Your computer has been terrific—it opens files fast, connects to the Internet quickly, and gets onto the network lickety-split. But now, your machine will not connect to the Internet when you tell it to, it opens up porno websites and gives you pop-ups telling you that your machine has been infected. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to see that something has infected your system. Now, what?
In terms of service calls, the most common one of late has been to remove malware. Malware, as defined by Wikipedia, a contraction of “malicious software”, is software designed to secretly access a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code.
How Do You Know If You’ve Got Malware?
There are a number of signs that a computer has been infected with malware. Often, the machine will run slowly, become unresponsive, and not allow you to open a number of your applications. We have seen malware programs that stop the launching of Task Manager and Control Panel. These are two useful tools helpful in deter- mining when your machine is running “other” programs. Most computers run an application “baseline”; these are the programs that normally load and run with the computer in a planned and expected manner. When you see a service that has an unusual name, a simple search on Google will often resolve any mystery about what the program does. However, when you have a malware infection, you will not always be able to access the Internet to do this quick search.
So, as indicated, another symptom that you have a malware program installed is the fact that you might not be able to access the Internet. You may note that other computers on your network CAN access it, so it becomes even more apparent when you can’t. Sometimes, the malware may prevent Internet Explorer from loading, in other instances the “at-risk” program will modify your settings so that the browser expects to be using a proxy server which might not exist. For your information, a PROXY SERVER, is another computer that acts as an intermediary and makes requests on behalf of another machine. A “Proxy” may be used to access a file connection, a web page, or another resource. It can be compared to telling your child to wait for the crossing guard to help cross the street—however, in the case of malware, the crossing guard is absent and your browser (the child) will wait indefinitely for the appearance of the resource. Thus, your browser never can access the Internet. There are two “tests” to determine if your settings have been modified:
- Open a START > Run > CMD window. In the window, ping a site (e.g., ping COMPANYWEBSITE). If it resolves or responds, then you know the computer IS online. It’s now time for step #2.
- Open Internet Explorer > Tools OR START > Settings [Control Panel], Internet Options > Connections > LAN Settings. If the box for Proxy Server it ticked, uncheck it.
Some malware infestations will overtly connect you to the Internet by launching multiple instances of websites that promote porno and other questionable content. For many, this creates an embarrassment inasmuch as they may be perceived by their work colleagues as perverted or non-compliant with regard to their company’s Acceptable Use Policies for Internet Access. Some may be too shy to ask for help in removing the software based upon fear for one’s job. Others in the area may witness the sites that are launched and report the victim’s activities to management due to the creation of a hostile work environment. All together, the story gets uglier the longer the victim tries to convince him/herself that it’s only a temporary situation.
Where do people contract malware?
Malware, just like other unwanted software, may find its way onto your computer from a variety of sources: e-mail, websites, social networks or via local area networks (LANs). It is critical for all users on networked computers to have current versions of security software on each machine. This can help reduce the incidence of “infections.”
How do you remove malware?
There are many brands of anti-malware software available in stores and on the Internet—some are free and some have fees. It is critical to understand that some of these anti-malware programs are distributed as “on-demand” software. Unlike most anti-virus programs, a number of these applications are NOT real-time scanners, but need to be run MANUALLY. As a result, if you have the scanners, you need to have them run often on your computer. Two anti-malware programs that we have used and found to be effective are Malwarebytes and Spybot. If you use a full featured antivirus, it may also be able to scan and clean malware. Check the feature list to see if that functionality is already included.
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