Safeguard Your PC With Malwarebytes

1/2/2013 3:04:56 AM

We show you how to get a second opinion on your computer's defences

You may be paying for top-of-the range antivirus software, but there's still a chance that it might miss something. That's because antivirus vendors don't share information about new threats with one another, preferring to guard the secrets of their success from potential rivals. So what one product might pick up, another might miss or think is benign.

Because of this, when faced with a potential infection, network security professsionals refuse to believe the results of any single antivirus product. For a second opinion, they use scanners designed to fit their needs - and so can you. Malwarebytes is a tool that's used in the security industry to provide such a second opinion.

I'm going to show you how to use it to establish if there’s any cause for concern on your computer and to then perform a deep scan to root out any lurking malware that your normal product might have missed.

Step-by-step: Deep scan your PC

Find and repair holes in your system's security

1.    Download the tool

First, install the free version of Malwarebytes by visiting and clicking on the 'Free download' link on the homepage. Doing so will take you to the Cnet download site, which is a repository used by many thousands of companies to host their official executables for users to download. Click the green ‘Download now' button and save the file to your PC.

2.    Run the executable

 Run the executable

Unless you've opted to store it elsewhere, the Malwarebytes executable will have been saved to your Downloads folder. Double-click the file (called 'Mbytes-setup' followed by a version number) to begin installation. User Account Control will appear in a pop-up window to ask if you want to continue. Click 'Yes' and accept English as the installation language.

3.    Get it installed

Get it installed

The Malwarebytes installation wizard will now appear. Acept the default options by clicking 'Next' until you get to the 'Install' button, and check the box to accept the licence agreement. If you don't want to create a desktop icon, or want to change the installation directory, you can do so in this wizard by changing the relevant options. Finally, click 'Install' to continue.

4.    Update definitions

Update definitions

Once Malwarebytes is installed, leave the options to run and update the software selected. Ensure that your broadband connection is up and running, then click 'Finish'. A progress window appears as Malwarebytes' antivirus definitions are downloaded and installed, along with any updates to the program itself. Once the process is complete, click 'OK' to continue.

5.    Run a quick scan

Run a quick scan

Performing a quick scan can warn you about any potential problems before you delve deeper. If this option isn't already visible, click the 'Scanner' tab on the user interface. Ensure that 'Quick scan' is selected and click the 'Scan' button. Malwarebytes then begins checking user files looking for malware signatures. It can take half an hour or more to complete this step.\

6.    Check the summary

Check the summary

When the quick scan is complete, you may notice that Malwarebytes has picked up one or more threats, which it has highlighted in red. Don't panic, the program will flag many different objects as suspicious, including benign cookies and installers used by legitimate sites and programs. To see details of the objects it has found, click the ‘Show results' button.

7.    Examine in depth

The detailed results screen provides more information about the suspicious objects the program has uncovered. Many of these will be PUPS (potentially unwanted programs), and the list can also include legitimate installers and cookies. If you right-click on an item you can select ‘Jump to location'. This option opens an Explorer window in the folder containing the suspicious item.

8.    Remove threats

Right-click on the results pane and choose 'Check all items'. This selects all the discovered threats in one go. To delete them all, simply click 'Remove selected'. If there are items you know are okay, deselect them by unticking their tick boxes before pressing 'Remove selected', otherwise they'll be erased along with the rest. Malwarebytes will display the result of its actions in a Notepad file.

9.    Examine and quarantine

9. Examine and quarantine

All the files and other nasties you removed in the previous step will be sent to a quarantine area. You can safely leave them here, or delete them by selecting the 'Delete all' button. By allowing the quarantine area to fill up rather than deleting potential threats immediately, you can build up a picture of the threats to which your regular activities expose you to risks online.

10.  Perform a full scan

10. Perform a full scan

It's a good idea to schedule the backup to run automatically so the most recent versions of your files are saved. This will protect your data in case a piece of malware manages to get through your defences. From the Backup and Restore window, click 'Change settings’ and set a time that's right for you. Ideally this should be when your PC is switched on, but not being used.

11.  Review the logs

The activities you've performed so far will have generated a few log files, which you can find under the Logs tab. Double-clicking an entry opens it in Notepad. Each of these log files contains data about the version of Malwarebytes, along with details of your machine, the time and date of the scan, the options you selected and a detailed list of the suspicious files detected.

12.  Check individual files

Malwarebytes adds a menu to Windows Explorer that lets you scan individual files. This will enable you to check downloaded executables before running them. To use this feature, close Malwarebytes and open Windows Explorer. Right-click the file you want to check and select 'Scan with Malwarebytes'. The user interface will open and proceed as if you were performing a quick scan.

13.  Set update options

Set update options

When Malwarebytes installs, it updates its database with the latest malware definitions. By default, it only notifies you when the database is seven days out of date. This is a long time in PC security. If you want the software to remind you to update the database before scanning, click 'Settings' and set ‘Days’ to T. When you see the update warning, select the 'Update' tab and click ‘Check for updates'.

14.  Keep it handy

14. Keep it handy

Malwarebytes is handy to have around, and is used the world over by computer security professionals who want a second opinion on PC security. It can also give the rest of us peace of mind that our defences are doing their job online. Though the paid-for version adds more benefits, like real-time protection, the free edition still reveals hidden security problems and fixes them quickly.

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