Keeping Your Computer Safe
Last week I wrote an article about Security and just yesterday I had to help a friend and business partner clean some nasty malware from his computer. In fact that was the 2nd time in the last 3 weeks that I had to help him with malware infestations on his computer.
It was infected with several malwares that his last scan didn't catch, one of which was a virus! His computer had been running slow for weeks, and 3 weeks ago it crashed into the Blue Screen of Death (BsoD), which is where a Windows machine goes when something goes seriously wrong with it.
What caused this BSoD?
Basically, when he had his anti-virus program do a scan, it found about 187 malware files, most of them adwares, which slowed his computer down and eventually caused it to crash. I spent at least an hour on the phone with him trying to figure out how to get his computer to reboot. Eventually it did reboot, after about a 20 minute wait for it to load up and log him in.
After he finished the virus scan and had removed those 180+ malware files, his computer booted up and ran much faster.
What happened yesterday?
Yesterday, my friend's computer was showing warnings of being infected with the D-link malware, a type of adware that sends his browser to commercial sites, essentially hijacking his internet experience. I've had such malwares on my computer and know from my own experience what a pain in the you-know-where, they can be.
Naturally I helped him go through the process of removing this junk program from his computer. It was while removing this D-link malware and doing a required reboot that his computer went into another episode of a 20 minute boot-up.
This was right before doing the last step in cleaning out the D-link. In the last step he is to run a scan with a program called HitmanPro, which is what uncovered the virus (OPTPROCRASH.DLL). HitmanPro was able to get rid of the virus luckily and when my friend rebooted his computer, it booted up fast and ran faster than it has in months!
Knowing the nature of viruses, I have downloaded HitmanPro for myself and run my own scan. Good thing I did. Even though my AVG Internet Security did protect me from getting that virus (HitmanPro didn't find any sign of it on my computer), it did find several junk and malware programs on my computer that AVG had missed.
What's the moral of this story?
There are several, the first of which is to be aware that one anti-virus/anti-malware scanner may not catch all threats, so it's never a bad idea to have a secondary means of scanning for and removing them. In this case AVG did protect me from the optprocrash.dll virus, but couldn't protect me from threats like Conduit (a browser helper that automatically installs, with some downloaded software without my knowledge or consent) and a few adware/spyware type programs that AVG had missed. The important thing here is to have backups in place to detect threats sooner rather than later. What one scan misses, another may catch.
Another is to be careful of what you download, from where, and what websites you visit. Also, as some extra things can be installed with a downloaded program, be sure to use the custom install and uncheck any extra programs you don't recognize or don't want. With surfing, follow any warnings your firewall, browser or anti-virus software gives you, if it says “this site is dangerous” it probably is. Sites most likely to give you unwanted, harmful extras like malware, include (but are not limited to) porn sites, illegal pirate sites downloading music, software (i.e. games), and any other site that deals in illegal or at least unethical activities. Remember, if someone is unethical in one area, chances are they're unethical in other areas too.
Downloading email attachments from strange emails is another classic way these things can get into your system. Be sure you know who's sending you emails and that the attached files are something you're expecting. Emails can also have links to attack sites that can steal your personal info, or load viruses and other harmful software onto your computer.
So have one or two good anti-virus/anti-malware scanners, a good firewall and be vigilant in your browsing activities and you should stay clear of the worst the internet has to offer, keeping you free to enjoy the best it has to offer.
How do I know if my computers infected?
There are a few warning signs that your computer is infected:
- It’s running slower than normal
- It randomly crashes or reboots on its own
- Programs that were working fine randomly crash for no apparent reason
- Files or programs stop working properly or crash your computer whenever you try to use them
- Your anti-virus/anti-malware tells you of an infection
The last is the most obvious and definitive. The other symptoms don't necessarily mean a virus or other malware has infected your computer, but they do mean something's gone wrong with it. Other than your anti-virus telling you of an infection, all other signs could just as easily mean you have too much normal software running, or your running something that's pushing your computer too hard, or that some hardware is breaking down. A computer that's overheating can just as easily crash as one that's infected with a virus.
What those warning signs do mean is that something's wrong with your computer and you need to get if fixed before it gets any worse.
I recommend you get AVG Internet Security to keep yourself protected from online threats like malware and hackers.