10 Warning Signs of Malware Infection
Malware and other forms of computer attacks have been around for a long time. But there has been a steady growth in the number of malware attacks over the past few years. It is not difficult to understand why that’s the case. The number of people using the internet increases by a lot each year! In addition to that, the number of methods for attacking internet users is growing and the methods are getting more sophisticated all the time.
Security professionals are constantly trying to thwart the malicious users’ attempts before they succeed, but the onus is on the everyday internet user to protect his or her system from malware. To help you with that, we will provide you with ten warning signs that are an indication of malware infecting your system.
10 Warning Signs That You Might be Infected by Malware
1. System Slowdown
A slow system is one of the biggest and most obvious giveaways of malware infection. When malware infects your system, your system’s performance usually goes down. As a result, your operating system might take much longer than usual to start, or some or all of the applications could begin to run considerably slower. Your network bandwidth could suffer due to malware as well. So, if you encounter any of these things, it’s possible that malware has infected your system.
That being said, it’s only possible that this has happened, not 100% certain. After all, a system slowdown can be caused by a number of things. For example, you could be using resource-heavy applications that require a large portion of your system RAM. If your computer’s hard drive is almost full, then your system will slow down as well. Slowdown can also be caused by damaged hardware. Only after you have checked for these possible causes can you say with certainty that your system is under the effect of malware.
2. Suspicious New Browser Toolbar and Activity
When you click on suspicious pop-ups, or install software from unknown resources, the result could be a suspicious browser tool or extension. When you open your browser, you might see a different home page or an unfamiliar toolbar added to your browser.
This is because the toolbars were installed by the malware that came with the software you downloaded and installed from the unknown source. Clicking on suspicious pop-ups can result in malware downloading itself on your system and then installing other toolbars as well. This malware then installs unwanted software that could possibly have a malicious nature as well. You might also encounter websites automatically opening and pages you didn’t request. This is another warning sign of malware infection.
Pop-ups are definitely up there with the most annoying things to encounter online, but can also be quite dangerous. Pop-up screens frequently distract and annoy us, but they need to be handled carefully. This is because clicking on them can result in malware of all kinds finding a home on your system. A rise in the number of pop-ups you see is also a sign that your system is already infected with malware.
When you think back on your internet activity before this started to happen, and if you recall clicking on links in emails from unknown people or downloading a free app from an unverified source, you’ll have a suspected reason for the malware infection. Clicking on these pop-ups will lead to more trouble. Removing them is a bother, but a good anti-spyware product can help you out, and remove the malware before it infects your system.
4. System Crashes
If your system begins to crash frequently and you see that ‘blue screen of death’, then it’s quite possible that malware has victimized your system. But before you jump to that conclusion, be sure to clear out other possible causes. One of the things that causes system crashes is computability issues between two different software or a software with a hardware. The most common case is when two different types of antivirus software are installed on the same machine and cause crashes due to conflict. Other types of programs can cause this as well.
Other than that, orphaned registry keys can be the culprit for system crashes. These are chunks of data that persist in your system long after you uninstall numerous programs from your system. Removing them manually is bothersome, even for those well versed in their removal. But if you feel this is the case, use an automatic cleaner like CC cleaner.
5. Automatic Program Initialization or Suspicious Error Messages
This is one of the things that is a big giveaway of malware activity in your system, and if encountered, this should be treated immediately since it is quite dangerous. The things that you should look out for are:
- Programs and apps randomly opening and closing
- Unknown and strange windows visible during the boot process
- Random system restarts
These things can also arise out of technical problems, but the possibility of malware infection is very high in these cases. If you see messages from Windows saying you no longer have access to certain drives, then you need to act fast. In most cases, these things happen due to malware infecting your system and affecting large parts of your operating system. A total OS reinstall is the only solution should the worst befall you.
6. New and Unrecognized Icons on Desktop
In case you notice an increase in the number of icons on your Desktop, and you don’t recognize the new additions, then it is quite likely that you are infected with malware in the form of PUPs and PUAs. These usually find their way into your system via free app or software downloads from unknown sources. Once installed, they can show your numerous random and potentially dangerous pop-ups, install new toolbars, collect your personal information and share it online, etc.
7. Low Hard Drive Space
People often see that little Windows notification on the lower right corner of their screen saying their system is running out of disk space on the OS drive. This is another warning sign that your system is affected by malware. You should also check for other things that the malware could cause, like disappearing or renaming of certain files in that drive, or the physical storage of your system increasing suspiciously.
There is a breed of malware that causes such things to happen. Such malware will then take up most of the remaining space on your drive and then cause your system to crash.
8. Spam Emails Coming From Your System
People today know to never click on links in spam mails and be wary of them. But what if you receive word from your friends and family that they are receiving spam mails from you? What if they say that they are receiving an increasing number of mails and instant messages from social media accounts under your name that usually have links of attachments in them? This is a reason to worry, because this could mean that all this is the doing of an app that isn’t under your control. The dangers of this happening are quite obvious.
But a more probable reason is that your accounts have been hacked into. To clear this doubt, open the accounts from which those mails and messages were said to originate from. If you indeed find those in the sent folders, then it’s possible that your system is free from malware and only your accounts were compromised. But in any case, you should change the passwords for those accounts immediately and be wary in the future.
9. Unusual Network Activity
There are cases when despite not using the internet at all, high network activity shows on your system. Many people observe this even when their browsers are not open and they aren’t using any program that is involved in downloading or uploading anything. Malware can easily cause this to happen, but you should check a few things first:
- Whether there is an app update running in the background
- Whether an app running in the background is downloading data
- Whether a Windows update was scheduled and is running
- Whether there really is a download taking place which you forgot about
Once these are cleared, you should see about that high network activity. Programs like Wireshark and GlassWire can show you how your system is causing that high network traffic. Since not everyone understand their function and most readers will only be concerned for malware infection, run a malware check through your antivirus to find out if a malware is there in your system. If the problem still persists and you see no solution, consult a security expert.
10. Inactive or Disabled Antivirus Software
This doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it spells disaster like nothing else. If you notice that your antivirus software is not working or that the update module is disabled, then you can be certain that this is a malware’s doing. There are many malware that specifically target security software to prevent their discovery and prolonged exploitation of the user’s system.
The first thing you should do is reboot your system and antivirus and see if the issue remains. If it does, then you need to consult a security expert and probably switch to a newer and better antivirus. Older antivirus are more susceptible to newer malware that sneak past them and then disable them to render the user helpless. This is a typical strategy used by people who target others using ransomware.
How to Prevent Malware from Infecting your System?
1. Educate yourself
Read up on the latest news about the different malware circulating and learn how to keep yourself safe from them. The most common preventive measures are still to refrain from clicking on suspicious links and attachments in mails or clicking on pop-ups. It’s really astounding how many people still get victimized because of not following this simple rule.
2. Use a Good Antivirus Software
Antivirus is the one line of defence you should never compromise on in your system. It is the only thing that can prevent malware from infecting your system even though you did nothing wrong. Choosing a good antivirus and keeping it up to date is the key to staying safe from malware. Read a few blogs and find out which antivirus are the best in the market when you buy one.
Even if you don’t see any of these warning signs of malware in your system, it is advised that you conduct routine checks for malware and run full system scans from time to time. There are a lot of malware that don’t show any noticeable sign of their activity but continue to function silently. To keep yourself from this dangerous class and all others, stay vigilant, and make sure you keep checking for malicious software and activity in your system. Check out some of the best antivirus software to keep your files and personal information safe – read the reviews and leave your comments below.
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I’m glad you mentioned that PUPs and PUAs can collect and share our personal information in addition to showing dangerous pop-ups. I booted up my laptop for the first time in a few weeks yesterday, and I noticed two new icons on the desktop that I was curious about. Thanks for letting me know why it’d be smart to have the computer looked at by a professional repair service!