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Ever since the internet was introduced and computer technology advanced, computer viruses and malware have become significant security threats for devices, networks, and computer systems. The peril of these viruses stems from their self-replication ability, enabling them to infiltrate and propagate swiftly among interconnected devices. But when faced with a virus infection, what actions should be taken? Does disconnecting from the internet aid in their removal?

Should the Internet be disconnected when the computer is infected with viruses?

Effective virus prevention and mitigation are achievable in numerous instances when promptly detected and addressed. Hence, it's imperative to implement robust protection systems and adhere to security protocols and preventive measures to counter virus attacks.

It's commonly recommended to disconnect the device from the internet and disable Wi-Fi while removing viruses. This step aims to prevent virus transmission to other devices and avoid interference from antivirus updates that could impede repair efforts.
Should I disconnect the Internet when my computer is infected with viruses?

The Truth About Disconnecting from the Internet to Combat Viruses

Computer viruses and malicious software have been a primary threat to device and network security since the 1980s. Their danger lies in their ability to infiltrate devices and spread rapidly among them. They can be overcome and their damage avoided by implementing proper prevention measures, including installing robust security systems and following digital safety principles.

Opinions vary on whether it's best to disconnect from the Internet while removing viruses. Some argue that disconnecting is necessary to prevent virus spread, while others believe that staying connected can facilitate virus removal through online software updates and security tools.

How do viruses spread and penetrate computers?

1. Download infected files:

This method is considered one of the most popular ways to spread viruses, as the user is tricked into downloading infected files from unreliable sources such as: 
  • Anonymous apps: Some apps downloaded from outside the official app stores may contain viruses.
  • Pirated media: Pirated movies and music may contain viruses that spread when played.
  • Free Games: Some free games may contain viruses that are downloaded with the game.

2. Connecting peripheral devices:

Viruses can spread through connecting infected peripheral devices such as USB drives or smartphones.

3. Browsing unsafe websites:

Some websites may contain malicious code that infects your device with viruses when visited.

4. Phishing attacks:

Hackers send emails or text messages with virus-infected links or attachments. When you click the link or download the attachment, the device becomes infected with the virus.

Symptoms of your computer being infected with viruses:

  1. Slow computer performance: Your computer speed may become slower than usual.
  2. Unwanted changes: Viruses may make changes to files or programs on the device.
  3. Delete files: Some files may be deleted from the device.
  4. Illegal data access: Some viruses may allow third parties to access device data.
  5. Disable the device: Some viruses may cause the device to be disabled and prevented from starting.

Disconnecting the Internet when the computer is discovered to be infected with viruses: Is it an effective solution?

This question doesn't have a clear-cut answer, as whether to disconnect from the internet when your computer has viruses depends on the specific type of virus and its capabilities. Taking out the internet cable and cutting off your computer from the network might mitigate the potential harm from viruses, particularly if done quickly after infection. This decision hinges on the characteristics of the malware and viruses involved, their objectives, and their mode of operation. Generally, most computer viruses can be categorized into the following types.

Types of viruses:

  1. Malware: such as ransomware, botnet, remote access Trojan (RATs), rootkits, boot kits, spyware, viruses, and worms.
  2. Formjacking: Formjacking is a type of software that steals data by inserting malicious code commands into web pages and steals data online.
  3. Backdoor software: allows remote data access.
  4. Cryptojacking software: Malware mining, or cryptojacking, installs illegal cryptocurrency mining software on devices and networks.
  5. DNS spoofing attacks: Attacks that use DNS spoofing are intended to direct users to malicious sites.
  6. Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks: Disruptions of services that flood servers, systems, and networks with large amounts of junk data, reducing the speed of services and making them difficult for users to access.
Certain types of malware, like Remote Access Trojans (RATs) and formjacking software, pose significant threats when connected to the internet. They enable hackers and cyber attackers to remotely control compromised systems and gain unrestricted access to their data. Moreover, ransomware has the capability to duplicate and transmit data to attackers through dedicated servers, jeopardizing the data if users refuse to pay the ransom.

Disconnecting the Internet affects computer virus protection programs 

However, disconnecting from the Internet once you suspect that there is a virus or malware in your computer may not be a good choice, as most antivirus programs work more efficiently while connected to the Internet. The large databases stored on the servers of the manufacturers of these programs, which are constantly updated, provide important information that helps in better detection of threats.
Internet shutdowns affect computer protection programs from viruses
Total online protection rates (grouped into groups)

Practical evidence supports this assertion, demonstrating that antivirus programs operate more efficiently when online. For instance, tests revealed that Avira detected as much as 99.1% of viruses when connected to the Internet, compared to a reduced detection rate of 92.5% when offline. Similar results were observed with Windows Security and McAfee.

Given the time-consuming nature of computer scans, data may be compromised before viruses are detected. Therefore, one can utilize antivirus software while connected to the Internet for a rapid scan, followed by disconnecting from the Internet and employing rescue disks for a thorough and secure scan.

When is it recommended to disconnect the Internet?

  • If a recent infection is discovered:
  1. Before you send the data to cybercriminals.
  2. before the virus can spread to other devices.
  • In the absence of anti-virus solutions: as a temporary solution to protect the device from further damage.
  • In case of risk to sensitive data: to prevent data theft or use for illegal purposes.

Virus prevention tips:

  1. Download files from trusted sources: Be sure to download files from official app stores or trusted websites.
  2. Use antivirus: Install an updated antivirus on the device and make sure it runs continuously.
  3. Beware of suspicious emails: Don't open any emails or attachments from unknown sources.
  4. Update your operating system and software: Make sure your operating system and software are up to date to get the latest security patches.
  5. Beware of unsafe websites: Do not browse unknown or suspicious websites.
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