Malware is short for malicious software. It is any type of software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent. Trojans, viruses, worms, ransomware, and other threats fall into the category of malware. Good malware protection begins with effective antimalware software.
How to recognize and detect malware
Several symptoms are considered common signs of a malware infection, though many types of malware operate without alerting you to their presence. In fact, covert programs may be even more of a malware threat than overt ones, as they can lead to things like identity theft and credit card fraud.
If you do notice something’s off, these signs may mean malware:
Performance problems- Computer running slowly or crashing frequently? Even small amounts of malware can slow or crash your computer by sapping hard drive resources while operating in the background.
Unexplained PC behavior- If things are happening you didn’t initiate, you may be infected. Common changes in behavior include mysterious new toolbars, unexplained changes to homepage settings, and suspicious search results.
Interruptions from pop-ups and spam- While many pop-ups and emails from reputable companies are safe, adware programs that generate malicious pop-ups are capable of installing spyware to hijack your browser and capture your personal information, even with reputable-looking ads.
How to remove malware from your computer
Prevention is the best strategy for keeping your personal computer free from malware. If your device does become infected though, it's not the end of the line. While manual malware removal is possible, it’s a complicated process even for savvy users. Still, there are ways to return your computer to a normal, functioning state.
First, install a product with antimalware scan capabilities and run it on your system. This will help to determine your infection level and put your computer on the road to recovery.
Next, choose a more long-term malware protection solution. Look for these qualities when selecting an anti-malware software solution:
It’s cloud-based for timely version and definition updates that combat up-to-the-minute threats
It’s supported by a dedicated, round-the-clock research team devoted to keeping track of malware evolution
It boasts an award-winning customer support team that resolves service tickets quickly
It’s backed by an established company with a solid reputation
How anti-malware works and why you need it
To stand up to today's evolving threat landscape, effective antimalware solutions must offer multiple layers of protection.
A good first layer is backed by a robust database of blacklisted URLs and IP addresses, updated in real-time, that should be blocked. Webroot's BrightCloud Threat Intelligence Services, for instance, classifies more than 27 billion URLs, more than any other service available, stopping threats based on knowledge previously gathered about their source.
Next, a file without a known URL or IP is categorized as a known good or known bad file, or one requiring further inspection.
Then, heuristic or behavior-based layers decide whether to prevent a file from executing based on its intended action. If an action is unusual or harmful, this layer of malware protection will categorize a file as malicious.
Finally, a method known as sandboxing is often used to isolate a file when there is not enough information to make a ruling on a file’s category. Many antimalware solutions offer some type of sandboxing, but the speed and effectiveness with which this process is carried out varies greatly.
Only a small fraction of malware threats make it past the first layer of robust malware protection. But because of the sheer volume of threats facing the online users, a fraction still represents a serious threat. Just how pervasive is malware?
If you use a computer, you're susceptible to infection. In fact, nine out of 10 internet-connected PCs are infected with spyware that can:
Expose you to identity theft
Expose your personal information and private accounts
Corrupt your hard drive
Share your passwords and usernames
Read more about Malware Protection
For more information on malware, types of cyberattack, and how to protect yourself while using internet-connected devices, check out our guide to the most commonly asked internet security questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about antimalware solutions from Webroot, let us help you choose the right product for you.