How To Identify and Avoid Virus and Spyware Threats

 (Contributed)

harddrive Viruses and Spyware cause billions of dollars of losses each year.  Malware infections usually result in losing precious information, missing a deadline, theft of identity or financial information and sometimes, facing problems and errors that sabotage your PC. The onslaught of this new breed of online crime never stops. Every day dozens of new variants and types of malware are being let off to prey on your PC.

To be able to combat malware infections, it is essential to know the symptoms.

The following are the top 10 symptoms of a virus infection:

  1. Your programs, especially the programs that require you to use a large amount of memory, take much longer than normal to load.
  2. Date stamps for files are changed. This happens because when a virus modifies a legitimate Windows file, such as smss.exe and wscntfy.exe your Windows operating system changes the date stamps of the modified file.
  3. Your hard disk or floppy disk is accessed for no reason and failure of this action displays in error message.
  4. You notice an unwarranted increase in filled up disk space. Also, the default size of the infected file changes when a virus attaches to it.
  5. Unwarranted write protect errors may display. This happens when the virus on your computer tries to access a protected disk and write to it.
  6. Filenames in the directories or folders display junk characters.
  7. You notice legitimate-looking suspicious processes, such as sbmntr.exe running in Task Manager. sbmntr.exe is a Trojan horse that can cause serious problems to your computer.
  8. Strange graphics, such as a ball bouncing and characters falling on the screen are displayed.
  9. Your applications and system may freeze up forcing you to hard boot your PC and prevent you from doing any work.
  10. Information stored in various files is replaced with junk characters.

Listed below are the top 10 symptoms of spyware and adware infections:

  1. Your PC becomes slow and sluggish, even if it is brand new.
  2. The system freezes and crashes without any prior warning.
  3. The default home page and your searches in your Web browser are hijacked and routed to unknown, usually advertising Web sites.
  4. Unwarranted pop ads are displayed. Many of these may inform you that your PC has spyware and ask you to download a particular tool to remove it. You must never download the recommended software because this tool is always a rogue software.
  5. You get fake alerts about your PC being infected. If you click on these alerts, you may transfer the control of your PC to whoever is behind the spyware on your PC.
  6. You receive strange emails with alluring subjects.
  7. Your browser toolbars, such as Google and Yahoo toolbars are hijacked and replaced with other toolbars.
  8. You notice suspicious files and processes.
  9. Weird links are added to your Favorites.
  10. Your searches in the Web browser display strange results.

When you notice these symptoms, you must immediately get rid of them. The following are some of the tasks that you may perform.

  • Update your antivirus and antispyware programs with the latest definitions and perform a full system scan to detect and remove infections. To remove sbmntr.exe and other similar Trojans, you may also search for a tool that is built just to get rid of this particular infection. Because one single virus can add several registry entries and infect many files on your computer, a tool created just to remove this particular virus can make your malware removal process more effective.
  • Schedule regular full system antivirus and antispyware scans to prevent future infections. Also, enable live update to ensure that the definitions of these tools are always up-to-date.
  • Delete unwarranted emails completely to prevent infections.
  • Be a vigilant user and avoid installing pirated software. You must also ensure that any freeware or shareware you download comes from reliable sources.
  • Always scan any files downloaded from Internet or copied from external media for virus and spyware before using.
  • Use a registry tool to keep your registry clean and free from malware entries.

Malware programs can cause serious problems to your system. Just a little vigilance and some amount of preventive maintenance can go a long way to help stay free from infection.

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