formatting your PC on every case. Some people feel safer this way, if that’s the case then stop reading here. The first thing to do is to turn off System Restore, some malware can protect itself in your restore points, since your scanners will be unable to remove the malware form there. Now comes the time to run a whole arsenal of Antivirus and spyware removal tools.

Here is a decent list of tools that will help you out.
Super Anti-Spyware
Spybot
Ad-Aware
A Squared
McAfee STINGER
Symantec Removal Tools
Rootkit Revealer
Gizmo’s The Best-ever Freeware Utilities List

Sometimes you will have a specific infection that will require special attention, in which case, you may have to do some searching on the internet or asking around on forums. As I run across specific infections, I will write about them here. You can also sign up for my web forum and post questions, I will do my best to answer them for you.

The last subject I’m going to talk about regarding Malware Removal is classified as difficult removal. By difficult, I mean that your system is so bad that I won’t even boot to your desktop! What do you do then?

Luckily, there are a couple really awesome tools you can use! The following tools will be great for the mild infections as well. In fact I recommend them as the main offence. These tools are Ultimate Boot CD and Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. The second one is slower but has the familiar Windows GUI and tools that people are more familiar with and it has more tools geared towards Malware removal. The reason why both tools are great is because you are not really in your Windows environment. This means, there are no locked files to slow you down.

The one thing I have to caution you about with regards to the boot CDs is that you may have to create a new one every so often to keep the program definition files up to date.

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