No one wants to perform a complete system wipe and then restore from backup copies, even if they perform backups on a regular basis. It's better to know what to watch out for and protect yourself before it's too late.
First, protect your system. Use encrypted password protection for your home and office network. Install a firewall to help block attacks from hackers and keep an eye on your network traffic. It's also a good idea to use reliable antivirus and spyware detection applications. You can find several varieties -- commercial programs and free applications -- online.
The other way you can protect your computer is to practice careful Web browsing habits. Don't click on random Web links to sites you've never heard of before. If you encounter a pop-up window that prompts you to download antivirus software or claims that it will scan your computer for malware, don't click on it. Often these pop-ups are really scams -- clicking on them could install malware on your computer.
Scams can come to you through other sources as well, particularly through e-mail. Avoid clicking on hyperlinks in e-mail messages. If you receive a message from a bank that you don't belong to, you should definitely avoid clicking on any links. This is a common phishing scam designed to convince you that your money is at risk. Other scams try to trick you into clicking on links by promising huge profits for little or no investment. Don't fall for these tricks.
Even social networking sites like Facebook sometimes fall prey to malware scam artists. Before you start installing every Facebook application that crosses your path, do a little research. Some applications are really just a cover for malware.
Finally, avoid seedy Web sites, particularly sites that deal in one of the three Ps: pirated content, passwords and porn. These sites represent the bad neighborhoods on the Web -- visiting them is practically an invitation for malware. Today, many Web browsers will alert you if you try to visit a site known for hosting malware. Pay attention to these warnings -- no matter what content the site hosts, it's not worth it if a cracker takes over your computer.
If you stay vigilant and practice safe Web browsing, you will likely avoid the necessity of repairing a zombie computer.
Learn more about software that goes bump in the night by reading the articles listed below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Blass, Steve. "Removing botnet apps from a PC." NetworkWorld. Nov. 21, 2005. (March 20, 2009) http://www.networkworld.com/columnists/2005/112105blass.html
- Computer Knowledge. "Botnet." (March 18, 2009) http://www.cknow.com/ckinfo/b/Botnet-Anetworkofremote-c.html
- Dittrich, David. "Lifecycle: Preventing, detecting and removing bots." March 20, 2005. (March 19, 2009) http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid14_gci1068906,00.html
- Ducktoes Computer Repair and Spyware Blog. "Are you feeling like a Zombie? Then remove that Botnet!" Jan. 17, 2009. (March 19, 2009) http://www.ducktoes.com/blog/2009/01/17/are-you-feeling-like-a-zombie-remove-a-botnet/
- MessageLabs. "MessageLabs Intelligence." (March 19, 2009) http://www.messagelabs.com/intelligence.aspx
- Robertson, Jordan. "How to tell, what to do if computer is infected." AP News. March 15, 2009. (March 17, 2009) http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/T/TEC_INSIDE_A_BOTNET_CHECKLIST?SITE=ILEDW&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT