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The term ‘virus’ is frequently used to describe multiple different types of malicious software, collectively known as malware.
Malicious software is a description of computer programs that install themselves on a PC without the user’s knowledge. They can damage computer data, reduce a computer’s performance and allow hackers unauthorized access to both computer and the user’s personal information. If a computer becomes infected with arguably must be removed for both security and performance reasons.
Arguably the most effective way of detecting computer viruses is the dictionary virus detection method. This virus detection method compares the contents of files to a virus definition database to see if that file contains malware code. If it does, the antivirus software will take steps to alert the user and quarantine, remove or clean the computer virus.
Of course, this method works so long as the antivirus software and the virus definition files are kept up to date. To put it another way, a virus may have infected a computer but the antivirus software may not be able to detect it because there is no entry in the dictionary to tell it what to look for.
Dealing with New Computer Viruses
To detect the latest viruses, antivirus software sometimes uses a sandbox and/or heuristic method of virus detection. The heuristic method monitors computers for suspicious behavior. Any activity that fits the profile of what a virus would do will cause the antivirus software to take defensive measures such as trying to quarantine the virus.
The sandbox approach examines the actions of suspicious files after it has allowed them to run in a controlled or simulated environment. As with the heuristic methods, the sandbox approach is not foolproof and therefore tends to give some false alarms. The sandbox and heuristic methods are however useful in detecting the latest computer viruses that have not yet been documented and mutating viruses that constantly self-modify to change their signature.
Mutating viruses are a significant threat to computers and present a big challenge to antivirus software. One of the first things that a polymorphic virus does, once it starts, is to self-modify. This makes it more difficult for antivirus programs to detect them using traditional methods.
In addition to the challenges that mutating viruses pose, sophisticated cloaking and encryption methods are also being used to make viruses virtually undetectable. Therefore, in addition to using antivirus software and ensuring that they are kept up-to-date, computer users need to also use other security measures to protect their computers against malware.
How to Remove a Virus or Malware?
Viruses and other types of malware are designed to be difficult to remove and some are specifically programmed to replicate themselves when a user attempts to remove them.
As most modern viruses will spread through computer networks, to entirely eradicate a virus all infected computers must be removed from the network. On a wired network, this can be achieved by simply removing the network cable. On a wireless network, this will involve either disabling the wireless card or disconnecting/switching off the wireless router.
Virus Removal Tools
Most large antivirus firms will offer removal tools for well-known viruses. These can normally be downloaded from their websites by searching for the name of the virus. When installing removal tools a user must follow the instructions provided for effective removal.
On a Windows computer, removing a virus will often require disabling Windows System Restore as modern viruses will keep reverting to an infected restore point if removed.
Removing a virus may also require editing the registry. This should be done with extreme caution and only by following the specific instructions provided.
Antivirus Software and Anti-Spyware
All computers should have up-to-date antivirus software installed. This should prevent infection by well-known viruses and can also be used to remove existing malware. It is always advisable to purchase antivirus software including anti-spyware to effectively prevent infections.
The virus definitions database must be kept up to date as this is the only way to prevent newer strains of viruses. Antivirus software is normally purchased with a license for a certain number of years. Once the license expires the software will often continue to run. However, it usually won’t download updates meaning the PC is exposed to newer viruses.
If a computer is already infected, some malware will prevent the subsequent installation of antivirus software.
Formatting a Hard Drive
Depending on the severity of the malware, removal tools and antivirus software are sometimes incapable of removing a virus successfully. Whilst it may appear the virus has been eradicated, it will often reappear when a computer is restarted or at a specific time interval.
When all other forms of removal have failed, the last resort is to format the hard drive. This involves deleting everything from the hard disk and starting again. All programs and data will be lost so it is essential data is backed up beforehand.
A hard disk can be formatted by booting the PC from a CD containing the Operating System, a wizard will guide the user through formatting the disk and reinstalling the Operating System. Once installed all other software will need reinstalling.
How to Prevent Viruses and Malware?
Prevention of malware is the key to keeping a computer secure. There are several factors in helping to prevent a computer from becoming infected.
Antivirus software is the most efficient way of preventing viruses and will also assist in removing malware as soon as it infects a system before it has a chance to spread.
Virus Scanning Removable Devices
Many viruses spread through removable media. Therefore, it is essential any USB memory sticks, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, etc. are virus scanned before being used in different computers. Most modern antivirus software has built-in features for automatically scanning removal devices upon insertion.
Microsoft Antivirus Tools
Microsoft has launched various free tools in an attempt to combat malicious software infecting their Operating Systems.
- Windows Defender– an anti-spyware program designed to prevent and remove any spyware found on a Windows PC
- Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool – a tool designed to specifically remove well-known viruses such as Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom
- Windows Firewall– a basic firewall included with Operating Systems from Windows XP onwards
Microsoft Updates / Windows Updates
Microsoft frequently releases security updates to its software. There is a standard release on the second Tuesday of every month. However, when major software vulnerabilities are discovered there is usually an unscheduled release of a critical update. To keep a computer secure it is essential updates are installed frequently.
Updates can be installed manually through the Microsoft Update website or automatically by switching on Automatic Updates on a Windows PC.
Protecting Computers Against the Latest Viruses
Effectively protecting computers against the latest virus threats requires some commonsense and vigilance on the part of computer users, as well as the proper maintenance of computer assets. Some strategies that can be used to protect computers against new and perhaps undetectable viruses include:
Not always using the computer in administrator mode – Running operating systems in administrator mode allows viruses to do more damage because of the greater privileges that admin mode provides. By simply running a computer in user mode, some types of viruses would be made completely harmless.
Apply security patches – Security patches should be applied as soon as they are made available to fix known flaws and security gaps in software and productivity programs.
Education – If users were better educated about computer security best practices such as not downloading and running a certain program, viruses would not be as prevalent as they are today.
While some antivirus software will not readily detect the very latest viruses, keeping computers safe from security threats can be accomplished by following some computer security best practices, remaining vigilant to suspicious activity, and keeping antivirus software up-to-date at all times.
About the author: John J. Gregg is an experienced writer on essaywriter.nyc where he provides students with an opportunity to get high grades. Besides, He is fond of reading and playing the guitar. By the way, John dreams of traveling a lot and visiting as many countries as possible.