Can security software reliably clean an infected PC so it can be trusted again?

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If a PC is known or suspected of being infected with malware, can we be confident that it is safe to use it for – say – online banking after running one of the well known security suites… or should Windows be reinstalled ?

If the latter, can we *then* have full confidence that it is safe ?

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Thank you Paddleless. Now that is an answer Coyote.

It’s not that I am having any particular problem, I was wondering what others thought about malware suites and when run is it possible to sit back all smug in the knowledge that your OS is now clean.

I run Bitdefender and also have Malwarebytes for the occasional backup. I don’t tend to go to the sort of sites that almost certainly are infected so I do feel pretty confident that I’m not at risk but can never be sure.

It’s interesting you mention the Linux based cleaners, I do on very rare occasions use Microsofts own off line cleaner ‘Windows Defender Offline’ but more to see if it finds anything. And as for Dariks Boot and Nuke, I have a copy of Killdisk which does the same job.

A clean reinstall of Windows isn’t necessarily a good idea as you only get so many goes at activation and then have to ring up Microsoft for an activation key, so a bit inconvenient to say the least.

You mention a few suites, but Kaspersky isn’t one of the ones I would ever consider using, I’m afraid I don’t trust anything that comes out of Russia.

Thanks again Paddleless, I hope I’m not coming over as paranoid on the security front, I don’t use the internet for anything financial so nothing to worry about there, it was just a general question wondering what others though.

  • coyote
    “You mention a few suites, but Kaspersky isn’t one of the ones I would ever consider using, I’m afraid I don’t trust anything that comes out of Russia.” The irony is that many older virus writers recommended Kaspersky (also nod32 i.e. ESET). Do you want to know how I know? (Yes I just answered it). No, you aren’t paranoid – you’re just biased and prejudiced.
  • Paddleless
    It’s my understanding that you have to reinstall Windows a number of times before Microsoft takes an interest. If you only reinstall after a problem arises, and you are careful about security in the first place, you probably won’t need to reinstall Windows often enough over the life of one machine to trigger flags at Microsoft. I haven’t used Windows Defender Offline, but I understand it works the same way as the Linux rescue CDs, and offers similar benefits. I ought to add it to my toolkit; I prefer to get multiple opinions if there might be something nasty on the system. Your point about the origin of Kaspersky is well taken. It isn’t my go-to rescue CD for routine scans (that I perform from time to time on my own machines), but I do bring it out when I do multiple scans of infected (or suspected to be infected) machines. There are others that I use that I didn’t list because they are less user friendly, or because I have found them to be temperamental about running properly. I don’t think it is unreasonable, or paranoid, to assess the risks that one faces and take precautions to avoid trouble. I am careful, and so far have largely avoided problems, but I have cleaned a lot of rubbish off computers belonging to people who are less cautious than I am.
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well, a computer has been infected by malware can not be trusted again, but waht if a computer that has never been infected can be trusted completely? In fact, there is no a completely safe computer which will never be infected by malware even it gets the most powerful antivirus software.

The internet is not safe for sure.
What we can do is to build up a more powerful defense to stop infection to lower down the potential risks we may face.

For computer security, I think the below posts are really helpful, you can read them if you want.
http://guides.uufix.com/antivirus-software-how-to-choose-the-right-one-for-your-computer/
http://guides.uufix.com/top-6-things-you-can-do-to-keep-your-pc-and-privacy-safe/

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Sorry, but that doesn’t answer the question I posed and neither does posting
links back to your site. This is just spam.

  • coyote
    The only message that was here (until what I just posted) was your own. If you consider yourself a spammer, why would anyone help you? Let me put that a different way: read my proper response. You might not like it but there are many things in this world that humans dislike. We all find ways to deal with those things – or don’t. Supposedly your way is complaining about something with no attempt to fix the problem (this is also known as non-constructive criticism which might as well be called whining). This rarely gets you what you want; if you can’t be bothered to be constructive then why should anyone else (ironically I actually am, even if you don’t recognise it)?
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Elaborate please. I seem to recall that I posted something but maybe not (I’ve posted a lot of things here and elsewhere and these days I’m so tired so as to not remember even a days worth). Yet since there is no answer I presume that either I didn’t (I certainly didn’t include links to any of my websites!) or you only want to hear specific answers. I’m sorry to say but only naive people will attach limitations to answers to questions they ask. I think you will find that not many will be inclined to help such people (because if you attach limitations to answers then you are obviously more capable of answering your own question, which then makes one question why you are the one asking the questions in the first place). That is simply not how this world works, and whether you like it or not, people that only want help in their own, approved way (and/or want only an answer that satisfies them) do not really want help. Any claim to the contrary is false.

Maybe I’m interpreting this wrong but it is rather hard to interpret it correctly when the only response is your own, don’t you think? You’ll find that everyone else would agree with my assessment. (Let me rephrase that. Any rational person would agree with my assessment.)

Oh, because I never can resist pointing out irony, especially when it is someone criticising someone for something they supposedly did while doing the exact same thing (i.e. hypocrisy): your update could be likened to spam because the only message is you aren’t satisfied with an answer that doesn’t even exist. Yet you claim there is spam here.

I certainly will not be making any attempt to answer the question because I utterly despise ungratefulness. If there truly was an answer that you simply didn’t like, then you may find the hard way that most people won’t bother to help someone who tells others that their answer wasn’t answering a question you ask and/or is unhelpful; if you understand enough to make this judgement, then you certainly understand enough to answer your own question (or aren’t interested in others views): perhaps you should go this route? Now maybe there truly was someone who answered with a spammy message but it’s hard to know since the only message (except this one which came after yours) that exists is your own. If this was the case, then feel free to disregard my points (and you’re welcome to disregard my points even if it isn’t the case).

Cheers.

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But that’s just it, you didn’t give any answer, you never referred to the question at all but at the bottom of your post were two links back to your site which the moderator has obviously removed.

You say you ‘will not be making any more attempts to answer’ which is just the point again. You have two further posts but neither of them address or even mentions the question so these two post are also just spam.

  • coyote
    I’ve tried again. See my response. Please try to take all my points in with perspective and proper context. Those two things change everything. I have tried to answer the question – it isn’t an affirmative yes or no because it isn’t a question that you can say only yes or no. But that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t valid (or invalid; indeed, I am not at all perfect and I will never claim to be perfect – those who claim to be perfect will never learn or grow and I would find that incredibly boring). (And again, I have never linked to my own websites here.)
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No. I never linked to any of my websites. I have never made public my websites here nor will I ever. I will try again to answer your question, but I suggest you read the response in full, because my points above (and below) are actually valuable when seeking help:

You might not like an answer but those who ask questions and then complain about the answer (‘response’) don’t really want help (or don’t appreciate help and I personally despise ungratefulness). I will rarely help someone who criticises me. I will, however, respond to their criticism where I feel it appropriate (which often is not the the case). I felt it appropriate. I offered you additional valuable information but you still have the boldness to call it spam? No, no, no; I do nothing of the sort – I’ve called out corporations for having poor mail server policies (allowing spam), and similar, but never have I spammed nor will I; I despise spammers. Next time try not to criticise people if you want help. Even if I had linked to one of my websites (which I did not) maybe you should look at it with perspective rather than complain? Perspective is a powerful tool once you learn to utilise it.

The bottom line is this: if I give you input on a question and you don’t like it, why should I try to answer again? But since you seem to understand this a bit more, and since I do try to help in general, I’ll try one more time but if you don’t like it I don’t know what to tell you:

The general rule of thumb is you should start anew with a better policy. Whether you can get it completely clean without a reinstall depends on the malware (etc.) in question. Don’t forget backups can be infected. See? Most things in this world are many-coloured – not just black and white (yes and no, 1 or 0, true or false). That applies here, too. The answer to your question is it depends on the software and what the problem is. I believe (but maybe I’m remembering wrong) that I said something about ESET and how they are light on resources. But here’s the funny thing: I don’t run Windows nor will I ever, and I refuse to suggest something I’ve never tried. That’s why av-test.org is valuable.

To summarise: the reality is you can’t answer your question with an affirmative yes or no. The answer is: it depends because (define ‘security software’ and define ‘infected PC’ – there is too much ambiguity there to reliably answer with a guarantee). I personally dislike it when someone answers a question by making things up – if you don’t know the answer don’t mislead the person asking it; admit it or don’t respond at all. But unfortunately, software has bugs and bugs can cause all sorts of problems. Add in external variables (literally and figuratively) and it can make things unpredictable. That is applicable here.

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Quote – But here’s the funny thing: I don’t run Windows nor will I ever, and I refuse to suggest something I’ve never tried. Unquote.

It’s strange that you can remember you talked about ESET but can’t remember adding a couple of URLs to the bottom of your post.

So what is the point of your post at all. You have 300-400 (maybe more) words here and just around 20 are in ref to the question. It depends on the software is not an answer.

I’ll come back again when someone who uses Windows can offer an educated opinion.

  • coyote
    YES IT MOST CERTAINLY DOES DEPEND ON THE SOFTWARE JUST AS IT DEPENDS ON THE *USER*! The fact you don’t understand this and then whine (and that is what it is) about it to me is bemusing (to the extreme) and incredibly ironic. I’ve already answered the question several times. YES, I ANSWERED IT. You know what’s also ironic? You don’t seem to understand what an opinion is. This is basic English but let me help you: facts aren’t required for opinions. But I wasn’t offering an opinion; I was giving you facts. But you still criticise (something you seem to enjoy) for something that I supposedly did (but didn’t even cite an example of; what are my websites, then?) and that is ridiculous. I DID NOT ADD LINKS TO MY OWN SITES – your libel (it is close enough to libel because you’re making false claims about me) is so blatant it is hard to believe anyone would think it! THE ANSWER APPLIES TO ALL PLATFORMS! The fact you don’t understand it and then you tell me that I’m not answering the question is just stupid. That’s why I at first said I wouldn’t bother answering further (to which you complained about, something you seem to thrive at). I thought maybe I was wrong and that you had understood this finally. But you don’t, obviously; you’re literally beyond help because you refuse to accept answers you don’t like. Why ask if you refuse answers? I’m sorry but that is completely stupid (observe I didn’t call you stupid).
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The short answer is that you can never be a hundred percent certain that your system is clean, but this is true of any system that has been in use for a while. That said, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks. You didn’t say what security software you have used already, but if you have not already done so I recommend at a minimum that you install and run Malwarebytes (free version). Then I would download a selection of Linux-based rescue CDs, install them on CDs or thumb drives (some installation programs can put several on one thumb drive) and run them one after another. Avira, Bitdefender, Comodo and Kaspersky are good offerings of this kind that are reasonably user friendly. The benefit of Linux-based antiviruses like these is that some malware is designed to hide from regular Windows antiviruses, but as Windows isn’t running while the rescue CD runs any malware will be dormant and unable to hide itself. When you run them you may need to be connected to hard-wired internet, as they must update before each use, and they don’t always work smoothly with Wi-Fi.
The free Sysinternals suite contains some useful tools for monitoring what is running on your system, and one of them, Process Explorer (procexp.exe in the Sysinternals menu), has VirusTotal in the right click menu, so you can perform an instant malware check on any process you are suspicious of.
The next level up is to reinstall Windows. This should be pretty safe, but if you are worried about it I suppose you could use something like Darik’s Boot and Nuke to wipe your hard drive first (NB, I haven’t actually used Darik’s myself).
I never use Windows for online financial transactions; for online banking, shopping and the like I boot Linux from a live CD, which means that nothing is saved from one session to the next, while the Linux system itself is immune to any problems that might exist on the Windows side. You may want to consider this approach; it’s a little less convenient, of course, but far more secure.

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