I am now quite a risk-taker when surfing the Web. When i’m still a computer newbie three years ago, i was pretty cowardly at exploring the web, visiting unknown sites and downloading mysterious stuffs. I contracted countless Trojans and got two Worms when i’m still using Windows XP. Possibly a few spywares here and there too. After i moved to Windows Vista in summer 2008, and then Windows 7 in early 2009, my security woes have lessened a lot but occasionally i might get infected too.
My tips are based mostly on experience with a bit of technical knowledge, and it’ll go in four main steps:
STEP 1: TURN OFF YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION
It’s pretty simple. Either disconnect properly using your network properties or simply just pull off the ethernet cable (of course it’s not recommendable). If you’re using a notebook and are connected by wireless, that’s even easier: just flick off the wireless switch or button.
As hackers and intruders are remotely manipulating your PC and obtaining information online, disconnecting from the web is the most simple and effective way to stop them from taking full control of your PC. Trojans and Spyware require an internet connection in order to send some useful stuffs back to their creator...so by turning OFF the internet connection, basically you’ve reduced the malwares’ damage by HALF!!!
STEP 2: STOP ALL RUNNING PROGRAMS AND TASKS
This is important: sometimes a malware is activated and started doing its dirty jobs because you have executed a program which is infected by that malware. So, the simple thing to do? CLOSE all programs running on your PC! If you’re currently doing something, just save your work and exit; it won’t do you harm.
STEP 3: GIVE YOUR PC SOME GOOD, THOROUGH SCANS
After disconnecting from the internet and shutting down all running programs, here’s the familiar one: scan your PC. You wouldn’t need me to tell you what to do: Pull out all the security tools (all the antivirus, antispyware and antimalwares you got), and start scanning! (I hope you do keep your virus databases updated though, or else you might miss out some malwares)
Nowadays, some hackers and virus creators are really evil. They wouldn’t just attach one virus to a file; they will attach MANY, some included spywares and keyloggers together with a couple of Trojans or even a Worm. It is not hard to understand why, though. Malicious users often attach many malwares to a file because they are counting on the fact that lots of users only have ONE antivirus to protect themselves. By attaching MANY malwares to a file, once a user got infected, his or her antivirus perhaps may only pick up some of them, while the other malwares….well, remain HIDDEN and HAPPY. As long as the malicious user got its wish of infecting your PC, they won’t care actually how many malwares your antivirus had caught. Next time when you, thought that you’re safe, went back onlining again, they will still be able to gain access to your systems….
Now, back to the scanning stuffs. If your security software caught something, try to ask the security software to disinfect it first. If there is no such option available, or that the security software failed to disinfect the file, WATCH BEFORE YOU DELETE! I have a case when i used to delete an infected file and it caused one of my application software to become crippled. If there is an option called “quarantine”, use it! It is there for a reason.
STEP 4: CLEAN UP YOUR SYSTEM RESTORE, DEFRAG YOUR PC AND RESTART
In the event that you have System Restore turned on and running on your PC, remember to wipe it clean. That is to prevent malwares once residing in your PC being preserved in a System Restore point. If you did not do it, who knows one day when you need to restore your PC to an earlier state, the malware would live once again!
As malwares can cause fragmentation on your PC due to some background “nuisance” they started up, it is advisable to to defrag your PC after cleaning up an infection. Cases are rare, but failing to defrag your PC which had been severely fragmented by a piece of malware may cause your system to run slowly or even crash, if it was the system files that got fragmented.
After all that, restart your PC. Some antivirus such as Kaspersky occasionally ask for a restart to clean up certain malwares. But even so, the best thing is to restart it manually.
After detailing the “Four-Step Process”, here are my further recommendation:
1. In the event you failed to clean up those malwares, try to restore your PC back to an earlier state via System Restore. If you are pretty aware of your PC’s malware status, make sure that you choose a restore point which is healthy and free of malwares. That is of course, achievable provided that you DID NOT apply the optional choice of cleaning your System Restore point in my 4th step!
2. If you suspect your PC is still infected or partially uncleaned of malwares, try booting your PC in safe mode WITHOUT networking and start another series of scans. In safe mode, your OS is operating at a minimum amount of software and processes, Therefore, it is a definite thing that your PC can be further checked. However, DO NOT attempt to replace any STEP 1-STEP 3 of my “Four-Step Process” with this! You’ll seriously be sorry if you do that, because some malwares are designed to fully control your PC ONCE YOU RESTART for the first time they went active!!! A Trojan called Kavo.exe once did this to my XP…
3. If your PC has been taken over completely even after all that i recommend to you, and your PC is crippled or rendered useless, then i’m afraid a reformat aka reinstallation of your PC is required….definitely required. The only three reasons you could have got to this end after following all my advice are:
A) Your security software (antivirus, antispyware whatsoever) are poor/mediocre in detection
B) You DID NOT update your security software
C) The hackers/intruders are too hacking-geeky that they totally annihilated your PC at their first attempt….(though i hope it’s impossible)
However, do take note that reformating your PC is the ABSOLUTELY LAST RESORT. By reformatting, even though you can be 110% sure that you’ll wipe out the pesky malwares, but then you can also be 99% sure that you’ll lose all your data stored in the PC. There are cases where i still managed to retrieve a few of my documents through file-recovering but then i can guarantee you approximately a 99.5% loss of previous data. If you’re still able to operate your PC after some malware attacks, just backup your important stuffs on a USB drive or any other storage device before you reformat.