You’ve heard the term Malware before, and you know it’s not a good thing for your computer, right? But is it the same as having a virus? Are malware and computer virus interchangeable terms? How can you and I tell if our computer is infected with malware? Are anti-malware and antivirus programs the same? Or is “malware detection” same-same as anti-virus. Confused? Is cybersecurity software needed at all? I’m sure there are Apple and Android users wondering this very thing. I’m sure you are wondering the same thing.

This is where your eyes start to roll around in your head. And you’d like to block your ears in hopes it will all go away.

Afterall you just want to get your work done, watch your movie stream sitting back with a bottle of your Instacart ordered wine or zoom your family and friends. Surely you can, just relax and not have to worry about all that tech stuff. But unfortunately, it’s during these interactions with technology when we let down our defences. In the everyday transactions and actions we are all the more open to getting malware, which includes such things cyberthreats as ransomwareTrojansspywarestalkerware, and, yes, viruses.

Likewise, to add salt into the wound, cybercriminals use social engineering  to deliver malware. For example

  1. asking people to update their personal information on malicious websites pretending to be legitimate.
  2. fooling people into opening email attachments that infect their computers

Not nice, right? No-one wants to fall for their schemes.

But there is some good news. And that is, staying safe isn’t hard, it’s actually – pretty- easy. Firstly, you just need a basic understanding of how threats work. Secondly, a security program that can detect and protect against malware. And perhaps a little common sense.

With these protections acting as our “swiss army knife” shield, you can safely avoid the majority of the dangers online today.

So, for those who feel they’re technologically challenged, this is perfect for you. This is your crash course on malware detection. That is to say, we’ll answer those questions that frighten us, those ones you didn’t really want to know. Such as:

  • What is malware?
  • How can I detect malware?
  • Is Windows Defender good enough?
  • Do Mac and mobile devices need anti-malware?
  • How do you remove malware?
  • How do you prevent malware infections?

What is malware?

Malware, or malicious software as it also known, refers to any malicious program that is harmful to your devices. These devices can include

  • laptop
  • tablet
  • mobile phone
  • WiFi router
  • smart TVs
  • smart fridges
  • newer cars, with lots of onboard technology

Rule of thumb, if it can connect to the internet, it can be infected with malware.

There are many types of malware, with a few of the popular explained below:


Advertising-supported software, or Adware as it’s commonly known, is software that displays unwanted advertising on your computer or mobile device. It is the most common threat to Windows, Mac, and Android devices today, as stated in the Malwarebytes Labs 2020 State of Malware Report

Adware has become increasingly aggressive and malicious over the last couple years, but it’s not considered as dangerous as some other forms of malware, such as ransomware. But is annoying, as it redirects users from their original search advertising-supported results. It adds in unnecessary toolbars to browsers, and floods screens with pop-up ads box that are hard-to-close. So it makes it difficult for users to uninstall.

Computer virus

computer virus is a type of malware that is able to connect to another program such as a document. After that initial execution on a system involving human interaction., it can copy and spread on its own. But criminals aren’t focusing on computer viruses these days, they’re after more profitable threats such as ransomware with large paydays.


Often appearing legitimate, a Trojan program is a master at hiding it true intentions. Most importantly, it really wants to conduct malicious business. And in fact, there are many groups of malware that can be called Trojans. These range from information- stealers to banking Trojans that steal account credentials along with draining out your bank account.

A Trojan once active on a system can:

Firstly, quietly steal your personal information

Secondly, spam other potential victims from your account

Thirdly, load other forms of malware on the system

Certainly, Emotet is one to watch out as it’s very effective. For example, it has evolved from a basic information stealer to master at spreading other forms of malware to other systems. Notably useful for targeting business networks.


This type of malware, called Ransomware  has the ability to lock you out of you device and or encrypts your files. So, that you will pay a large sum of money, a ransom to get them back. High profile targets against businesses, schools, and local government agencies are most lucrative for these cybercriminals. And so many have been affected over the last four years. The more infamous types of ransomware include RyukSodinokibi, and WastedLocker.

How can I detect malware?

These are the ways to spot malware on your device;

Firstly, it may be running slower than usual.

Secondly, you might have loads of ads bombarding your screen

Thirdly, your battery life may not last as long

In addition, your files maybe frozen

Finally, there may be no sign of an infection

So, for that reason, a good malware detection starts with a good anti-malware program. Think of it as, good protection a good shield against threats that what were looking for. Therefore, it will;

  1. going to be a program that can detect and protect against any of the threats we’ve covered above and then some
  2. including what’s known as zero-day or zero-hour exploits.

To clarify, zero day are new threats developed by cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities, or weaknesses in code. These are the areas that haven’t been fixed or detected by the companies that made them. That’s why makers notify us of patches, or updates to help with stopping any loopholes that allow infiltration.

While in order to stop threats Antivirus and other legacy cybersecurity software depend on signature-based detection. Signature-based detection is achieved by looking at every file on your computer against a list of malware. So much like a set of fingerprints, each threat carries its own signature. As a result, if the security program finds a code in your computer that is equivalent to the known threat, it quickly isolates and removes the malicious program.

But signature-based detection is only good for protection against known threats. It’s also both time-consuming and resource intensive for your computer. As a result, new malware like zero- day have free range to spread and cause damage until their known and added to database.

So that’s where Heuristic analysis is an alternative as it investigates a program’s behaviour. In other words, it determines if a computer code is malicious or not and if it’s acting like malware. Once it detects suspect behaviour the files are sent to quarantine where they can be automatically or manually removed. Therefore, no need to add to the increasingly bloated database of signature-based detection.

Above all, the leading anti-malware programs are those that;

  1. Protect against new and emerging zero-day threats
  2. Protect against known about threats using traditional signature-based detection

You need both requirements for adding security.

Is Windows Defender good enough?

Windows Defender seems fine, I mean it came preinstalled with your computer. You’ve never looked at any other options. Perhaps you’ve used Windows Defender and your computer somehow got an infection anyways. What ever the case, Windows Defender is one of the most targeted security programs by cybercriminals. Most importantly, it just can’t protect against a whole category of threats.

In other words, there are a few other methods of malware detection that, when layered together, offer optimal protection over Windows Defender. Many of the threats detected are found using Heuristic analysis, rather than the signature-less technologies as we might expect.

For example, Malwarebytes Premium includes heuristic analysis technology as just one of its components, incorporating the layered together approach for threat detection. It also includes other major components such as ransomware protection, web protection, and anti-exploit technology.

Do Mac and mobile devices need anti-malware?

For the first time ever, Macs outpaced Windows PCs, in 2019, in number of threats detected per endpoint. Debunking the myth that Macs are safer. For instance, Mac adware has exploded, becoming so persistent that it warrants extra anti-malware protection even though Macs’ have an built-in AV and block some malware.

Subsequently, the iPhone, does not allow outside anti-malware programs to be downloaded. Apple are confident their own built-in iOS protection is enough. For added safety, there are some privacy apps, web browser protection, and scam call blockers users can try.  

Meanwhile for Android, malware attacks from threats like adware, monitoring apps, and other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) are more common. PUPs serve up annoying ads like adware, those you can’t get rid of. Or at their worst, perform an under the radar style of stealing information from your phone.

As a result of the Android environment allowing for third-party downloads, it’s more susceptible to malware and PUPs than the iPhone. Certainly, for your Android device we recommend a good anti-malware solution  as well.

How can I remove malware?

Say you’ve taken the important step of getting malware detection for your cybersecurity- solution but you get a malware infection on one of your devices, anyway? What now? The goods new is, this can be easily removed. It’s called remediation – the process of identifying and removing cyberthreats from your computer systems.

To conduct a thorough remediation of your device;

  1. make sure you back up your files
  2. download an anti-malware program
  3. run a scan
  4. once complete, change all of your account passwords in case they were compromised in the malware attack. 

Malwarebytes has a rock-solid reputation for removing malware especially if you’re dealing with a tough infection. They claim that some of the other programs can’t detect the infection let alone remove it.

If you need to clean an infected computer now, download Malwarebytes for free, review these tips for remediation, and run a scan to see which threats are hiding on your devices.

How do I protect against malware?

Thankfully, it is possible to remove malware from your infected computer and do a thorough clean up. But in saying that, ransomware is malware that cannot be undone. That’s why it’s important to do a backup because once your files are encrypted there’s no return. Beat the criminals at their own game and stay a step ahead by preventing infection in the first place.

Most importantly, in order to stay that step ahead is to;

  1. Keep all devices updated with the latest software patches (will block threats designed to exploit older vulnerabilities)
  2. Automating backups of files to an encrypted cloud storage platform (it won’t protect against ransomware attacks, but it will ensure that you needn’t pay the ransom to retrieve your files- definitely worthwhile )
  3. Training on cybersecurity best practices (how to spot a phishing attack, tech support scam, or other social engineering technique, to helps stop insider threats)
  4. use an antivirus/anti-malware program with layered protection as we’ve discussed (need to stop a wide range of cyberthreats in real time—whether it’s a malicious website or a brand-new malware family never before seen.
  5. maybe it’s time to move on to a program that’ll “just fix your computer” so you can get on with life and stop worrying about malware detection.

So next time your streaming that must- see movie, or getting on Zoom with your friends and family, remember have you understood the answers to DIY malware detection? I hope that it’s a bit clearer and there’s less of the eye rolls and block up ears as this just won’t go away.