What is Malware and how do you detect it in your PC? Before we learn how to spot malware that has infected your computer, it’s good to know what malware actually is. This term has expanded to cover pretty much any kind of security risk that threatens your computer, including viruses, Trojan horses, phishing schemes and more.
However, the definition of malware simply states that it’s a piece of software created specifically to cause harm.
There are a huge number of malware threats in the world, and most of them can cause serious damage. The way you protect yourself from these security threats matters greatly. If you aren’t protected well enough, you could easily become a victim of malware and other kinds of viruses.
The Most Common Signs of Malware:
- You get random pop-ups, even when you’re not online. Pop-ups are annoying enough when you’re browsing the web, but if they start showing up when you’re offline, that can be a big red flag that something more sinister is happening. Most of these pop-ups want you to download some kind of antivirus software, which seems harmless enough by itself. But that’s how they get you. If you think your computer is telling you to download antivirus software, you’re more likely to trust the pop-ups. Then, once you click the download link, you unwittingly open the doors to more viruses.
- Your computer’s performance takes a hit. If your computer has always run well, but suddenly and unexpectedly starts slowing down, you may have a virus. Most malware threats run processes in the background, eating up your computer’s resources. Check to make sure you have plenty of memory available on your device and that you’re not running a bunch of programs in the background. If everything checks out on those fronts, but your computer is still slow, it’s possible that you have malware installed.
- Your computer is constantly crashing. Computers aren’t built to crash, and if they do, something really wrong happened. Sometimes crashes protect your data and the overall system, but when they happen frequently, you should start to get suspicious. Some viruses are built to corrupt essential system files your computer needs to run properly.
- Your built-in firewall and antivirus software have been disabled without your knowledge. Some malware targets your firewall and existing antivirus software to open the doors to other malware. If your security measures have been disabled without your knowledge or permission, you might want to check for viruses and malware.
- Your contact list is receiving communication from you that you never sent. If you’ve ever had a friend tell you that they’re getting strange emails from you that you don’t remember sending, you might be infected. Some malware takes over your accounts and sends out phishing emails to try and get your contacts, too.
How to Detect Malware:
If you suspect your computer is infected with malware, there’s no time to waste. The longer you wait to address the issue, the more damage these little bugs can cause. So, how do you know for sure if your computer has gotten a virus?
One of the simplest and most inexpensive ways is to use a trusted antivirus software. These tools scan your entire computer, hunting for malicious programs and eliminating them once they’re found.
If you don’t have antivirus software and don’t want to buy any, take the computer to a computer repair shop. The technicians at the shop can easily diagnose your problem, for a price. This price is typically more expensive than purchasing antivirus software.
How Did I Get Malware?
You might be wondering how you got malware on your computer. Malware comes in all shapes and sizes from every corner of the website. However, there are a few surefire ways that malware gets onto your device:
- Scam emails. One of the most common ways malware gets you is through scam emails. You receive an email that asks you to open and download an attachment, and the virus is piggybacking on the download. If you don’t know the sender and don’t know if it’s trustworthy, it’s best to leave email attachments untouched.
- Software downloads. Most software is downloaded directly from the internet today. Gone are the days of purchasing a CD and loading the software from a disc. Unfortunately, this opens the door to more malware and viruses. Untrustworthy websites often entice you with free downloads bundled with a bonus virus.
- Compromised websites. Visiting a website that has been hacked or otherwise compromised often delivers malware straight to your computer once you visit. Luckily, many web browsers will have built-in security that warns you of dangerous websites. Pay attention to these warnings and don’t click through to the website.
- USB flash drives and external hard drives. Plugging external drives into your computer is always a risk, especially if you don’t know where they’re coming from. This is especially true since most computers have an autorun feature that automatically accesses these drives as soon as you plug them.
- Avoid malware from external drives by disabling the autorun feature and running security scans on them before opening them up.
Now that you know the signs and how to detect malware on your PC, be safe! Malware, while it can sound harmless, can lead to significant problems down the road.