Malware, or “malicious software,” is an umbrella term that describes any malicious program or code harmful to systems.

Hostile, intrusive and intentionally malicious, malware seeks to invade, damage or disable computers, computer systems, networks, tablets and mobiles, often taking partial control of a device.

Malware aims to illegally earn money off your back. They can’t really physically damage your devices, but they can steal, encrypt or delete your data, alter or hijack essential computer functions, and spy on your activity without your permission.

How do you know if you are infected?

There are very telling signs that your system is infected with malware. Here are the most common:

  • Your computer slows down. One of the main effects of malware is slowing down the speed of your operating system, whether you are browsing the Internet or just using your local apps.
  • A large number of pop-ups appear in an unusual way. This is a typical sign of a malware infection. They are particularly associated with a form of malware called adware. Never click on it.
  • Your system crashes hangs or repeatedly displays a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), which can appear on Windows systems after a fatal error.
  • You notice a mysterious loss of disk space, possibly due to a malware squatter lurking in your hard drive.
  • There is a strange increase in internet activity on your system.
  • Your system resource usage is unusually high and your computer fan starts spinning in circles at full speed, suggesting that malware is consuming system resources in the background.
  • Your browser’s home page changed without your permission or the links you click will take you to a web destination you haven’t requested.
  • New toolbars, extensions, or plugins fill your browser unexpectedly.
  • Your antivirus stops working and you can no longer update it.
  • Then comes the malicious attack, often in the form of ransomware: the hacker makes himself known and tells you that he has your data and demands a ransom to return your files to you.

How does malware infect your devices?

The two most common methods for malware to gain access to your system are the Internet and your e-mail. So basically whenever you’re connected online, and more specifically when you:

  • Browse hacked websites,
  • Click on game demos,
  • Download infected music files,
  • Install new toolbars from an unknown vendor,
  • Configure the software from an insecure source,
  • Open a malicious attachment,
  • Or just about anything you download from the web on a device that doesn’t have quality anti-virus installed.

Malicious apps can hide in seemingly legitimate apps. Only download your apps from trusted and known app stores. It’s always best to stick with trusted sources for mobile apps.

Malware attacks wouldn’t work without the most important ingredient – you! Never open an attachment from an email that you don’t recognize, never click and install something from an untrusted source.

What are the most common forms of malware?

Here are the most common forms of virus attacks:

  1. The adware unwanted software is designed to display advertisements on your screen, usually in a Web browser. Usually, it uses a sneaky method of appearing legitimate or grafting onto another program to trick you into installing it on your PC, tablet, or mobile device.
  2.  Spyware is malicious software that spies on computer users’ activity without authorization and notifies the author of the software.
  3. virus is a malicious software that attaches itself to another program and, when executed, reproduces itself by modifying other computer programs and infecting them with its own code.
  4. The worms are a type of malware like viruses, which automatically replicate to propagate to other computers across a network by destroying data and files.
  5. Trojan horse is one of the most dangerous types of malware. It generally represents itself as something useful to deceive you. Once on your system, the attackers behind the Trojan gain unauthorized access to the affected computer. From there, Trojans can be used to steal financial information or install viruses and ransomware.
  6. Ransomware is a form of malware that locks your device and/or encrypts your files and requires you to pay a ransom to recover. It is a weapon of choice for cybercriminals because it demands fast and profitable payment in hard-to-detect cryptocurrency.
  7. The rootkit is a form of malware that gives the attacker the privileges of an administrator.
  8. The Keylogger is a malware that logs all the keystrokes of the user on the keyboard, it is very easy for the attacker to steal sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, or credit card details.
  9. The cryptojacking is a malware increasingly prevalent usually installed by a Trojan. It allows someone else to use your computer to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Monero by stealing your resources to earn money.
  10. The exploits are a type of malware that takes advantage of bugs and vulnerabilities of a system to allow the creator of the exploit to take control.

How to remove malware from your PC

What do you do if you think your Windows computer is infected with a computer virus? Follow these steps and you might be up and running again in no time.

You should already know by now: use antivirus software! These programs, from the best free tools to paid antivirus software, monitor and scan your Windows PC in real time to identify threats. It is imperative, especially with Windows, that an antivirus is installed.

However, even the best antivirus isn’t 100% foolproof. So if you think you are infected with malware, here is the procedure to remove the malware immediately.

Update your antivirus

First, make sure your existing antivirus software is fully updated. Antivirus companies are constantly updating lists as they encounter new viruses and Trojans.

Install an antivirus if you don’t have one

If you need to fix an infected PC in a business, you or your boss should get a full security suite. With the built-in software, perform a deep analysis. Let it run as long as needed and hope it finds and fixes the problem. This is your best chance.
The problem is, if the malware is working fine, it has probably disabled your antivirus …

Go back, restart, analyze and re-analyze

If you have set system restore points in Windows, use this opportunity to reset the system when malware attacks are not possible.

You can restart directly into Windows Defender Antivirus, the antivirus tool built into Windows 10. To do this:

  1. Select Windows
  2. Settings
  3. Update and security
  4. Windows security
  5. Antivirus and threat protection.

Once Windows Defender is activated:

  1. See “Run a new advanced scan” in Threat History.
  2. On the next screen, select “Windows Defender Offline Scan”.
  3. After a restart, it will take about 15 minutes to scan for “rootkits and other very persistent malware,” according to Microsoft.

If Windows is compromised far beyond that, bypass the operating system by booting directly into the antivirus software. Use a bootable CD program, sometimes called a “Live CD” or “Rescue CD”.

If that doesn’t work, run a Second-Opinion virus scanner.

The nuclear option

“The nuclear option” means reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling the operating system and all programs. This remains a viable method to reset the system without malware.

Windows 10 recovery options make it easy to reset a PC so that the operating system becomes a master without losing data (you’ll have to reinstall programs), or make a completely fresh start to get back to the original state. And to be honest, a fresh start is a good idea every now and then.

After a malware attack, take action like after a break-in: increase your security. Get the best security suite you can find, then do some cleaning up: uninstall any programs you don’t use regularly. And continue to be considerate!