The Zeus Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

Protect your PC from a nasty threat

A conceptual illustration of the Zeus virus destroying a laptop computer.

Lifewire / Theresa Chiechi 

Did you mistakenly click on a suspicious link or download a file that you shouldn't have opened? They're both prime ways of catching a nasty virus on your computer. One particularly nasty Trojan is the Zeus malware virus. 

The main variant of Zeus only infects Windows-based PCs, although there is a new variety that also affects Android-based smartphones.

What Is The Zeus Virus?

The Zeus Virus is designed to steal confidential information from your computer. It attempts to gather banking information or financial details such as account numbers, passwords, and credit card numbers. 

Like any virus, the longer it sticks around, the worse the damage can be. 

How Does Zeus Work?

Zeus is referred to as malware as well as a Trojan. A Trojan is effectively a malicious piece of software that you may have inadvertently downloaded, thinking you were downloading something safe. 

The purpose of such software is to extort or steal money from you through nefarious means. Unlike viruses, they're not designed to spread to other computers, but to steal from the direct source. They can also download other malware and viruses, making your problems worse.

In some cases, Zeus can download ransomware that encrypts your files and demands money in exchange for unlocking them. 

It's important that you delete the threat as soon as possible so that the problem doesn't get worse. 

How Do I Know I Have The Zeus Virus?

Typically, Zeus overwhelms your computer by installing new malicious programs in the background. This leads to numerous crashes and the Blue Screen of Death.

It can also lead to an increased number of pop-up ads and sponsored links which may interrupt your browsing. Your firewall may also stop running for no obvious reason. 

Zeus on Android smartphones causes similar disruption.

It's often hard to know exactly which virus or Trojan you're afflicted with, which is why it's important to run regular antivirus software scans or use malware detection software. 

How Did I Get the Zeus Virus?

There are many ways you could have gotten the Zeus Trojan. Here's a look at some of the most common ways.

  • Downloading a program or app from an unreliable source such as the dark web or torrent files.
  • Downloading free software from an unfamiliar website.
  • Clicking an infected link in a phishing email. 
  • Clicking website pop-up ads.

How Do I Get Rid of the Zeus Virus?

The simplest way to get rid of Zeus malware is to use antivirus software as well as a malware removal tool. 

Your antivirus software can take several hours to complete the process, depending on your computer, but it will typically offer you options on how best to remove the malicious files. 

Malware (also known as spyware) can also be deleted via a malware removal tool. There are many different software tools out there but each have the same goal — making it easy to detect malware and delete it before it causes you trouble.

Much like antivirus software, the malware scanning process can take several hours depending on the size of your PC's hard drive. 

You can also use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your system before you were infected with the virus. Make sure you pick a time when you know you didn't have the virus on your PC. 

As a last resort, you can also reformat and reinstall your computer. It's the best guarantee that you've completely deleted the infected files, but it can take a long time to do and requires a certain amount of knowledge when it comes to knowing how to get your computer set up correctly. 

If you decide to completely wipe and reinstall your operating system, any files that are not backed up will be lost. This is a Catch-22 problem, however, because backup files may already be infected with the Trojan and could re-infect your system when you restore the backup.

How Can I Avoid Getting the Zeus Virus Again? 

A few key steps will lower the chance of you getting re-infected with Zeus (or any other virus). Here's a look at the best methods.

  • Keep your PC up to date. Microsoft frequently releases security updates for your computer. Always keep on top of these. They're often your first defense from virus threats.
  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Similarly, keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. New virus definitions are released regularly and these keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware based threats. 
  • Scan your system on a regular basis. With software installed, you shouldn't ever be infected with anything, but it's wise to run regular system scans to double check that nothing got through.
  • Be careful online. Don't click on links you don't recognize, and only download files from sites you feel confident about. Never click on pop-up ads. If you see a pop-up that warns of a virus or threat, make sure it's actually coming from your antivirus software and not from a website you're browsing. If in doubt - don't click.