Considering the number of viruses traversing the internet at any given moment, it’s amazing that it doesn’t happen to everyone.
If you know what specific malicious program has infected your computer, then you can visit one of the several anti-virus websites and download a removal tool. However, using that tool you won’t be able to identify the specific program. If you can’t identify the program, the following steps might help save your computer and files.
1. Call IT support
If you have an IT support department at your disposal, notify them immediately and follow their instructions.
2. Disconnect your computer from the Internet
Depending on what kind of virus or trojan horse you have, intruders might have access to your personal information and may even be using your computer to attack other computers. You can stop this activity by turning off your internet connection. The best way to accomplish this is to physically disconnect your cable or phone line, but you can simply disable your network connection.
3. Back up your important files
At this point, it is a good idea to take the time to back up your files. If possible, compile all of your photos, documents, internet favorites, etc., and burn them onto a CD/DVD or save them to an external device such as a flash drive or external hard drive. It is vital to note that these files can’t be trusted since they are still potentially infected.
4. Scan your machine
Your computer (including its operating system) may be infected with a malicious program, it is safest to scan the machine from a live CD (or “rescue” CD) rather than a previously installed anti-virus program. Many anti-virus products provide this functionally. Another alternative is to use a web-based virus removal service, which some anti-virus software vendors offer (try searching for online virus scan).
The next best action is to install an anti-virus program from an uncontaminated source such as a CD-ROM. If you don’t have one, there are many to choose from, but all of them should provide the tools you need. After you install the software, complete a scan of your machine. The initial scan will hopefully identify the malicious programs. Ideally, the program will even offer to remove the malicious files from your computer; follow the advice or instructions you are given. If the anti-virus successfully locates and removes the malicious files, be sure to follow the precautionary steps in step 7 to prevent another infection. In the event that the anti-virus software can’t locate or remove the malicious program, you will have to follow steps 5 and 6.
5. Reinstall your operating system
If the previous step failed to clean your computer, the most effective option is to wipe or format the hard drive and reinstall the operating system. This corrective action will result in the loss of all your programs and files, it is the only way to ensure your computer is free from backdoors and intruder modifications.
Many computer vendors also offer a rescue partition that will do a factory restore of the system. Check your computer’s user manual to find out whether one of these is provided and how to run it. Before conducting a reinstall, make a note of all your programs and settings so that you can return your computer to its original condition.
6. Restore your files
If you made a backup in Step 3, you can now restore your files. Before placing the files back in directories on your computer, you should scan them to check for known viruses.
7. Protect your computer
To prevent future infections, you should take the following precautions:
- Do not open unsolicited attachments in email messages
- Do not follow unsolicited links
- Maintain updated anti-virus and anti-malware software
- Use an internet firewall
- Securing your web browser
- Keep your system patched
To ensure that you are doing everything possible to protect your computer and your important information, we are available to assist you in every way possible.