How to Tell If Your Computer Is Infected with a Virus or Other Malware

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Fake Virus Warning

Fake antivirus message

 

Even the most tech savvy among us can fall prey to phishing attacks, viruses and malware. Your computer may be infected without you knowing, even with your antivirus wall of defense up. Be aware of symptoms to ensure your computer is secure.

Last weekend, I tried to fix a friend’s computer, and, as with previous friendly tech support sessions, found myself fighting more than just the original problem. Every link I clicked dredged up multiple new browser windows, including pop-ups that told me the computer was not secure. You don’t say!

Random pop-ups and, worse, antivirus messages that try to trick you into entering your credit card information to solve the problem are two of the most obvious signs your computer has been hacked. Hackers use your fear of viruses to sell fake antivirus solutions. Meanwhile, your legitimate antivirus software may suddenly be disabled.

Another telltale sign of malware or a virus is if you can’t download or install antivirus software or other software. Some malware blocks all antivirus sites and may even prevent you from going online.

In both of these cases, your best bet is to shut down your computer and restart it in Safe Mode — usually that means holding down the F8 key while your computer restarts. Then use a program like Malwarebytes Antimalware saved on USB or disc to scan your system and remove the malware.

Other signs of an infection are more difficult to pin solely on viruses and other threats. For example, if programs become unresponsive or your computer slows to a crawl, it could be a virus causing the problems — or many other reasons, such as your hard drive being nearly full or your computer running out of free memory. Viruses can also cause your computer to crash or restart on its own, but that could also happen if your computer is overheating.

To figure this out, keep your antivirus software up to date (I recommend Avast) and run a regular scan. You can follow up with Malwarebytes for extra assurance. If nothing’s found, you still have some troubleshooting and clean up to do, but at least you’ll be sure your computer’s not infected. That, at least, is worth celebrating.

Photo credit: bodycoach2 (Flickr)

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