Tech Savvy: Reader Question
Q: How do I get rid of a malware or spyware that pops up in my email?
A: It seems like you might have two questions here; how do you deal with spam and potential threats in your email, and how do you deal with malware and spyware once it’s installed on your machine. Let’s look at both. In your email, that is really your first line of defense, most types of viruses or spyware that people get on their machines is something that they opened and inadvertently unleashed on their computers. A common way for this to happen is to have an email that you don’t recognize that prompts you to click a link: “You’ve won!” or “Your friend just asked you a question, click here to see what it was.” Something like that sound familiar? These viruses require you to accept the virus (by clicking the link) and then they can begin their reign of terror on your CPU. There has been a saying that’s been recited ever since I’ve been using the Internet (which is basically my whole life) that says “Don’t click a link unless you know the sender” and this is certainly still true today. However, an added caveat should be, “If the message sounds too good to be true, or seems out of place for the sender, don’t click that either.” My grandparents would never send me information about life enhancement prescriptions, and yours probably wouldn’t either, so don’t click that.
The second part of your question would be “Now that my computer is infected, what do I do?” The first step is to unplug any external hard drives or storage, then try and assess what you are dealing with. If you have an antivirus (Kaspersky, McAfee, Norton, etc) that you have already installed on your computer, if it has not detected the problem already, do a diagnostic. If you have one of these antivirus programs you can just follow the instructions to get things cleaned up or determine if you need to have a professional look at it. If you do not have antivirus software, there are some free antivirus programs that you can download that may be able to identify what you are dealing with — AVG is one that I have used before. It’s also not a bad idea to unplug your Internet connection right away — many viruses rely on an Internet connection to complete their destruction and taking that away may save some of your machine. Viruses are one of those things that I strongly encourage people to leave it to the pros. You may be able to stop the spread of the virus, but many of the viruses have programming written to attack vital firmwares on your machine that will render it useless, even after the virus itself is gone. Getting it removed by a pro will help them determine what has been changed, and will give you a better chance of having your machine restored to its original state.