If one of my clients has a computer infested with malware, usually one of three things happens:
- They phone to tell me their computer has become so slow they are thinking of a) throwing it out the window, b) feeding it to the dog, c) taking a hammer to it, or d) replacing it.
- They phone and tell me their computer wont let them do anything as there is this “thing” on the screen they can’t close, or that is telling them they 2789 faults (random number)
- They email me. The email often has a one word subject – “Help!!” (yes, they always put the exclammation marks in)
Malwarebytes to the rescue. Whenever something strange happens to a computer – my own or a client’s – I start by scanning it with the free version of Malwarebytes.
Go to www.malwarebytes.org. If you are a home user, click on “download” to download the free version. There are also paid versions, which we’ll look at later in this article. They can be prove to be an excellent investment.
Choose the version you want to download, and note they do a Mac version. Don’t be fooled into thinking Macs can’t get malware – they can, I’ve seen it. Right now, we’re looking at the free version for home use, so click on “Download Free Version”.
Depending on which web browser you use you may be asked if you want to run the program (you do) or it may download into your downloads folder. If it just downloads, locate the downloaded file and double click to open it.
I’m using Firefox so I was asked if I want to save the file, then I located it in the downloads in the Firefox menu:
Double click on the mbam-setup file to install. Work your way through the pop-up boxes and agree the licence terms until you reach a box with an “install” button – this is where your installation will start.
BEWARE. There is a trick box that comes immediately after you have installed:
Look carefully and you will see a tick beside “enable free trial of malwarebytes anti-malware premium”. REMOVE THE TICK. If you don’t malwarebytes wil expire after 30 days and start bugging you to pay. As I said above, the paid for version is excellent, but you want to choose if and when to install it.
Remove the tick and then click on “Finish”.
This should launch malwarebytes. If it doesn’t, look for the icon on you desktop and open it from there.
If you’ve never run the software before, you might find you are horrified by the number of unwanted infections it finds. I’ve seen several thousand, although a few hundred is normal for a first scan.
Malwarebytes will always start by updating its database. Wait while this happens before clicking on “Scan Now”.Wait while your computer is scanned. This can take anything from around 15 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how many files there are on your computer.
If any malware is found, you will be given the opportunity to quarantine it. You may also be prompted to restart your computer.
Paid For Versions Of Malwarebytes
I can hear you asking “how did all that malware get onto my computer? I have antivirus software.”
Infestations of malware often start when the user innocently clicks, or doesn’t notice they need to untick, a box or button. Once one piece of malware has been installed it invites its friends round for a party. Because the original malware was given permission to install (even if you don’t realise it or don’t remember clicking) your antivirus software misses it.
I know from experience that computers used by young people are particularly vulnerable to malware. They tend to be less selective about which sites they visit. Often sites offering “free” games, or “free” software or “free” downloads are riddled with spyware and splattered, with a confusing array of download buttons all aimed at making you install unwanted malware.
For this reason I often say to clients that children and business computers don’t mix. If you run a business from home, make sure your children don’t use your business computer. Get them a tablet or laptop of their own.
This is where the paid for version of Malwarebytes comes into its own. I once had a client who lived with her son and grandchild. I was a regular visitor. The son used a lot of dating sites and the grandchild used a lot of the types of sites aimed a children/young teengers (all apparently perfectly innocent). Finally, we took out subscriptions to malwarebytes for both computers. I’m not joking when I say that I never saw them again – apart from once when their printer broke down. Malwarebytes did the job and their computers remained malware free.
The main difference between the free and paid for versions is that the paid for version is pro-active. It runs constantly, protecting your computer from malware and will function perfectly well alongside your regular antivirus.
The free version only runs when you open it and tell it to scan.