Mal­ware infec­tion

Anti-virus soft­ware and auto­matic updates of your oper­ating system are cru­cial to be able to surf the Internet safely. Still it can happen that a com­puter becomes infected with mal­ware. You must recog­nise this and react cor­rectly!

How do I recog­nise a mal­ware infec­tion?
Poten­tial signs:

  • Your anti-virus soft­ware noti­fies you of an infec­tion.
  • There are error mes­sages when starting or shut­ting down your com­puter.
  • The com­puter no longer runs in a stable manner - it fre­quently crashes.
  • Your system is slower, your working memory and/or processor are con­tin­u­ously in use, or your hard drive is con­tin­u­ously active.
  • The anti-virus soft­ware is deac­ti­vated (even after you have explic­itly acti­vated it).
  • You can no longer reach the web pages of one or sev­eral anti-virus man­u­fac­turers.

You can read up on how to pro­tect your­self against mal­ware infec­tions under “Step 2 - Mon­i­toring” of our “5 steps for your dig­ital secu­rity“. There you can also find a list of anti-virus soft­ware, some of it free of charge. If there is still a strong sus­pi­cion that your machine is infected, you have to react cor­rectly.

The term mal­ware is made up of the terms “mali­cious” and “soft­ware”. Mal­ware is the generic term for soft­ware which exe­cutes mali­cious func­tions on a device (such as viruses, worms, Tro­jans, ran­somware).

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Mal­ware infec­tion - what now?

Step 1: Keep calm, dis­con­nect from the Internet and check your last data back-up

The first thing to do is to dis­con­nect from the Internet (remove your LAN plug or switch the Wi-Fi off). Then you should estab­lish how old your last data back-up is. It is rec­om­mended to create an addi­tional, new back-up onto a dif­ferent storage media from your normal back-up.

Please note: It is pos­sible that you also back up mal­ware when you create such a back-up, but that is irrel­e­vant for the time being.

Step 2: Decide whether you will need a spe­cialist

You should now con­sider whether you can remove the mal­ware your­self, or whether you want to con­sult a spe­cialist. There are var­ious anti-virus soft­ware man­u­fac­turers who offer a spe­cial ser­vice to remove mal­ware. This often involves a tele­phone helpline or “remote mal­ware removal”. How­ever, such ser­vices are charge­able. As an alter­na­tive, there are also var­ious com­puter spe­cialist stores which offer repair ser­vices (espe­cially for mal­ware infec­tions).

Step 3: Iden­tify and remove mal­ware

Cer­tain types of mal­ware can be removed by the anti-virus soft­ware installed, but not all of them. If your anti-virus soft­ware is unable to remove the mal­ware, it is rec­om­mended to use a so-called “second opinion virus scanner”, for instance

If this doesn’t help either, the mal­ware will need to be pre­cisely iden­ti­fied. It is best to use the mal­ware name (as dis­played by your anti-virus soft­ware) and then research on the Internet (from another non-infected device) for instruc­tions on how to remove this. Most antivirus soft­ware man­u­fac­turers pro­vide mal­ware data bases including instruc­tions for removal. If your antivirus soft­ware man­u­fac­turer pro­vides a boot CD, you should try to start your com­puter from this CD and remove the mal­ware this way.

For very common mal­ware, antivirus soft­ware man­u­fac­turers offer some so-called removal tools free-of-charge. These will check your com­puter for a cer­tain type of mal­ware and auto­mat­i­cally remove it. When down­loading a removal tool, you must make absolutely sure that this orig­i­nates from a rep­utable web­site (for instance that of the antivirus soft­ware man­u­fac­turer) - there are antivirus soft­ware and removal tools cre­ated by cyber-crim­i­nals which con­tain mal­ware them­selves.

Step 4: The last resort - a fresh instal­la­tion

If all these mea­sures do not pro­vide the desired result, you will have to com­pletely re-install your com­puter (or jump back to step 2 and get some advice from an expert).

You can read up on how to rein­stall your system, and reduce the risk of becoming rein­fected at the same time, in our instruc­tions (for Win­dows 10).

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