Malware, a portmanteau word from the words malicious and software, is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner’s informed consent. The expression is a general term used by computer professionals to mean a variety of forms of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code.
Many computer users are unfamiliar with the term, and often use “computer virus” for all types of malware, including true viruses.
Software is considered malware based on the perceived intent of the creator rather than any particular features. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, most rootkits, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware and other malicious and unwanted software. In law, malware is sometimes known as a computer contaminant, for instance in the legal codes of several American states, including California and West Virginia.
Malware is not the same as defective software, that is, software which has a legitimate purpose but contains harmful bugs.
Preliminary results from Symantec sensors published in 2008 suggested that “the release rate of malicious code and other unwanted programs may be exceeding that of legitimate software applications.” According to F-Secure, “As much malware [was] produced in 2007 as in the previous 20 years altogether.”Malware’s most common pathway from criminals to users is through the Internet, by email and the World Wide Web.
1. Combofix. This one has seen some major upgrades recently, and I use it on every cleanup. Where the old version just gave you a blue screen and said “Hang out for about ten minutes,” the current version provides feedback about what’s going on. Before any changes are made, ComboFix backs up the registry.
It then hunts out malware it recognizes and removes it. You may need to reboot, but you’ll be prompted if it’s necessary. It’s portable, so just keep it updated on your flash drive.
2. SmitFraudFix. I’ve used it for ages, but there was a brief span where it wasn’t doing such a great job (that’s when I started with ComboFix again). Things are back in order, and SmitFraudFix is doing a bang-up job once again. Make sure you run all the options with it (update, dns hijack, trusted zone, clean) and answer yes to “Clean the registry?” when asked. Nothing to install here, either, it’s portable.
3. SuperAntiSpyware. When I first saw this one, I thougt it was bogus. It looked like some of the rogue apps I was trying to remove – now I know better. While I’m sure some people think this is a crap choice, it’s been working great for me. It’s got a lot of nice features, and it catches damn near everything that ComboFix and SmitFraudFix don’t. Follow-up scans with Malwarebytes and Ad-Aware never turn up more than a few cookies. This one you’ll have to install, but it’s worth it.