When your PC slows down or acts weird, you don't always know the cause. It could just a glitch, in which case we revert to any IT experts' first choice - turn it off and on again. However, it could be a visible sign of a terrible malware infestation. Difficult to know which it is, right? Don't worry - there are a few signs you can look for. Start by checking this list -
1. Popup Ads Start Popping Up Everywhere
While not as common as they used to be, as some browsers have built-in adblockers, adware programs bombard their victims with advertisements. Sometimes they're ads for legitimate products, netting an affiliate fee for the adware perpetrator. Other times they contain links to malicious websites that will attempt to drop more malware on your PC.
2. Mysterious Posts Appear on Your Social Media
Malware focused on Facebook and other social media sites propagate by generating fake posts. Typically, these posts include an inflammatory statement of some kind, like "OMG were you really that drunk? Look at this picture!" Anyone who falls for the fake and clicks the link becomes the malware's next victim, it's really that easy.
3. Your Browser Gets Redirected
Not every site redirect is malicious, but if you find that trying to reach Google takes you to an unfamiliar search site, you've got a problem. Sometimes the redirection is less noticeable. For example, a banking Trojan might divert your browser to a fraudulent site that looks just like your bank's real site. In that case, your only clue is the unfamiliar URL in the Address bar. Redirection attacks often rely on browser extensions, so if you suspect a problem, dig into your browser settings and disable or delete any extensions you didn't install deliberately.
3. An Unknown App Sends Scary Warnings
Creating and distributing fake antivirus programs is a lucrative business. The perpetrators use drive-by downloads or other sneaky techniques to get the fake antivirus onto your system, then display scary warnings about made-up threats. Naturally, you have to register a payment before the fraudulent tool will "fix" the problem. And of course, scanning for malware with the fake AV is super-fast, since it's not actually doing anything.
4. You Get Ransom Demands
Some malware programs literally hold your PC or data for ransom. Not too much detail is required in this but please feel free to check out the Ransomware blog post.
5. Your System Tools Are Disabled
A smart user, suspecting the presence of malware, might launch Task Manager to investigate or check settings using Registry Editor. If you suddenly find that trying to use these or other system tools triggers a message saying your Administrator has disabled them, it may well be an attempt at self-defence by malware on your system.
What if everything seems okay? It doesn't necessarily mean you are safe. Some types of malware do their best to hide all activity, leaving no visible traces. Even when you don't notice anything unusual, it's possible that a bot on your system may be quietly awaiting instruction from its command and control system. A Remote Access Trojan (or some other form of spyware) may be harvesting your personal information. That's right, even if you think you're safe, you might not be. Why do we rely on computers so heavily?!
So, You've Got Malware. Now What?
If you think that malware has taken up residence in your PC, install a powerful antivirus application or security suite immediately. Already got one? Then apparently the malware got past its protection. Make sure your antivirus is fully up to date, and run a full scan.
Just because you have antivirus software on your computer doesn't mean your protected. Security software is only effective on known viruses. However, the nature of the beast is that security is always reactive. It can't protect against something that it doesn't know about. It does update itself though, so don't just install it and forget about it - schedule some scans and updates. Just make sure you use the software now and again.