Musselburgh Computer Repairs

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The problem with malware

So, what is this 'malware' people are talking about? Malware is a very broad term used to describe any software that is an unwanted nuisance in your computer. They are very common, and may well be present on your computer without you realising it.

Is this something you should worry about? Yes you probably should, because while a lot of malware consists of minor nuisances, things that run in the background, 'spyware' collecting data on your internet viewing habits perhaps, and whose main effect is to use up valuable computer resources causing your computer to run slower, other examples are much more intrusive, and might change your internet home page, or change the default search engine so as to direct you to some shopping sites.

More serious still are varieties of 'trojan', short for 'trojan horse', a class of nuisance that typically is installed in your computer as the unwanted extra along with something you thought might be useful. Trojans are often described by the sort of task they are intended to do for their writer. A 'downloader trojan' exists to download something else bad to your computer, a 'key-logger trojan' is one designed to record keystrokes, probably to steal your on-line banking details, with a view to phoning them home to its creator. Other examples of this nuisance might store the information ready to hand out when queried by the creator.

A type of trojan that was major nuisance in the past was the 'dialer trojan', which existed to disconnect a computer from its normal dial-up internet provider, and instead dial a premium-rate phone service. As internet users moved to broadband this type fell out of use.

A 'virus' is something unwanted that is capable of reproducing itself. It is nuisance that quite apart from its main function of doing something unwanted on your computer much as a trojan would, is also designed to actively spread itself, perhaps through emails, or over a home network. Some years ago viruses were commonly spread between computers on floppy disks, these days a USB drive is more likely to be the way they spread in a fairly similar way.

A common and serious problem these days is having your computer infected with one of what is known as 'bogus' or 'fake' antivirus tools. These awful things disable a legitimate antivirus program, and pop up endless warning messages prompting you to download some pay-for tool to remove the things it purports to have found.

Cleaning all the malware out

Fortunately I have various techniques and software tools available to me to help find and remove malware. Often the task is quite straight-forward, and at other times it is more of a challenge. In very rare cases it mght be necessary to reformat the hard drive and reinstall everything to deal with a very persistent type of virus known as a 'rootkit'. These nasties dig there way in deep into the computer, loading themselves so deep into the system that they are invisible to the operating system.

Last, but not least, what should you do to prevent problems with malware in the future?

The most important first step is to make sure you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer, and that it is kept up to date.

You can splash out on one of the expensive security suites if you feel more comfortable doing that, but I recommend using one of the very good free products available. My current favourite is Microsoft Security Essentials, good alternatives are AVG Free, or Avast! Free Antivirus.

The most important security tool is your head, get into the habit of looking before you click on links in emails, or while browsing the web. A website offering you a 'free scan', or to 'speed up your computer' may very well not be legitimate at all, but one of the various fake or bogus antivirus tool scams.