What is Malware? And How to Remove it

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Connecting to the web can be risky if you don't have antivirus software installed on your device.

The reason for this is hackers can disguise malware in a variety of clever ways to compromise your information. Here is a closer look at what is malware, the most common ways it's employed, and how to remove it.

What is Malware?

Malware is malicious software. Commonly, installation of malware occurs without the user's knowledge. Once your device has a malware infection, it can gain access to your personal information such as credit card numbers, bank passwords and more. Malware can also block your access to files and generate programs to capture your keystrokes.

Read More: Spyware is another common computer infection that can access your personal information. Read more about spyware here.

Types of Malware

Hackers employ malware in a variety of ways. Some of the most common include spyware and adware, phishing, Trojan horses, viruses, ransomware, browser hijackers, rootkits, and worms.

The transmission of the malware to your personal device happens in different ways. Websites and email are the two most common methods of transmission.

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To demonstrate, you are trying to access a gaming website. Often, this requires you to enter personal information such as your credit card numbers--to download and install the game. However, the hacker has cleverly disguised a fake website to resemble the real one or, they have gained access to the legit website and installed malicious code to the software. This means once you have downloaded the game onto your device, the malicious code can permeate everything you do as well as your device's hard drive.

Email is another common gateway. You might receive an email from someone claiming to be from your bank or social media platform you have an account with. They will state you need to do something immediately then provide a link to complete the requested task.

Unless you prompted the website to send you an email (if you need to reset your password, you want access to specific information, etc.) then it's a safe bet it's a phishing scam. In this event, it's important to use common sense and avoid the impulse to click on the link. If you do, you could result in an infected computer.

Related: If you believe your computer has been infected with malware, we can show you how to remove it.

Lastly, malware takes many forms. Thieves can disguise fake antivirus software which, upon download, compromises your device. Essentially, anything you download from the web to your device could be malware. Therefore, it's important to have an antivirus solution in place.

Symptoms of Malware

Malware is easily spotted on your device. If you notice your computer's performance speed slows considerably, then it's a good indicator you might have some form of malware.

The same applies to your mobile device. Mobile malware is a real threat, so if you notice slow connection speeds or a plethora of pop-ads popcorning on your screen when you visit a website, then it's likely you have some sort of malware infection.

How to Remove Malware

First, you need to find good antivirus software. Our guide on the best antivirus software is a great place to start, as it provides in-depth information on the best providers available. Using the guide as the premise, you decide to install Norton's antivirus software. Here's how to install it:

  • You visit the provider's website.
  • Next, you choose the product that aligns the most with your needs. Be sure the software you choose includes protection against malware and spyware.
  • Fill out all the information to set up your account and process payment.
  • Install the software by following the prompts issued by the provider.

Once the software is on your device, it will scan all your files. Upon finding malicious code in files, it will isolate the files infected and destroy them. You can then browse the internet with confidence knowing your information isn't being compromised.

How Do I Stay Safe Online?

The National Cyber Security Alliance is an excellent website to visit. The NCSA's aim is on educating the digital society, so you can use the internet safely.

It contains helpful guides such as how to prevent malware, what to do if you have had an account hacked, securing your home network, and how to protect your device to avoid an invasion of privacy. This is a good place to start when learning how to employ safe online browsing behaviors.

Next, it's important to use common sense when online. This means refraining from clicking on links in emails, visiting websites you don't know, and trusting your gut when something seems suspicious. Additionally, only download files from known sites, and when your software, web browser or email provider warns you about suspicious activity, heed their call.

Read More: Phones are also vulnerable to viruses and malware. Learn how to remove them if you believe your device is infected.

Ultimately, as thieves become more adept at disguising malicious software, it's important you safeguard your information by being proactive. The most effective way to do this is a combination of education, having an antivirus solution in place, and practicing common sense behaviors when online. In the situation where your computer has been hit by a serious malware attack or virus, it might be best to do a hard wipe and restore your phone. Before this happens to you, check out our guide.

For more tips and strategies, check out our guide to protecting your phone from hackers.

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