Malware, remove malware.
What is malware?
Malware is one of the most
reckless things you can do in today's increasingly
hostile computing environment. Malware is malicious
code planted on your computer, and it can give the
attacker a truly alarming degree of control over
your system, network, and data - without your knowledge!
Types of malware
We can divide malware into several
broad categories of malware: adware, spyware, hijackers,
toolbars, and dialers. Many, if not most malware
programs will fit into more than one category.
It is very common for people to use the words adware,
spyware, and malware interchangeably. Most products
that call themselves spyware or adware removers
will actually remove all types of malware.
Adware is the class of programs that place advertisements
on your screen. These may be in the form of pop-ups,
pop-unders, advertisements embedded in programs,
advertisements placed on top of ads in web sites,
or any other way the authors can think of showing
you an ad. The pop-ups generally will not be stopped
by pop-up stoppers, and often are not dependent
on your having Internet Explorer open. They may
show up when you are playing a game, writing a document,
listening to music, or anything else. Should you
be surfing, the advertisements will often be related
to the web page you are viewing.
Programs classified as spyware send information
about you and your computer to somebody else. Some
spyware simply relays the addresses of sites you
visit or terms you search for to a server somewhere.
Others may send back information you type into forms
in Internet Explorer or the names of files you download.
Still others search your hard drive and report back
what programs you have installed, contents of your
e-mail client's address book (usually to be sold
to spammers), or any other information about or
on your computer - things such as your name, browser
history, login names and passwords, credit card
numbers, and your phone number and address.
Spyware often works in conjunction with toolbars.
It may also use a program that is always running
in the background to collect data, or it may integrate
itself into Internet Explorer, allowing it to run
undetected whenever Internet Explorer is open.
Hijackers take control of various parts of your
web browser, including your home page, search pages,
and search bar. They may also redirect you to certain
sites should you mistype an address or prevent you
from going to a website they would rather you not,
such as sites that combat malware. Some will even
redirect you to their own search engine when you
attempt a search. NB: hijackers almost exclusively
target Internet Explorer.
Toolbars plug into Internet Explorer and provide
additional functionality such as search forms or
pop-up blockers. The Google and Yahoo! toolbars
are probably the most common legitimate examples,
and malware toolbars often attempt to emulate their
functionality and look. Malware toolbars almost
always include characteristics of the other malware
categories, which is usually what gets it classified
as malware. Any toolbar that is installed through
underhanded means falls into the category of malware.
Dialers are programs that set up your modem connection
to connect to a 1-900 number. This provides the
number's owner with revenue while leaving you with
a large phone bill. There are some legitimate uses
for dialers, such as for people who do not have
access to credit cards. Most dialers, however, are
installed quietly and attempt to do their dirty
work without being detected.
Ways of infection
are several ways that these programs can end up on
Software with "other software" bundled.
For example, AOL Instant Messenger currently bundles
in WildTangent, a known spyware offender. Peer-to-peer
file sharing software, such as Kaaza, LimeWire, and
eMule, bundle various types of malware that are categorized
as spyware or adware. Software that promises to speed
up the Internet connection or assist with downloads
(e.g., My Web Search) will often contains adware.
Some malware programs exploit Internet Explorer's
ActiveX (e.g., Microsoft technology that links desktop
applications to the Internet) installation option.
If you click a link to an ActiveX program, a dialog
box prompts you about executing it. If you click Yes
(or if your IE security settings are set lower than
normal so you aren't prompted) the software runs and
can perform any tasks on your computer, including
installing malware. Sometimes web sites state that
software is needed to view the site, in an attempt
to trick users into clicking Yes thus installing software
onto their machines. Another trick is if you click
No, many error windows display. Other sites will tell
you that using a certificate makes their site "safe"
which is not the case. Certificate verification means
only that the company that wrote the software is the
same as the company whose name appears on the download
Malware can exploit security holes in Internet Explorer
as a way of invading your machine.
On top of this, some malware provides no uninstall
option, and installs code in unexpected and hidden
places (e.g., the Windows registry) or modifies the
operating system, thus making it more difficult to
How do I secure my PC?
| Keep your software up-to-date
A major source of malware infections is outdated software,
especially Windows itself. Malware can install itself
on your PC by taking advantage of bugs in your operating
system, browser, or other software. These bugs are
typically fixed as soon as possible, but your software
must be updated to take advantage of these fixes.
Windows has a built-in system for automatically updating
itself, called "Windows Update". Windows
XP also supports a newer, more comprehensive version
called "Microsoft Update", which you can
upgrade to when you run Windows Update. You should
not only have Automatic Updates turned on, but you
should go to Windows Update at least once a week to
make sure that everything is working as it should.
When Windows pops up a message in the System Tray
(down near the clock in the Task Bar) that says "updates
are ready to be installed", do not ignore that
message. It is not uncommon for people to ignore that
message for months, and then wonder why their system
Is it recommended that if you have a computer capable
of running it, that you upgrade to Windows XP with
at least Service Pack 2. Windows XP with SP2 is more
secure and better-supported than any previous Windows
version. Future updates to Windows XP should continue
Individual non-Microsoft pieces of software may or
may not automatically keep themselves up-to-date.
Some software will pop up a warning, suggesting that
you download and install the new version. Others will
not. It is very important to keep your web browsers,
email software, java runtimes (if installed), and
instant messengers up to date. Bugs in any of these
pieces of software can let malware install itself
on your PC. You should make a habit of checking for
new versions of any software you use regularly.
Use a firewall
A "firewall" is a piece of software
or hardware that sits between your computer and the
Internet, protecting your computer from attacks. You
should never connect a computer to the internet without
a firewall of some sort.
A hardware firewall is preferred. The inexpensive
"routers" that many companies sell make
fine firewalls. This includes the routers (wired and
wireless) from companies like Linksys or D-Link, and
the Apple Airport base stations (which work fine with
These routers shield all of the PCs that connect to
them from incoming attacks from the Internet. They
do not protect you from malware that you get from
having bad browsing habits
A software firewall, like the one built into
Windows XP, is not as good as a hardware firewall.
But it is much better than nothing, and will probably
be adequate as long as you follow the first step and
make sure your PC remains as up-to-date as possible.
WARNING: The built-in Windows XP firewall is
turned on by default in Windows XP Service Pack 2.
It is not turned on by default in previous versions
of Windows XP, and versions of Windows that pre-date
Windows XP do not have a built-in firewall at all.
If you connect a Windows PC to the internet without
a firewall (hardware or software), and the system
is out of date, the computer is in very serious danger
of becoming infected by something malicious within
an hour or less.
This means that if you are re-installing Windows,
or are setting up a new PC, do not connect it to the
internet until you are sure that a firewall is in
place. If you do not know what version of Windows
XP you have on your PC, or do not know if the firewall
is turned on, keep it disconnected until you are sure.
This is one thing that makes a hardware firewall superior
to a software one; you know that it is on at all times,
regardless of the state of your PC.
Use anti-virus software
There is no such thing as a perfect piece of anti-virus
software. All anti-virus software relies on detecting
malware once it has already arrived on your PC, and
preventing it from running. It is much better to not
let that malware onto your PC in the first place.
However, having some sort of anti-virus software running
on your PC at all times is yet another level of security,
and the more security the better. Some anti-virus
software also comes with a software firewall (such
as "Norton Internet Security").
Anti-virus software must be updated regularly
in order to be effective. Most anti-virus software
will automatically get its updates from the Internet.
These three steps to securing your PC are automatically
monitored by Windows XP Service Pack 2 with the "Security
Center" tool. This tool can be found in the Windows
Control Panel; it will also pop up with a warning
if it finds that any of these steps have not been
performed. Please take these warnings seriously. You
can find more details about the Windows XP Security
|Everyone heard the adage "The
best offense is a good defense" and that's most
often true. You can find a wide range of programs
here on Fix-Computer-Problem.com
that can detect and eliminate malware, adware, spyware
and other dangerous programs.