How to Remove Malicious Software


Disconnect your computer from the internet. If you suspect that malware has infected your device, you need to boot your PC into Microsoft Safe Mode. However, before you enter safe mode, you need to access the Windows Recovery Environment (winRE). Th

Author: Delilah Daut
Category: Hardware
Author: Delilah Daut
Category: Hardware



Malware is software designed to damage, gain access to or disrupt the normal functioning of the computer. Malware is valuable to cybercriminals because they use it to extract sensitive information, prevent access to the device, and steal money. The term ‘malware’ is generally used to refer to different forms of malicious software.

As an internet user, you are still at risk of infection regardless of how consistent you are with avoiding it. Learning how to remove malicious software should be among the topmost priority of every computer user because of the probability that you will, without your knowledge, install or download it on your device. However, you cannot remove malicious software without being able to identify the telltale that your device is infected.

Signs of Malware Infection

  1. Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

If your computer has a habit of crashing regularly, you might be dealing with either a malware infection or a technical problem. You might be running programs that are not compatible with your computer, or you might not have installed the latest drivers. If the above reasons are not why your computer is crashing, a virus could be the reason behind it. To check the cause of the last BSOD, you need to go to the “Systems and Security” option in the control panel. Click on “Administrative Tools” followed by “Event Viewer” and then select “Windows Logs”. The entries that have an “error” are the recorded crashes.

  1. Slow PC

A slow PC is one of the most common signs of malware infection. If your data bandwidth is suspiciously slow or your programs or operating system (OS) take a long time to start, you may have a virus. This should not be the immediate assumption, however. You should make sure that:

  •   Your RAM is not running out. To check if your RAM is running out, open the task manager by pressing (Ctrl + Shift + Esc). Go to the Performance tab and under the memory section, check how much RAM you are using.
  •   Your hard drive is not damaged. Start the “CHKDSK” tool by right-clicking on the hard drive under “Properties” then “Tools” then “Error Check”. A report will be given on whether the storage medium is functioning properly or not.
  •   Your hard drive has space. To find out if your hard drive has enough space, open “Settings” and go to “Display”. Click the “Storage” tab. Below ‘Local Storage”, you will see the used and free disk space.

How to Remove Malicious Software

  •   If you are a MAC user, go to “Activity Monitor App”, and you will be able to find out how much RAM you are using under “System Memory”.

If you rule out all three options, you might be dealing with malware.

  1. Programs closing and opening automatically

It is also common for applications to open and close automatically when malware is present. Some programs are meant to behave this way, therefore, confirmation is crucial before jumping to conclusions.

  1. Pop-ups, toolbars and other unwanted programs

These are some of the most irritating signs of malware infection. If you answer survey questions for a specific type of website access, install free apps or go to suspicious pages you may start seeing pop-ups on your screen. It is not advisable to click on advertisements that talk about how Mark earned 7000 dollars in 2 weeks while working at home. If your computer continually shows you such pop-ups, close the window and scan your computer using your anti-malware tool immediately.

As appealing as free apps sound, the installation process can be full of malware. Some people are guilty of not going over the terms and conditions to know exactly what they have signed up for. By clicking “accept” without reading the terms of service, you might be accepting additional programs to be installed other than the one needed. These programs may even change your default browser and lead you to sites rigged with malware. Be very careful when downloading free software.

  1. Sending Spam to Friends

You might have a spyware infection if your friends claim you have been sending them suspicious emails and links over social media pages. Spyware is caused by using weak passwords for account protection and forgetting to log out of your accounts.

  1. Lack of Storage

Malware can manipulate the files present on your computer. Most of them fill the hard drive with suspicious files. If you come across programs on your PC that do not seem familiar, do not attempt to open it. First, search the name of the program from the internet and use anti-malware software to scan it.

  1. Suspicious hard drive and modem activity

You should scan your computer for viruses if your hard drive works excessively when no other program is running. You should do the same if you notice that your external modem is always lit.

Common Types of Malware 

  1. Spyware

Detecting this type of malware is hard. Spyware collects data on your browsing habits, personal information as well as browsing history without your knowledge. It then, with the help of the internet, sends this information to third parties. A good example is keyloggers, which are used to monitor keystrokes on your PC.

  1. Trojan Horse

A Trojan is a type of malicious software or code that looks helpful but is rather harmful to your PC. It is designed to damage, steal, destroy or inflict damage to your network or data. An example would be an infected email attachment from a known source. You could open it trusting the source only to download and install a Trojan. Once the program is executed, it can spread to different files and damage your device. A Trojan horse deceives you into loading and running a malware program that will later compromise you.

  1. Worms

A worm is a type of Trojan that replicates or propagates itself from one system to another. This is achievable through several methods. Worms do not need to latch on a host to survive. After they have already been executed in your device, they start downloading other malware, deleting files, copying themselves to other attached devices and consuming the bandwidth.

  1. Ransomware 

Ransomware or ransom malware is a computer threat that demands a paid ransom to regain access to your computer. If the ransom is not paid, the cybercriminal will leak important files and delete others based on their desire.

  1. Rootkit

A rootkit is malicious software that gives unauthorized users access to your computer as well as restricted areas of the software. They modify and intercept typical modules of the environment (OS).

  1. Adware

The term is frequently used to refer to malicious software, which frequents unwanted ads to the user of the computer. These advertisements come as either pop-ups or in the form of a window that cannot be closed.

How to Remove Malicious Software

The first thing you should do is back up all the critical files and documents and perform a malware scan. You can do this by saving the data in a backup cloud storage service, an external source like DVD/CD’s, external drives or USB sticks. A backup process is essential because it can save your data from harm by keeping it safe in an external source. This way, when your documents are deleted during a malware removal process, you will still have the files stored safely elsewhere.

  1. Safe Mode

Before anything,disconnect your computer from the internet. Do not connect it until it is time to clean your computer. This step prevents further spread of the malware and the leakage of private data. If you suspect that malware has infected your device, you need to boot your PC into Microsoft Safe Mode. However, before you enter safe mode, you need to access the Windows Recovery Environment (winRE). This is achievable in several ways. 

For Windows Vista or Windows 7 users, press down the F8 key early during the system boot process. Before restarting your computer, you should remove all CDs, DVDs and floppy disks from your computer. From the boot menu that will appear, select the “Repair your Computer” option. It is vital to make sure that you begin pressing the F8 key after the passing of the BIOS screen (just before Windows starts the booting process) if your computer uses F8 as the BIOS boot menu. In other scenarios, pressing F8 early might make it easier to open the BIOS boot menu. For Windows 8 users, press the Windows key and the “L” button then click on the power icon. Hold down the shift button then click restart. To bring up the repair options, click on “troubleshooting” followed by “advanced options”.

If you use Windows 8.1, press the Windows key and the “X” button simultaneously. You will open the “Quick Link Menu”. Click “sign out” or “shut down”. After that, hold down the shift key and click “restart”. In Windows 10, you can access safe mode by opening the start menu, clicking on “Power” and then clicking “Restart” while holding down the shift key.

If using the F8 key does not seem to work, you will need to switch your device off and off, before Windows starts, twice in a row. To turn off your device, press the power button for 10 seconds. Turn your device on again by pressing the power button. Immediately Windows starts (by showing the manufacturer’s logo), press the power button for 10 seconds back to power it off. Turn your device on then off when Windows starts. Power on your device again and let it restart fully. Your computer will enter winRE.

Once you access winRE, you need to follow a couple of steps to take you to safe mode. To know you are in the right place, you will be presented with a screen written, “Choose an Option”. On the said screen, select “Troubleshoot” followed by “Advanced Options” on the troubleshoot screen. Click the ‘startup settings” option that will be on the advanced options page. If you use Windows 8, it is going to write “Windows Startup Settings”. Click “restart” on the startup setting page, and after the device restarts, a list of options will appear. On the menu, select the fifth option or press F5 to access “Safe Mode with Networking”. As the computer runs in safe mode, download Malwarebytes to run a scan.

  1. Using Malwarebytes Free

For good reasons, this anti-malware software is one of the most popularly used by Windows users. When other software may miss some malware, Malwarebytes goes a long way to ensure none is left behind. Moreover, it is free and can run hand-in-hand with other antivirus software without issues. The current Malwarebytes has a paid feature, but this does not reduce the effectiveness of the free version. To download it, go to www.malwarebytes.com. When the download is complete, click on the setup file to install it on your device. Depending on your system settings, you can either find the downloaded file in the “Downloads” option in the task manager or your other predetermined ones.

How to Remove Malicious Software

If a “User Account Control” pop-up presents itself, asking you to give the app consent to make changes to your device, click “Yes” to allow the installation to continue. The “Malwarebytes Setup Wizard” will appear when the installation begins to guide you through the process. You will need to clarify if you are using a work computer or a personal computer. The next screen will give you the “Install” option. Click on it to install Malwarebytes.

How to Remove Malicious Software

When the installation is over, a screen written, “Welcome to Malwarebytes” will open. Click the “Get Started” button. You are also going to be asked to choose between the premium edition and the free edition. In this procedure, we will use the free version. To begin scanning your PC with Malwarebytes, click on “Scan”. The software will update its database automatically and start the scan process.

For a few minutes, Malwarebytes will scan your computer for malicious programs. You can decide to do something else to occupy your time as you check on the scan progress periodically. Once the scan is complete, a screen will appear that will show you a list of the detected malware. To remove them, click the “Quarantine” button. All the registry keys and malicious files that have been found will be deleted. After the process, Malwarebytes may ask you to restart your device. If so, reset it for the best results.

  1. Windows Defender Offline

Microsoft offers an offline malware detector called “Windows Defender Offline”. From their 10th anniversary update, the tool comes included in every Windows device, and it is easier to launch. The tool gets its name from its ability to perform scans when Windows is not running. This is because while other anti-malware software scans the computer while Windows is running, they may miss the malware that is running in the background. Therefore, Windows Defender Offline restarts your computer and scans your network in a clean environment outside of Windows.

Any malware that is running inside Windows will not meddle with the process. Different types of rootkits tend to hide from Windows during the booting process. Nevertheless, they are detected when an offline scan is performed.

The offline scan option of Windows Defender cannot be found in the Windows Defender desktop app-you will have to go to the settings app. In Windows 10, you can access the settings app by pressing the Windows key and clicking on the “Settings” icon above the power. In settings, you will click on “Update and Security” (the last option) and then “Windows Defender”.

How to Remove Malicious Software

Scroll to the bottom and pick “Scan offline”. When you click the button, your computer will reboot automatically. The scan, which may take up to 15 minutes, starts. If malware is detected during the scan, the system will prompt you to remove it in the Windows Defender Offline interface. In case no malware is detected, the computer will boot automatically back to Windows after the scan.

If you do not have Windows 10, you can download it and create a bootable USB drive, DVD or CD that you will use to boot Windows Defender Offline. The work process is the same, but with Windows 7 and 8.1, you need to create your bootable media. You are recommended to create a bootable media on a computer that you are sure is clean. Malware that is running in the background can interfere with the creation process. It is, therefore, safer to use another PC to download and create the media if you have concerns that your computer is infected.

You can download the 32 or 64-bit version on the Windows Defender Offline download page depending on whether your computer is running at 32-bit or 64-bit. Here is how to check:

  • For Windows 10 users, open settings and click on “System” then “About”. Look for the “system type” on the left.

How to Remove Malicious Software

  • If you use Windows 8, go to the control panel and click on “System”. You can also press the start button and search “system” if you opt otherwise. Search for the entry written “System Type” to know the specifications of your processor and operating system
  • If you use Vista or Windows 7, hit the start button and right-click on “Computer”. Scroll to the bottom and click on “Properties”. When you get to the “System” page, search for “System type” and check the specifications of the operating system.
  • For Windows XP users, open the start menu by right-clicking “My computer” and scroll down to “Properties”. Click on the “General” tab on the system properties window. If your Windows is 32-bit, it will only say “Microsoft Windows XP”. However, if your Windows is 64-bit, it will be displayed on the window.

After you have confirmed, run the msstool32.exe or msstool64.exe that you have downloaded, you will receive a message prompting you to create installation media on a DVD, CD or USB drive. The tool also allows you to create an ISO file that can be burnt to a disc. The Windows Defender Offline media tool is going to be designed, containing the latest database of viruses. If you are using a USB drive, make sure to back up any data provided in it. Any data on it will be erased, and the drive will be reformatted.

When the creation process is over, you need to remove the DVD, CD or USB drive from the current computer and transfer it to the computer that needs to be scanned. Insert the disc or drive and restart the computer. Run the scan by booting from the DVD, CD or USB drive. Based on the settings on your computer, an automatic boot may occur immediately after a restart, or you may have to press F1, F2, F10, F8 or Esc to launch the boot process.

The Windows Defender tool will scan your PC automatically and remove malicious software once the device boots. When Windows Defender finishes scanning the computer, you can reboot your computer and remove the media to go back to Windows.

Finding and Removing Malware from a Mac

Some people are under the belief that Apple products cannot get a malware infection. This statement may carry some truth when considering iOS-based devices, but it is not valid with the Mac. Although no significant epidemic has been reported, notable virus and malware reports have surfaced in the previous years. Just because they are rare does not give you a reason not to know how to protect yourself. It is crucial to know the signs of infection in your Mac. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Your Mac suddenly develops a sluggish habit every time you use it.
  • All the internet sites you visit are rigged with ads-even official ones with no such history.
  • You get pop-ups claiming you need a specific toolbar that you forgot to install.
  • All your search queries are redirected to another website that you have never heard about.
  • You start getting advert window pop-ups; entirely non-related for your browser or any running programs.

If you have an idea of the app that is infected, that is a good starting point. Your first step should be to close the app and use the system processes to root it out. You can do this by opening the activity monitor, locating the app that you think is causing the problem and pressing the “X” button to quit its processes. When complete, move the app to the trash by going back to the Applications. You should empty the trash immediately after. Sadly, the process might be simple, but you need to involve more time for more efficient results. Hidden around the system folders are fragments of the virus that need to be rooted out. A powerful uninstaller will happen to work better.

With a strong 10-year reputation, CleanMyMac X has gathered the status of the guardian of Mac. CleanMyMac X scans your Mac and offers a service of immediate removal if something suspicious pops up. It has the power to detect thousands of malware threats and the database of the app receives regular updates to keep malware at bay.

To use CleanMyMac X for malware removal, you first need to download it from macpaw.com. Once it is launched, click on the “Malware Removal Tab” and then “Scan”. When the scan is complete, click “Remove” to delete the malware files. You are done!

Protecting Yourself from Malware

One of the best prevention methods used for malicious software is the installation and maintenance of an antivirus. Having a reputable software like Bitdefender and Norton is vital to prevent your computer from infections. When downloading the software, be advised to use the direct vending site rather than using ads or links. Make sure to update the antivirus software for maximum efficiency. If your antivirus has a tool that deals with spyware, it is an added advantage.

When presented with attachments and links, make sure to use caution before opening them. Nowadays, Gmail has a feature that scans your attachments before allowing you to open it. This way, you are at less risk of infection. Do not open links with the illusion that it is from a trusted source. It could be bait.

In case you are infected by malicious software, it is a good idea to back up your data. Create a habit of storing your files to an external drive or through cloud storage services. If your computer is infected, you will not lose your files. Moreover, you should change your passwords regularly whether your computer is infected or not. Having a strong password can prevent attackers from guessing it.

It is also a good idea to keep your software updated. New vulnerabilities pop-up each day and the developers counter this by creating updates that seal those loopholes. Ideally, you can install patches of your software to prevent your device from being exploited. If your apps have an “automatic updates” feature, turn it on. An excellent addition would be enabling the firewall of your computer. Firewalls prevent infection by blocking your computer from malicious traffic before they penetrate the system.

If you are an avid internet user, especially the type that trades online, checking your accounts for suspicious activity should be a routine activity. Hackers may steal your banking credentials and use them to drain your accounts. If you notice that the activity of your account seems fishy, do not hesitate to call your banking agency immediately. Lastly, do not form a habit of using public Wi-Fi. A Wi-Fi network that is not secured gives cybercriminals a chance to intercept your network traffic and steal your sensitive information.

As mentioned earlier, your efforts to prevent malware attacks may not necessarily stop all malware from seeping into your computer no matter how vigilant. However, you should scan your computer periodically and keep your eyes open for any strange activity.

How to Remove Malicious Software

Some Other Malware Removal Software

  •   Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition- Bitdefender is known best for its ability to prevent malicious software from accessing your computer. This is because of the anti-malware engine that is especially dedicated to avoid and remove any infection. With Bitdefender, you can drag and drop a suspicious file on its homepage and any detected malware will be quarantined. Its protection shield will also warn the user of any external attempts to compromise the system. 
  •   Adware Antivirus Free- Adware antivirus has a virtual environment that can be used to analyze suspicious apps or programs to see if they have malware characteristics. This means that you will be protected from malware even if the detected threats are still not in the Adware database. The virtual environment makes it possible for malware to be contained and/or eliminated. The antivirus can scan downloads before installation to guard the common point of entry (the internet). Furthermore, all this happens in the background and you can suspend the process temporarily to utilize the full power of your computer.
  • on  SuperAntiSpyware- This anti-malware can detect all types of malicious software and eliminate them from your device. To find out if a file or program is infected, submit it to the threat lab of the software for behavior analysis. This anti-malware is mostly convenient for systems that are low on resources. You also have full control over your scans.

How Do Victims of Malicious Code Recover?

The best way to protect yourself from malware is through using antivirus software so that you can always scan your computer at any suspicion of infection. The antivirus software will scan your device and quarantine any malicious malware to prevent further infection. For this to be very effective, your antivirus needs to be updated before the scan.

If your anti-malware software cannot remove the malware, you may have to go to system restore and reinstall your operating system. Reinstalling will erase all the files and extra software that you have in your device. If you already have your information backed up, you will prevent a lot of data loss. If not, consider copying all the critical files in a secure location for further inspection and use.

If you are dealing with a work computer, always contact the I.T. department immediately if you suspect an infection, the sooner, the better. A virus in a work network is very dangerous as other computers are at risk of being infected as well. Disconnect your device from the internet immediately you notice signs of infection to prevent access to it by an attacker.

The computer is always under evolving threats. You may not be able to eliminate all of them, but through using a good anti-malware software, using caution when on the internet, and adhering to any other security rules can significantly reduce your chances of infection. In return, you will get to enjoy using your device without a lot of unwanted distress.

Conclusion

Malware was designed by cybercriminals to be used to gain access to a computer or tamper with its contents. Knowing whether you suffer from malicious software might not be very simple. You always have to be on the lookout for signs of infection. The skill to prevent yourself from a malicious attack can save you a lot of loss if an attack happens. Also, not all signs of a malware attack are proof of malware- some are just trying to redirect your attention to another PC issue.