Viruses & spyware are things which have evolved over time to become what they are today. Bad stuff for your PC. How do you protect yourself in today’s world of this? It’s not easy if you’re looking for solutions online, but very easy if you already know exactly what you want and where to get it. So let’s see if we can help everyone be safer online and safer overall.
VIRUSES & SPYWARE DEFINED
These are nasty little bugs that get on your system. While different people (and companies) will have different definitions for each, and some will even group them all in the same category, they do have some slight differences and the names of each also depend on what they do.
Viruses in general harm your system by compromising some key components and usually tries to duplicate itself. You’ll find that some spyware does this too, but while viruses typically harms your system or covertly replicates itself spyware is blatant about being present – but in a nice way.
Let’s get some definitions in this. Courtesy of Google.
Virus – a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data.
Spyware – software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive.
Malware – software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems.
Scareware – malicious computer programs designed to trick a user into buying and downloading unnecessary and potentially dangerous software, such as fake antivirus protection.
Ransomeware – a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
And believe it or not – there’s more. For each method used you’ll find a different definition. For the purpose of this post however we’re going to just use the two broad categories of viruses and spyware.
So let’s break it down for clarification. Viruses and spyware may behave in similar ways, but viruses act behind the scenes while spyware is more up-front. Usually spyware will install itself bundled with something that’s good or that you want. A typical example of this is the Conduit Search spyware which is bundled with a lot of different things that you may want to use – like Crystal DiskInfo.
The software you’re installing is good, but the installer package that the programmer uses may just have garbage bundled with it. Most end-users are programmed by technicians to “just click NEXT, YES or I AGREE” and as such they do this. The problem is that the “bundled offers” with most packages are the things that mess you up, and then trips to the store for multiple unwanted popups or unable to change your home page or similar things come up. Stuff that finds things to fix on your PC but you have to pay for the software to get the supposed fixes. Then once your credit card info is obtained – you’re stuck with them for life.
In order to keep yourself protected and have minimal down-time if you get infected we’re going to give you three steps. Not necessarily simple steps, but three that should be fairly easy to do.
- Always have a system backup.
- Practice safe browsing.
- Use protection.
The steps are not listed in any particular order – it’s just how we put it while typing them out.
1. SYSTEM BACKUP
This involves two things you need to have. First is your actual system or factory image/backup and the other is a backup of your files.
Most persons have a desktop or laptop that they use. If it’s a laptop then half of your work is done. If it’s a desktop that’s a custom build – meaning not a Dell, Acer, HP or any other factory-made machine – then it’s a little harder.
For laptops and factory machines you should have an option to create your factory or system recovery discs. This entails purchasing DVD discs or an external drive (for systems without CD/DVD drives) and running the manufacturer’s software to create your recovery/factory image. Once this is done you will always be able to restore the laptop/desktop to the way it was when you just purchased it.
For desktops that are custom built you will need third-party software from Paragon or Acronis. While both will have paid solutions you can find a free solution from Paragon.
Create the backup disk image using the software of your choice and then we’re on to the next phase – the file backup.
Click on START then on RUN. For persons with Windows 8/8.1 press and hold the WINDOWS key on the keyboard and then press R. This keyboard shortcut can be done from any edition of Windows but is specifically needed for Windows 8/8.1 as they have no start menu. If you do have a start menu but can’t see the RUN option just use the same shortcut key. Type in %UserProfile% and click on OK or press ENTER on the keyboard. This should bring you to your user profile folder. Copy the entire contents to DVD or an external drive. If using DVDs you may need multiple depending on the size of the folders – an external drive is highly recommended.
Once these steps are done keep the backups in a safe place. Make periodic updates to your backup of the folders from the %UserProfile% folder to keep things current. This will ensure that you can always get your system back up and running and your files will always be safe.
2. PRACTICE SAFE BROWSING
This is something that can’t be stressed enough. Check your email. Check your social media. Check forums and such. Don’t click on the pretty flashing ads. Just don’t.
While infections can come from any angle the bulk of new infections come from clicking on things that you think are harmless. There have even been some FaceBook viruses (scripts) that hijack your account and replicate themselves by posting random things to your wall for others to click on. Some of these include porn-related things for celebrities, stating that the account holder won money and you can get a share, photos of friends that you caught that they don’t have and other such claims.
While it seems like being paranoid – and it kinda is – in some cases it’s needed. If you see something that you like, check it out by running a search about it first. If you’re still not sure then go to a reputable site – like Download.com from CNet – and search for the program there. If it’s not listed then it’s probably not safe – that’s not a rule to live by, but it’s a start. One example of a good app that’s not on CNet would be Explorer++. It’s not bundled with any spyware (at the time of this writing) but it’s not listed on CNet.
So…………..basically you just need to read the things you’re installing. Stay within the zone you’re accustomed to. Don’t download and use things that you’re not familiar with.
3. USE PROTECTION
Finally – we suggest the use of free protection if you can’t afford to buy protection at this time. Free things to use include AVG and Avast! antivirus. Paid versions of most antivirus software will work, and other popular ones include Norton, Kaspersky and Bit Defender.
If for some reason you believe you’re already infected then download and install one of the antivirus packages mentioned above and run a full scan. If you think you still have an infection then use SUPER AntiSpyware and MalwareBytes Anti-Malware – not one or the other – BOTH. Download and install then run a full scan with one then the other. If you find that this has not cleaned your system then you’ll need to perform the steps in #2 to get your files off, and use the backup created prior to an infection in #1 to get your system back up.
At the time of this writing it’s been brought to our attention that some of the reputable sites – like Download.com – may have started to bundle installers with some of their downloads. As a result ensure that you’re only installing things that you WANT and not additional bundled items. Here’s a few names to look out for and avoid when you’re downloading or installing stuff.
Conduit Search Protect
Search Assistant SearchWeb
Trovi Search Protect
Norton has provided a tool to remove some of these toolbars free of cost.
Hopefully with the information provided here you’ll not be needing a format/reinstall or restore from backup, and if you do end up needing it then hopefully the information here will prepare you for the worst.