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What to Do When You Suspect You Have Been Infected With Malware


infected-by-malware.jpgComputer security experts estimate that over a third of personal computers contain viruses. If your 
computer has a virus, criminals can potentially steal your private information. Even if the hackers don't commit fraud, viruses can cause a host of problems for your computer.

If you suspect that your computer has a virus, follow these four steps to remove it.

1. Don't Sign In to Secure Websites

A type of malware called keyloggers are designed to record everything you type and send the information back to hackers. If you sign in to a secure website, such as your bank or email accounts, the keylogger can capture your log in information. Once a hacker has your login info, he or she can access your personal accounts to commit fraud or send copies of the malware to people in your contact list.

As long as you don't sign in to any secure websites, the hackers won't get the information they need to commit crimes.

2. Update Your Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software can only recognize the malware it knows how to identify. Unfortunately, criminals constantly make new types of malware to infect computers. If you haven't updated your anti-virus program in a while, then the software might not have a current list of threats to look for.

Updating your anti-virus software will make it easier to prevent a malware infection. Not all software developers, however, know about the same threats. It's a good idea to use at least two types of anti-virus software to make sure you're protected.

You can also use free scans from companies like ESET to get a second opinion about any malware that's currently on your computer. Getting a second (or even a third) opinion is an especially good idea when you suspect your computer has a virus that your security software can't find.

It's also a good idea to keep your operating system and applications updated. Many programs are updated when the publisher becomes aware of potential exploits.

3. Run Anti-Virus Software in Safe Mode

Sophisticated malware knows how to embed itself deep in your computer's system. When this happens, running an anti-virus program may not solve the problem completely. Even if the software finds some of the malware, other pieces will remain hidden in your operating system and other applications.

The best way to eradicate troublesome malware is to boot your computer in Safe Mode and run your anti-virus software. You can enter Safe Mode by restarting your Windows computer and repeatedly pressing the F8 key while your operating system loads. When you do this, you'll see a menu that lets you choose what boot option to use. Choosing Safe Mode will prevent third-party applications, including any malware, from running.

Once your computer reboots in Safe Mode, launch your anti-virus software. The malware won't have as many defenses to protect itself, which makes it easier for your software to locate and remove it.

4. Boot Your Computer From an Anti-Virus CD

Running anti-virus software in Safe Mode will usually solve any problems. On some occasions, though, you may have to get more aggressive. If you have caught a particularly smart piece of malware that knows how to defend itself in Safe Mode, then you should try booting your computer from an anti-virus CD or DVD. If your computer doesn't have a disc drive, then you can put the software on a flash drive.

Note that you should make your CD or flash drive on a computer that hasn't been infected, which may mean using a friend's computer.

When you boot your computer next, insert the CD, DVD or flash drive to give the anti-virus software a chance to work in a clean environment. The malware won't have a good way to hide, so this approach almost certainly ensures that you'll fix your computer.

The amount of malware in the world won't decline anytime soon, so it's important to learn how to protect yourself and your computers.