Is Your Computer Infected? How to Tell if You Have Malware

Is Your Computer Infected? How to Tell if You Have Malware

Hackers create around one million virus threats every day. Whether at home or work, we’re all plugged into the internet on a daily basis. Common sense suggests we’re destined to become victims of malware at some point.

If malware is an inevitability, you’ll want to know how to detect it. Antivirus software alone can’t stop every type of infection in its tracks.

When your computer starts acting strange, it could be the result of malware. If left unchecked, malware can steal sensitive information, spread to other computers on the network, and destroy your property.

Do you know how to tell if you have malware? This guide will cover some common malware symptoms you should watch out for.

How to Tell if You Have Malware Without Antivirus Software

Malware will take great steps to avoid detection by your system. While some viruses hide, others disable your antivirus software to make detection and removal impossible.

Your security software should always be active. If you see pop-ups on your toolbar informing you that it’s been disabled, it’s time to take a closer look.

This is likely Windows Defender on your home system. If you’re experiencing this issue at work, your employer may have a subscription to more advanced protection. Once you’ve detected the security software in question, attempt to re-enable it.

If the program refuses to restart, your system might be compromised. Talk to your employer’s IT staff to take a closer look.

If you on your own, download an antivirus program on a USB on a clean computer. Insert the USB into the infected computer and run the antivirus from the USB device to detect and remove the infection.

For more help, refer to this official Microsoft guide.

You’re Sending Spam Over Social Media

Has a friend accused you of sending a mysterious message? Whether through Facebook or Twitter, malware will use your social media accounts to propagate itself.

It might send spam to your friends, followers, and family members. These messages will contain dangerous links that lead to an infected website. Worst of all, your computer could be sending these links while you’re blissfully unaware.

There’s a chance your account has been breached and your computer is unaffected. Log out of all compromised accounts and change the passwords. You should do this on an uninfected computer for your protection.

These signs of malware are also present across messaging applications, such as Discord, Skype, or Telegram.

Malware isn’t the only security issue on social media. This post has some great social media security tips.

Mysterious Browser Extensions and Pop-ups

Browser extensions have changed the way people interact with online media, but it’s also opened the door to security vulnerabilities that aren’t easy to catch. Neither Google nor Microsoft force browser extensions onto your computer.

If you notice a browser extension you didn’t download, you could be infected. Access your list of browser extensions and attempt to remove the one in question. It may resist removal or return when you restart your computer.

Some forms of malware will hide as a browser extension without your knowledge. However, you’ll know something is wrong if you’re experiencing pop-ups on your browser that weren’t there previously. Sometimes, instead of pop-ups some words may randomly contain hyperlinks that actually lead you to an infected site.

For additional safety when browsing, consider installing some security extensions.

Blue Screens of Death 

When your computer experiences a critical error, it will crash to a blue screen. This is known as a blue screen of death and is indicative of a major software or hardware problem. However, constant crashes are also symptoms of malware.

Start your search by accessing your computer’s Event Viewer. You can find this with a simple toolbar search. Once the Event Viewer is open, access the administrative event view.

You’ll be presented with a list of computer errors. It’s normal to see thousands of these, many of which are caused by your Windows operating system.

Look for a critical event at the time of the crash and search online for a solution. This should help you figure out if you’re dealing with a hardware, software, or malware issue.

The Computer is Slow

If your computer is slow, a virus could be stealing its processing power. This might happen when someone is using your computer as part of a Botnet or mining cryptocurrency.

However, a slow computer isn’t proof of malware on its own. Open your Task Manager and sort your programs by CPU and Memory. If you don’t recognize a resource-intensive program, consider researching its name online.

It could be a glitch with genuine software or an infectious program. You can disable the software but take care not to end a process that might be critical to your computer’s normal operation.

Unusual Programs

Malware can come packaged with a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP). It could also take the form of a legitimate program. If you discover a program on your computer that you didn’t download, it might be malicious.

Of course, Microsoft pushes genuine software through system updates. Consult Google to look up the program and determine if it’s legitimate. If it’s not, try to uninstall the questionable software and restart your computer.

For more help, contact your employer’s IT professional before making changes to your machine.

Protect Yourself from Malware

Malware is more than a nuisance. On a home computer, spyware can glean your bank account and personal information and lead to identity theft. It can be even worse if malware infects a business device.

A data breach could be one virus away. Protect yourself or your company with Security Awareness Training. When you know how to tell if you have malware, you’ll be in a better position to stop it in its tracks.