Malware is a general term used to describe any type of “malicious software” that affects computers and other vulnerable gadgets like smartphones. There are different types of malware, each one of them working in its unique way. However, they all have two things in common: they're hell-bent on damaging the devices they infect and stealing the victims’ information.
In this piece, we’re going to explain how malware works, discuss its different types, share signs to know if your device has been infected, tell you how to protect your devices, and how to remove it.
HOW MALWARE WORKS
When a malicious program infects your device, it performs various acts against your computer. This happens without the victim's permission and all the actions follow the same patterns. Their main activities include:
- Stealing sensitive data
- Encrypting or locking the data
- Deleting important data
- Monitoring the victim’s activities
- Hijacking or changing the system’s main functions
All the malicious programs have unique characteristics and each of them has its own end goals. In this part, we’re going to look at the different types of malware and what they do.
TYPES OF MALWARE
Viruses are malicious computer programs that replicate by attaching themselves to clean files, infecting them, and spreading the infection uncontrollably. They get their name from the biological viruses that affect humans since they both work in a similar manner.
Viruses are all executable files, and most of them are naturally malicious. They damage the computer's core functionality and delete the system files.
This is the “kidnapping” version of malware and has become a huge problem nowadays. The hackers hold your data hostage and leave a ransom note asking you to make a payment using Bitcoins, or else everything will be lost.
Once the ransom is paid, the data is decrypted, although there's no guarantee that you're going to get your data back. Users should avoid storing very critical information on their computers, and ensure they have a backup stored in the cloud or a device not perpetually connected to their computer.
This type of malware collects information about the victim’s browsing habits and sends this data to the hacker. The data sent to the cybercriminals includes personal information, such as passwords and usernames. This puts the victims at risk of identity theft.
This program’s main job is to aggressively display advertisements with the intention of generating revenue. These pop-up ads can be very annoying, especially if you have other applications running as they cause the apps to freeze.
Computer worms are created with one clear intention: Proliferating your entire network. The worms work by infecting the computer, and then replicate. They then spread to more computers. Worms rely on the network’s security weakness to move around.
Worms differ from viruses in such a way that the former don’t cause much harm to the host machines. They mostly slow down the network. On the other hand, viruses work by corrupting and modifying files on the host computer.
These malicious programs get into a computer by misleading the user into thinking that they are very useful programs. Once you activate the legitimate software, the Trojans create backdoors through which the cybercriminals gain access to your computer and could go as far as downloading additional malware and causing further damage to your computer.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR DEVICES SAFE
It can be quite difficult to detect malware as the programs usually work behind the scenes, quietly. However, since the functioning of malware relies heavily on a computer’s processing power, users begin to notice many performance issues. A significant slowdown of the system is an indication of an infection.
It’s worth noting that malware is not a problem for computers only. No electronic device is immune to malware, especially if it connects to the internet. Malware can also affect mobile phones and tablets running on Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.
Just like any other malicious program, malware must be downloaded, installed, and started to perform dubious acts. Most times, malware gets in our computers accidentally when we are downloading other legitimate software.
The infections could also get on your computer if you click on links that take you to a malicious site. The links are shared through emails or text messages. Alternatively, the malware could be spread from one device to another through a USB stick. For this reason, you should avoid inserting unfamiliar USB drives into your computer.
Here are some of the ways in which you should protect your devices from malware infections:
- Install a robust anti-malware tool from a trusted website and make sure that it’s always up to date.
- Don’t click on links sent to you via email or any alerts that pop-up on your screen.
- Always double-check your downloads.
- Get a reliable ad-blocker.
HOW TO REMOVE MALWARE
Unfortunately, you could take all the precautions in the world but still get infected with malware as cybercriminals are always coming up with ways of sneaking malware into people’s computers. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, don't panic. Most malware infections are easily removable by following a simple malware removal guide.
However, not all infections are easy to detect and get rid of after they’ve embedded themselves into the system. Consider these options to remove any malware from your computer and restore it to normal:
Option 1: Using software
This is the easiest and most reliable way of removing malware and making sure that all its files are gone for good. Anti-malware tools are designed to detect malware on your computer and remove them. These PC cleaning tools are commonly referred to as “antivirus” and are a great way of protecting your device against such infections as they keep uninterrupted vigilance.
There are numerous PC repair software tools that may be used to remove malware from your computer. Here’s the procedure:
- Scan your computer to detect malware.
- If a virus, worm, or any other malware is detected, you are notified.
- Click “uninstall" to remove all the programs found.
- Your PC is fixed.
Option 2: Manual removal
Follow these steps to remove the malware from your computer manually:
- Download the “Autoruns” program.
- Restart your computer into safe mode.
This prevents the malware program from starting.
- Go to “C: Autoruns.”
- Double-click “Autoruns.”
- Click “Options.”
- On the menu, select “Hide Empty Locations” to disable it.
- Enable “Hide Microsoft Entries.”
- Activate the “Verify Code Signatures” option.
- Press F5 to refresh the new settings.
- Look for the malware under the “Logon” or “Services” tabs.
- Once you find the file you wish to remove, right-click on it and click “Delete."
- Your computer is now free of any infections. Restart it in “Normal mode."
Malware code is often written by cybercriminals who are looking to make money. In some cases, however, malware may be used as a way of testing security or as a weapon of war between countries. But it doesn't matter for what reason the malware is created or in what form it comes. It is always destructive if it infiltrates your computer. Luckily, there are ways of preventing and removing malware from your computer.