Some Tips on Keeping your Computer Clean from Malware

I still find some of my clients inadvertently downloading and installing malware onto their computers. It's alarming, and the clean up can be at best time consuming, and at worst, heart-breaking.

As always, prevention is better than cure. So here is my list of how to prevent malicious programs from entering your computer;

1/ Never click on a link contained in an email from someone you don't know. Even then, if it is possible, verify the location before proceeding.

2/ Get a good virus scan program (especially if you run a Windows OS). Run deep scans frequently, but don't expect it to detect everything. Virus scan programs can fail for a couple of reasons;

  • the virus or malware contains code that is designed to make it look like a trusted program, thus fooling the virus scan
  • a user allowed the program to be installed, despite a warning from the virus scan or Operating System.

The later is quite common with regards to Malware. The virus scan doesn't detect it as a virus (as it isn't), and malware is often intentionally downloaded by the user (even if its actual performance or consequences were not known)

3/ Download software only from trusted sources - use the manufacturer's website where possible, and try to go with brands that are known. 

You can check twitter feeds or facebook to see if a business is legitimate or not.

4/ Check Google before downloading software or anything that is going to install on your computer. If the download has some unintended uses then there is a good chance that someone else has written about it in a post or forum. Pay particular attention to any comments on websites of known malware cleaning tools or virus scan tools.

5/ If you have allowed a program to install on your computer mistakenly don't allow the program any access to your files or personal information. Shut it down and don't reopen it for any reason. Then search for a removal tool or method to delete it, or seek the help of a professional who can assist you.

6/ Ask yourself; do I really need another toolbar, registry cleaner, video downloader etc. While the program you download may not be strictly speaking 'malware', it may still be injurious to your computer in that it fills up the hard drive and slows your computer down.

7/ Try to keep your work computer separated out from a computer you use to browse the internet, social media or gaming. On any work critical computer, don't download or execute anything unless it is absolutely essential for that workflow. If you aren't sure, don't download it. If you have an IT department at your disposal - consult them first.

What exactly is malware?

It is any piece of software that is downloaded and executed on your computer that has an unwanted or unintended result. It may or may not be intentionally harmful, but the result is certainly harmful.

Examples may include toolbars or other add-ons to your internet browser, programs that hijack your browser (such as forcing a particular, usually unknown, search engine), programs that 'clean' or 'repair' your computer, but running in the background without your knowledge or permission, actually slow it down, any program that promises to allow you access to subscription or purchased software for free.

You may download the software with the full understanding of what it is and what it does, or you may find that the advertised use of the product is not what it actually does, or you may execute software that is poorly written or planned and does not do what it is supposed to do correctly, or the malware may come 'bundled' with other software that you did want and had an intended purpose for, but allows other software to install along with it (known as 'bloatware').

The final word is;

It pays to understand what you are downloading, or the link you are clicking on. Read and understand the information provided to you when you are installing something, and stop any action that potentially may be harmful to your computer.

If you do find yourself in trouble, use a program such as Malwarebytes, or similar to detect and clean your computer. If necessary though, seek the help of a trusted professional who can work on removing malicious or otherwise harmful software from your computer.

Hopefully, this article helped you out or filled in some missing bits of information for you.