If you’re like most people, you probably use your computer for most of your online activities. It’s amazing what the internet can do to make our lives easier. But if you’ve spent any time online, you know the internet also comes with some risks.
Malware (or malicious software) is one risk of living a connected life. Whether it comes from infected websites, innocent-looking email attachments, or applications and tools you think you can trust, malware can expose your private information to cybercriminals who may use it for personal gain.
If you suspect that malicious software has infected your device, it’s important to remove it quickly to protect yourself.
Though dealing with malware can be scary, there are a few things you can do. This article will explain how malware can infect devices and how you can remove it from them.
How devices become infected with malware
There are many types of malware, which do their work in different ways. They can include viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, adware, ransomware, and more.
Some common ways that Windows PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones can get infected include:
- Phishing and malspam emails: These are emails — often posing as trusted sources — that try to trick you into revealing sensitive information, such as your credit card number and passwords, to different services.
- Peer-to-peer sharing (P2P sharing) and torrents: P2P sharing and torrents often offer software, games, and media for illegal downloading. They can also contain downloads spiked with malicious software code.
- Spoofed websites of well-known brands and organizations: Cybercriminals might pose as websites of legitimate organizations to trick you into downloading malware. Click on a link, and the malware downloads to your hard drive.
- External storage devices, such as USB drives: USB drives and other external storage devices are a popular way to exchange files between computers. However, if you find or receive a USB drive from an unknown source, don’t plug it into your machine.
- Compromised software: Sometimes, malware can compromise the software you download. It’s a good idea to only download through trusted sources.
- Adware, including pop-up ads: Pop-up ads are a nuisance when you click on a webpage, but they can also be laced with malware that’s released when you click on them.
- Fake mobile apps: These often pose as popular apps, such as fitness tracking tools or cryptocurrency applications. Download them, and your mobile device can become compromised. It’s best only to download apps from trusted sources.
How can malware affect you?
Malware can affect you in a variety of ways. For example, malware can allow hackers to steal your private information, uncover passwords, cause financial issues for you or your company, delete files, and render your device unusable.
Malware can also move from your computer to other devices, so you may unwittingly infect friends, family, or co-workers. It can gobble up your computer’s memory, slow its operation to a snail’s pace, and more.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to find out how to remove malware and learn to protect yourself from it in the first place.
Signs malware is infecting your device
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Information points out some ways to know if malware has infected your device, including if it:
- Suddenly slows down, crashes, or displays repeated error messages
- Won’t shut down or restart
- Prevents you from removing software
- Starts serving up a lot of pop-up ads, inappropriate ads, or ads that interfere with page content
- Displays ads in places you wouldn’t usually see them, such as government websites
- Displays unexpected toolbars or icons in your web browser, such as Chrome or Safari
- Changes your default search engine or displays new tabs or websites you didn’t open
- Repeatedly changes your homepage
- Sends emails from your personal account that you didn’t write
- Runs out of battery life more quickly than normal
Malware removal on your PC
How to remove malware from your devices
If you think your computer, smartphone or tablet has been infected by malware, the first step is to stop shopping, banking, and doing other things online that involve usernames, passwords, or other sensitive information until you have the problem resolved.
If you don’t have an antivirus program on your device, it’s a good idea to get one. McAfee’s antivirus software provides award-winning protection for your data and devices. It’s important to get antivirus software from a trusted name because some malware can even masquerade as security software.
It’s also important to make sure that your operating system for your different devices and applications are up to date. Older programs and apps might not have the latest security features — cybercriminals are constantly devising new ways to get people’s information — and outdated software can have a harder time fighting off infection.
Once your cybersecurity software is in place, you should:
Scan your device for malware
If you have a PC with Windows 10 or 11, you already benefit from free virus threat protection with Microsoft Windows Defender. Windows Defender, or built-in Microsoft security, compares new files and programs against a database of known malware. It keeps an eye out for signs that an attack is underway, such as the encryption of key files.
Defender can run in active, passive, and disabled mode. In active mode, it’s the primary antivirus app on the device. This means the program will scan files, remedy any threats, and show detected threats in your organization’s security reports and in the Windows Security app.
Microsoft Defender will automatically turn off if you have another antivirus app installed and turned on. Microsoft Defender will turn back on automatically if you uninstall the other app.
In passive mode, Microsoft Defender isn’t used as the primary antivirus app on the device. It’ll scan files and report any threats but it won’t remedy those threats. Finally, Microsoft Windows can’t detect or address threats if it is disabled or uninstalled.
You can run quick and advanced scans in Windows Security. If you’re worried that a specific file or folder has been compromised, you can also run a manual scan by:
- Right-clicking the file or folder in File Explorer
- Selecting Scan with Microsoft Defender
You’ll see the scan results and options for dealing with any potential threats.
Microsoft Defender is also available to protect Android smartphones from viruses and malware. It can also help against phishing and phishing and scans your Android device automatically to track and identify potentially unwanted, and dangerous, applications on your device.
Apple users, as well, have built-in antivirus software to help detect and fight off malware. Malware is commonly distributed across macOS systems by being embedded in a harmless-looking app.
Luckily, settings in Security & Privacy preferences allow you to designate the sources of software installed on your Mac. Just follow these steps:
- Choose the Apple menu.
- Select “System Preferences.”
- Click “Security & Privacy.”
- Click “General.”
- If the lock at the bottom left is locked, click it to unlock the preferences pane.
- Select the software sources from which you’ll allow software to be installed, including the Mac App Store and identified developers who are registered with Apple.
Apple iPads and iPhones have strong built-in security and privacy protections, so it is up to the user on whether or not they want to install antivirus for additional malware protections. Apple boasts a “walled-garden” approach–meaning that their operating system is closed to outside apps and games not affiliated with their official app store unless you jailbreak the device.
Remember that while cybersecurity features built into devices are a great starting point, they’re not always comprehensive. That’s where antivirus software, like McAfee Total Protection, can help. It offers continuous protection against malware, viruses, phishing, ransomware, and other online threats. It also automatically updates so you don’t need to worry about manual upgrades.
The security software also includes alerts before you connect to risky websites and offers one-click fixes to help you stay safe online.
Quarantine or remove any viruses
Antivirus software like McAfee works to block malware from infecting your computer, smartphone, or tablet. If malware somehow does get through, it can act as a powerful malware scanner by searching every file on your device for infections.
It can troubleshoot, look for vulnerabilities, and compile a list of infected software that can be quarantined (or isolated) to prevent it from doing harm and deleted at the end of the virus scan using removal tools.
McAfee’s anti-malware software updates its virus database by using an automatic web crawler that scans the internet, identifies online threats like malicious software, and figures out how to delete them.
McAfee antivirus uses this data to automatically update your device’s protective set-upl, providing strong protection so nothing harmful gets in.
Besides desktop computers, McAfee provides mobile security for both Android and Apple devices. For example, when you use your iPhone or Android phone on a public Wi-Fi system, McAfee’s Wi-Fi privacy protection (VPN) in effect turns the public network into a private one, where you can surf safely. Of course, its antivirus app regularly scans for threats and malware while actively blocking them in real time, keeping your mobile devices protected.
McAfee keeps your device secure
McAfee offers a variety of plans tailored to fit your needs and budget so your computer and other devices — including Android smartphones, Apple iPhones, and various tablets — are protected from malware and other online threats.
McAfee is a leader in consumer security, and our antivirus software is used on more than 6 million devices. It’s easy to install and use, provides 24/7 real-time threat protection, and comes with a Virus Pledge — a money-back guarantee that it’ll remove all viruses from your protected devices.
You can get antivirus software as part of McAfee’s Total Protection services. This includes all-in-one protection for your personal info and privacy, with identity restoration assistance and up to $1 million of identity theft coverage for data breaches. You also have access to identity monitoring, safe browsing, and a secure VPN.
With McAfee, you can turn apprehension about malware into the peace of mind that comes from proper protection.