How to get rid of malware
Everyone knows that computer malware can be very dangerous! These malicious software applications, which have been built with the sole purpose of harming our devices and stealing our data and money, are more and more widespread. According to AV Test, a well-know security research company, cyber criminals release over 350,000 new pieces of malware each day!
The most common malware categories include viruses, adware, trojans, spyware, hijackers, worms and ransomware. Here are some definitions that will help you understand the way in which these nasty malware applications work.
Viruses are evil pieces of software that have the ability to self-replicate, infecting more and more programs and files as they are run. Some viruses will delete all the files on your computer on the 13th of Friday, for example, while others will constantly read and write data to your hard drive, damaging its controller due to overheating.
Adware is quite common; it is usually bundled with free applications, generating pop-ups, redirecting your browser to various URLs and thus making its creators money, and so on. Adware is less dangerous in comparison with viruses, but it is often installed without the user's consent, and some of these malicious programs can be dangerous.
Trojans are applications that may seem okay at first, but can create problems later on. Just like the Trojan Horse, which allowed the Greeks to enter Troy and win the war after a fruitless 10-year siege, computer trojans open backdoors which can be exploited by hackers later on.
Spyware programs install silently on your computer, and then start recording all your keystrokes. Then, they upload all the gathered information to the specified server. Some of the more advanced pieces of spyware will also take screen captures, and may even record movies of your computer activity. As you can imagine, most cyber criminals use spyware to get access to user account information, etc.
Hijackers will often work in conjunction with adware; most of them redirect users' browsers to infected sites, which will load even more malware into their computers. Some hijackers can also replace your favorite search engine's results with other information.
Most worms make use of unpatched computer security holes. They will often spread through infected email attachments, but some worms may be bundled with legitimate software applications as well.
Ransomware is a relatively new type of threat, which includes programs that encrypt all the important files in a computer, and then display a message, asking for a ransom. The cyber villain promises to send you a data decryption key in exchange for your money, but this won't happen too often. Payments are usually made using Bitcoin, so they're anonymous; you can't determine who is responsible for the piece of malware that has infected your computer, and you won't be able to get your money back after you've paid the cyber criminal.
So, how can you get rid of all these nasty applications? Use two different applications: an antivirus and an anti-malware program. Some antivirus creators claim that their solutions provide full protection for any threat, but real life has taught me that anti-malware apps can discover nasty programs that simply can't be detected by an antivirus.
While you can find several great antiviruses here, there are much fewer high-quality options when it comes to antimalware applications. My recommendation is to use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, which gets praised a lot in most independent tests.
To keep your computer safe in the future, ensure that all the installed applications, including the operating system, the antivirus and the anti-malware app, are kept updated. If your antivirus has a firewall, make sure to turn it on. Most commercial products will include this feature; if you don't want to invest a lot of money into a paid antivirus, you can also use Microsoft's built-in "Windows Security" application, which works quite well and won't cost you a dime.