Have you wondered why people would write viruses and spyware that infect your computer? The answer is simple: they are trying to rob you.
There’s a good article about the history and current trends of hacking titled Why hackers write computer viruses on msnbc.com.
The most common infections I have seen recently are fake anti-virus and anti-spyware products. Their goal is to extort cash from you by frightening you about many viruses on your computer and asking you to pay for their anti-virus program to remove themselves. These programs lie–they report infections that are not present and may block running programs claiming they are infected. These programs are sometimes called “scareware.”
The best defense against getting infected with any kind of “malware” (spyware, virus, scareware) is to have both an anti-virus program and a malware blocking program. For anti-virus, I generally recommend Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s free and well-integrated into Windows.
For malware, I use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware PRO. The Pro version offers real-time protection whose goal is to prevent your computer from being infected in the first place. This product costs $24.95, but search the internet for “malwarebytes coupon” and try different coupons for the best discount. (I used 5MU-NBU-DFR to get the cost down to less than $20 earlier this year.)
If you do get infected, what should you do? I will write an article on that later but, in summary, boot into safe mode (press F8 before Windows starts) and run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. Be sure the programs are current and have the most recent virus and spyware definitions. Microsoft Safety Scanner can be useful when run in safe mode. If you maintain a nightly image backup of your C: drive, and you trust your backups, you can restore the drive to the night before the computer became infected (with possible loss of some data like recent emails). Finally, if your efforts fail or you need help, call a consultant (such as myself).