Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Five steps to a malware-free Windows

Malicious software (malware) is so prevalent these days, I'd be surprised to find a Windows PC without any trace of them. Not only are they getting craftier, they're also getting more and more difficult to remove. Lots of malware these days can hide themselves from the best antivirus software. Many can resuscitate themselves instantly if even a single file remains.

So, here's how I go about ridding myself of them:

Note: Always update before running a scan to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Booting into a Ubuntu LiveUSB and scanning with BitDefender is a must these days. Running BitDefender from inside Ubuntu LiveUSB means the Windows virus program aren't running so they can't employ their usual tricks to hide away in safety.

Disinfecting with BitDefender in Ubuntu

Microsoft's malicious software removal tool turns out to be particularly effective against certain types of virus. Conficker comes to mind. To date I haven't seen any other tool that rids your system of Conficker as effectively as Microsoft's tool. Particularly, the latest versions of the malware tend to be resistant to other tools. Be sure to get the latest release and run a quick scan.

Malwarebyte's Antimalware works wonders against trojans, and quite a number of spyware/adware. What BitDefender missed, this guy will find. Run a quick scan with this. Get it here.

Surprisingly, older spyware/adware usually gets ignored by Malwarebyte's Antimalware so Spybot Search & Destroy helps round things up nicely. Update, scan & remove. Reboot as necessary. Get this from the official site.

Just to double check, I finish off with a round from Eset's online scanner. Eset has really good heuristics, and can occasionally find something the rest missed. Usually, you'll find nothing though. The previous steps would have removed just about every piece of malware on your system. Running the online scanner is just a safety precaution.


Caveats

Running BitDefender from Ubuntu LiveUSB is surprisingly resource intensive. You'll need 768MB of RAM as an absolute minimum. With 512MB you might find BitDefender randomly getting killed during a scan as the system runs out of memory. In such cases, it's more effective to take out the hard disk physically and scan from a PC with better specs.