What Is Malware Removal?
Malware removal is the process of identifying and removing malware from a computer or device. Malware, short for malicious software, is any software that is designed to harm or exploit computer systems. It can take many forms, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware, and is often spread through email attachments, online downloads, or by exploiting vulnerabilities in a computer’s operating system or software.
Malware can cause a range of problems, from stealing sensitive information to disrupting the normal functioning of a computer, and it is important to protect against it to keep your device and data safe. We’ll discuss the main capabilities of malware removal tools and how to remove malware from devices based on Windows, Mac, and Android.
This is part of a series of articles about malware protection.
Key Features of Malware Removal Tools
Malware scanners and removers are tools that are designed to detect and remove malware from a computer. Some key features of these tools include:
- Detection: Malware scanners use various methods to detect malware on a computer, including signature-based detection, heuristics, and behavior-based detection. Signature-based detection involves searching for specific patterns or “signatures” associated with known malware. Heuristics involve analyzing the behavior of a piece of software to determine if it exhibits characteristics typical of malware. Behavior-based detection involves monitoring the behavior of a program or process to see if it performs any actions that are typically associated with malware.
- Removal: Once malware is detected, a malware remover will typically attempt to remove the malware from the infected system. This may involve deleting the malware files, repairing any damage caused by the malware, and restoring any settings that may have been changed by the malware.
- Scheduled scanning: Many malware scanners allow you to schedule regular scans of your system to ensure that it is continuously protected against new threats.
- Real-time protection: Some malware scanners offer real-time protection, which means that they will continuously monitor your system for any suspicious activity and block any potential threats in real time.
- Quarantine: Some malware scanners have a quarantine feature that allows you to isolate potentially malicious files and prevent them from executing or spreading on your system. This can be useful if you are not sure whether a particular file is malicious or not, as it allows you to remove the file from your system without deleting it permanently.
- Update: To stay effective, malware scanners and removers need to be regularly updated with the latest definitions and signatures for new malware threats. Many tools offer automatic updates to ensure that you are always protected against the latest threats.
There are two main types of malware removal tools: on-premise and online. On-premise tools are installed on a computer and run locally, while online tools are accessed through a web browser and run on a remote server. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a malware removal tool:
- Behavioral and signature-based analysis: Both these methods can be used to detect malware. The behavioral analysis involves analyzing the behavior of a piece of software to determine if it exhibits characteristics typical of malware. The signature-based analysis involves searching for specific patterns or “signatures” associated with known malware. They can help to more accurately identify malware, as they take into account both the behavior and characteristics of a piece of software.
- Automatic flagging: This feature allows a malware scanner to automatically identify and flag potentially malicious files or activity. This can be useful for quickly identifying and isolating potential threats, as it reduces the need for manual analysis and intervention.
- Grayware sandboxing: Sandboxing is a technique that involves running a program or process in a simulated environment where it can be safely analyzed without affecting the rest of the system. This can be useful for analyzing grayware, which is software that is not necessarily malicious but may exhibit unwanted or suspicious behavior.
- Offsite backup: Backing up data on a separate physical location or server can protect data from being lost or destroyed in the event of a disaster, such as a fire or natural disaster, at the primary location. It can also provide an additional layer of security, as the data is not stored on the same system as the original data, which can help to prevent it from being accessed or compromised by malware.
Related content: Read our guide to malware prevention
How to Remove Malware for Windows PCs
There are several ways to remove malware on Windows 10 and 11. Microsoft Defender is the built-in antivirus software for Windows 10 and 11. To use Microsoft Defender to scan for and remove malware:
- Open the Start menu and type “Microsoft Defender” into the search bar.
- Click on “Microsoft Defender Security Center” to open the app.
- Click on the “Virus & threat protection” tile.
- Click on “Scan options” and select “Full scan”.
- Click on “Scan now” to begin the scan.
- If Microsoft Defender detects any malware, it will display a list of the detected threats and give you the option to remove them.
In addition to Microsoft Defender, you can also use third-party antivirus software to scan for and remove malware. NGAV, or next-generation antivirus, is a type of antivirus software that uses advanced techniques to detect and remove malware, including machine learning and behavioral analysis.
How to Remove Malware for Mac
Here is a process for identifying and removing malware on a MacOS computer:
- Find apps taking up disproportionate resources—open Activity Manager in Launchpad to evaluate how different applications and processes are performing. Try to identify programs that might be malware—these are apps that run in the background, take up a lot of memory, and constantly interact with the network. Remove suspicious apps by killing the process and moving the app to the trash.
- Conduct a quick search for .DMG files—DMG files are containers for macOS applications. Attackers often insert executable .DMG files into harmless downloads such as video and audio clips. Keep an eye for this potential malware indicator in the Downloads folder.
- Avoid browser pop-ups—pop-ups are a common way to distribute malware. Fortunately, it can be easily prevented—Chrome has a built-in pop-up blocker, and the Apple Safari browser lets users block popups from the Safari Settings > Security menu.
- Disable suspicious Login Items—malware can often include itself in the boot cycle and initialize along with other legitimate applications. This malware can be removed through the System Preferences utility. Select Users & Groups, click the administrator username and click Login Items. This lists all automatically initialized applications—identify and remove potentially malicious files.
How to Remove Malware for Android
Here are the steps involved in removing malware on an Android device:
- Identify signs of infection: There are several signs that an Android device may be infected with malware, including:
- Unfamiliar apps the user did not install
- Pop-up ads that appear unexpectedly
- Changes to the device’s settings or home screen
- Poor device performance or battery life
- Unfamiliar charges on the mobile phone bill
If you notice any of these signs, it is possible that the device has been infected with malware.
- Download Google Play Protect: Google Play Protect is a security feature that is built into the Google Play Store and is designed to protect Android devices from malware. To download it:
- Open the Google Play Store app on the device.
- Tap the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of the screen to open the menu.
- Tap on “Play Protect” to open the Play Protect screen.
- Tap on the Download button to download and install Google Play Protect.
- Use the device in safe mode: Safe mode is a diagnostic mode that disables third-party apps and enables troubleshooting problems on the device. To use a device in safe mode:
- Press and hold the power button until the power menu appears.
- Tap and hold the “Power off” option until the “Reboot to safe mode” prompt appears.
- Tap “OK” to restart the device in safe mode.
- Once in safe mode, you can identify and remove any suspicious apps that may be causing problems on the device.
- Report suspicious activity: If you suspect that a device has been infected with malware, report the activity to Google by:
- Going to the Google Play Protect section in the Google Play Store app.
- Tapping on the App details button next to the suspicious app.
- Tapping on the Report button and following the prompts to report the suspicious activity.
- By reporting suspicious activity, you can help Google to identify and remove malicious apps from the Google Play Store.
Advanced Malware Protection with Cynet
The Cynet 360 Advanced Threat Detection and Response platform provides protection against threats including zero-day attacks, advanced persistent threats (APT), advanced malware, and trojans that can evade traditional signature-based security measures.
Block exploit-like behavior
Cynet monitors endpoints memory to discover behavioral patterns that are typical to exploit such as an unusual process handling request. These patterns are common to the vast majority of exploits, whether known or new, and provide effective protection even from zero-day exploits.
Block exploit-derived malware
Cynet employs multi-layered malware protection that includes ML-based static analysis, sandboxing and process behavior monitoring. In addition, they provide fuzzy hashing and threat intelligence. This ensures that even if a successful zero-day exploit establishes a connection with the attacker and downloads additional malware, Cynet will prevent this malware from running so no harm can be done.
Uncover hidden threats
Cynet uses an adversary-centric methodology to accurately detect threats throughout the attack chain. Cynet thinks like an adversary, detecting behaviors and indicators across endpoints, files, users, and networks. They provide a holistic account of the operation of an attack, irrespective of where the attack may try to penetrate.
Accurate and precise
Cynet uses a powerful correlation engine and provides its attack findings with near-zero false positives and free from excessive noise. This simplifies the response for security teams so they can react to important incidents.
You can carry out automatic or manual remediation, so your security teams have a highly effective yet straightforward way to detect, disrupt, and respond to advanced threats before they have a chance to do damage.
Learn more about Cynet’s Next-Generation Antivirus (NGAV) Solution.