Whether in the form of Spyware, malware or a virus these malicious forms of software can install itself on your computer without your knowledge or permission with very negative consequences. Often they gain access as a result of clicking on an unknown link in an email or on the web and they can alter your computer’s configuration, gather sensitive personal information such as web browsing patterns, passwords, banking details and can also redirect your browser to visit websites you didn’t intend to visit.
How do I know if my computer is infected?
Common signs that your computer has been infected by spyware include slower than normal computer speed, frequent crashes, and inability to access certain tools such as task manager or a virus scanner. Further symptoms can include changes to your web browser’s home page that cannot be undone and a constant stream of unprompted pop-up windows.
If any of these symptoms occur, it could be a sign that your computer has been infected by spyware. You should immediately undertake further diagnostic analysis to confirm if this is the case. If you have been unlucky, there are a variety of ways to remove the malicious software and here are are a few tips:
Import the necessary tools
In some cases, spyware can prevent you from accessing the system tools necessary to remove the offending software. If this is the case, you can import the solutions you need from a clean computer. If you are using a USB device to transfer the anti-malware tools to your computer, ensure that autorun is disabled on both your computer and the computer you are using to download them.
Perform an Uninstall
Whilst many spyware programs burrow deep into the computer’s registry, making them impossible to remove with a traditional uninstall, some can be removed this way. Before you try more complicated remedies, see if you can eliminate the spyware using Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel. If the program is listed, select it and then reboot the computer once you’ve completed uninstalling to verify that the process was successful.
Run a full system scan
Use a full system scan performed by an antivirus solution to search for the spyware. Run the scan in Safe Mode when possible. If the antivirus software is able to identify the spyware, allow it to take the necessary action to quarantine or delete the malicious software from your system. Programs such as Windows Defender can perform this function, as can antivirus software such as Avast, Symantec Antivirus (SAV) or Symantec Endpoint Protection (SEP).
Use specialised anti-malware software
A number of spyware programs use so-called Trojan downloaders to infiltrate a system. Specialised anti-malware software such as MalwareBytes can be used to get rid of a variety of spyware of this type. MalwareBytes is also effective at removing “scareware” from your system. This type of malicious software tries to scare you into buying “protection” by hijacking your computer and spamming it with pop-up ads for the so-called protection.
Isolate the problem
If your system is heavily infected and performing a system scan in safe mode fails to solve the problem, another approach to try is to access your computer’s drive without giving the spyware a chance to load. You can do this by accessing your drive via a boot-up CD. Once you’ve gained access to your system via the boot disk, use the file manager to find the antivirus software installed on the system and perform another scan. You can also identify the malicious files so you can delete them manually.
Establish a properly managed IT system
To reduce the chances of your system becoming infected with spyware, and to make it easier to remove such software if the system does become infected, taking a proactive approach to maintaining and operating your system is highly recommended. This can be done either by your company’s own IT staff or by contracting with a managed services provider (MSP) specialising in such efforts. Bright, for instance, can help optimise your system’s antivirus and firewall protection to defend against malware of all types as well as help you establish operational procedures to minimise the chance that it will suffer an infection. We can also provide system monitoring services that allows us to benchmark your IT infrastructure’s operating characteristics, enabling rapid diagnosis and remediation of a spyware infection or any other system impediment.
Modern IT systems typically perform a number of mission critical tasks for SMEs. Spyware and other malicious software can impede the operation of your IT infrastructure sufficiently to reduce productivity throughout your organisaton as a whole. Taking the steps outlined above can enable you to remove or isolate such infections. When coupled with proactive management of your IT system, either by your IT staff or in conjunction with an MSP, you can significantly reduce the chances that your system will be infected by spyware and the impact an infection has should one occur.