On-Site Virus Removal: Kalamazoo, Portage

Infected ComputerIf you think your computer is infected, don’t panic. West Michigan Computer Care has the right “medicine.” In most cases, we can use a proven, three-step process to permanently remove viruses and other pests from the computer without taking any invasive action.

Sometimes, however, computer infections cannot be “surgically” removed from the computer. When this happens, the only way to get the computer healthy is to perform a full system recovery – this involves reformatting the hard drive and reinstalling the Windows operating system. If you do not have a recent backup of your important files, don’t worry – we can usually back them up for you, then return them to their original location after the operating system has been reinstalled. Once your computer is healthy again, we will install free, State of the Art virus protection that outperforms the software you are used to buying.

Types of Malware

Most people incorrectly use the term “virus” to describe all types of computer infections. However, viruses are only one type of infection that falls into a broader category called “malware” – computer programs designed with malicious intent. Confused about the differences between viruses, spyware and other Internet pests? This page describes the various catogories of malware.

Viruses

Viruses attach themselves to executable software programs, allowing them to spread to other computers. This “reproductive” capability makes viruses unique. A true virus is unable to execute itself – a computer user must open or run the program in order to install and spread the infection. However, the malicous programmers who create viruses often use creative ways to entice an unsuspecting user to click the “Devil button.” See “Trojans” below.

Worms

Worms, technically a sub-class of viruses, exploit your computer’s capability to send files and information. Unlike a virus, worms can spread from computer to computer without any human interaction. It is not uncommon for a worm to replicate on an infected computer, then send hundreds or even thousands of copies of itself to everyone in the user’s email address book! Particularly vicous worms have been known to replicate so quickly across networks that they overwhelm servers, causing them to stop responding. The result is wide-spread service interruption and lost productivity. Some worms can even tunnel into a system and allow malicious users to control computers remotely.

Spyware

Spyware is also a form of malware but, unlike viruses, spyware lacks the ability to replicate and spread. Make no mistake, however, spyware can be every bit as malicious as a virus. By definition, spyware is a program that secretly installs itself on a computer, then monitors user activity. Some forms of spyware can collect personal information, interfere with user control, and even pretend to be useful. For these reasons, spyware is often difficult to detect without the right knowledge and tools. The only sign may be that your computer runs very slowly. Once it’s on your computer, spyware programs automatically load themselves in background whenever you start your computers. Over time, these infections “hold the door open” for other, related malware. Left undetected, spyware collectively robs Windows of virtual memory that is required to perform routine tasks. The result is reduced performance.

Trojans

Just like the Trojan Horse of Greek mythology, computer trojans masquerade as something that is friendly and genuinely useful for your computer. Since Trojans, by themselves, cannot replicate, they are technically not viruses. However, Trojans can be used as a way to “package” viruses and spyware. Combined threats like these are known as “blended threats.” Because Trojans often deliver blended threats, they often incorporate the “best of the worst,” and can potentially be the most destructive type of malware. One common example of a Trojan is the annoying imposter malware program that mysteriously pops up, scans your computer and tries to make you think you’re infected with a host of bogus malware. You are then prompted to click a button to “fix the problem,” which may unleash a payload of malware, or attempt to entice you into entering your credit card information.

Preventing Malware

Unfortunately, there is no “silver bullet” to protect your computer from all forms of malware. Even the most expensive, anti-malware applications are fallible. For non-commercial use, there are plenty of free security products available that work just as well as the ones you’re used to buying. One such example, strongly recommended by West Michigan Computer Care is Microsoft Security Essentials, which can be downloaded here.

All malware prevention software requires regular updates in order to keep itself aware of the latest threats. Normally, anti-malware software will automatically check for updates and perform scheduled scans. However, the update process requires a functional Internet connection. If the computer has been off (and, therefore, disconnected from the Internet) for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to manually update your anti-malware software to quickly “catch up.” Remember, your protection is only as good as your most recent update! Likewise, make sure have the latest version of your anti-malware software – outdated or expired anti-malware software eventually ceases to provide adequate protection. Finally, schedule your automated scans for a time when you know the computer will be powered ON. Automated scans won’t run unless your computer is ON at the scheduled time!

In the end, there is no substitute for common sense. Avoid opening email from people you don’t know, and especially those messages that offer goods and services that seem too good to be true. Don’t wander around in the back alleyways of the Internet – if you frequent questionable websites, it’s only a matter of time before you will get burned. Also, consider using an Internet content filtering service, such as OpenDNS (www.opendns.com). Content filters evaluate websites before they open in your Web browser, then allow or block them accordingly.

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