This article is not a sales pitch. What we would like to do is educate you on what to do if you do get an infection. Knowledge is one of the best defenses. So let’s get started.
One of the biggest signs of virus or malware infection is a sluggish computer. In fact this may be the only warning you get with the worst infection out to date called cryptoware. These nasties get on your computer and encrypt your precious files and pictures then pop up a message saying your files have been encrypted and you cannot gain access to your files unless you pay several hundreds of dollars. If you have the misfortune of getting one of these there’s not much you can do unless you notice the sluggish computer and shut it down as quickly as possible. This will save some of your files, but most likely others will be encrypted. The best way to combat these is to have a backup plan in place and running regularly. If the backup is saving to an external drive then you should be disconnecting it between backups. Online backup services will save several versions of your files so you can recover from those without a lot of fuss. Keep in mind that Windows will need to be reinstalled to wipe the virus out before restoring your files.
At this time one of the most prevalent malware problems is a combination of software and social engineering. In order for these to work you as the user of the computer have to call a number to get help with a message you receive through your browser. The malware infection is a simple browser message that pretends to be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Microsoft itself. The message usually claims you’re infected or there is a problem with your computer and to call a toll free number. Some even have audio that repeats over and over. If you call the number they’ll ask for remote access to your computer and will show you how badly your computer is infected. They will then tell you they can clean it for a certain amount of money. What you don't realize is while they are showing you the infections (that are bogus) they’re activating a little known feature in Windows known as a Syskey password. This password encrypts critical parts of Windows and can only be bypassed with the password that only they know. If you do not pay them they leave your computer encrypted and the next time you reboot it will ask for a password you don't have. To prevent these types of infection and scamming, don't ever call the number. Push the Control-Alt-Delete key combination and start Task Manager. Find an entry for the browser you are using, ie.: Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, or Chrome are most common. Click the name of the browser once then click the “End Task” button at the bottom of the Task Manager. This will temporarily disable the infection until you can call a professional to clean the computer.
Other types of infection are not so easy to spot because they are working in the background. The symptoms are usually a slow or sluggish computer. If you experience this behavior it is best to call a professional to remove the bugs that lurk in the background. If you attempt this yourself it is best to use at least two or three antimalware products.
These are not your antivirus software. Antivirus software is necessary to have and have only one. In the simplest terms, generally, malware is a less nasty virus and antivirus software is designed for the nastier bugs. Antimalware is for removal of the less nasty bugs.
Fear of a virus or malware infection should not be a reason for not using your computer. There are a multitude of resources for preventing and removing the nasties. If you have any questions we are always here to help. Whether it’s online backup, external hard drive advice, or virus removal, we can help.