If your computer starts running slowly and your programs seem to be crashing, or you see the infamous Blue Screen of Death, you may have a malware infection.
Although following the Cardinal Rules of System Security and using an antivirus suite can help keep malware infections to a minimum, they do not eliminate them. Recognizing the signs of a malware infection can allow you to respond quickly.
Changes in your web browser’s homepage
Changes in the web’s homepage are one of the symptoms of malware infection. This is a bad sign if you log on to your computer and find your home page has changed. It could indicate that you are infected with a type of malware called browser hijacking. This malware gathers information about browsing habits and sends them to the attacker’s server. The attacker can then change your internet browser’s homepage to redirect users to a website with ads or other unwanted content. The more people that visit the site, the higher the profits for the hacker.
Other common signs of malware infection include unexpected pop-up windows on your screen. Often, these are fake error messages that mimic your computer’s error messages and prompt you to click on a link or call a number.
You may also notice that your system is acting slower than usual. This is a common symptom of a malware infection, as it will take up more resources on your device to keep itself running. This will affect the performance of other applications and programs on your device.
Many malware threats are designed to hide from detection and create multiple attacks on a device. They can be difficult to eradicate once they’re established. In addition, the more invasive forms of malware can steal data, hijack device capabilities and cause downtime and loss of productivity.
The most common signs of malware infection include slow system performance, pop-up ads, and low available storage space. Malware often eats up valuable processing resources, which leads to a sluggish computer that feels like it’s running old hardware.
Malware may also impose unauthorized changes to the operating system and install additional programs on a device. These include rootkits, worms, and Trojans, which represent the most dangerous forms of malware. They can consist of banking Trojans, which capture passwords or other sensitive data and can be used to transfer funds from an infected machine to external accounts.
Some malware types, such as ransomware, can lock users out of their computer or mobile phone until a ransom is paid. Other malware, such as a keylogger, records all the keys typed on a keyboard and sends this information to attackers.
While pop-up ads can be annoying, hackers use them to spread malware. They can reroute web browsers to malicious websites that download viruses, steal personal information, and even hijack the device’s operating system.
Another sign that a device is infected is unexplained storage space consumption. Many types of malware are large and occupy a computer’s hard drive, slowing the system or causing it to crash.
If a device consumes a disproportionate amount of memory or disk space, run Windows Task Manager to check the programs running in the background. Malware programs are a prime candidate for such high utilization, as they’re often designed to hide from antivirus software and system tools. Alternatively, you can use one of the free applications available to diagnose a malware infection. If the program is identified, it can be removed from your device. To prevent future infections, make sure that you follow good online practices, install and regularly update antimalware software, and avoid downloading ‘free’ apps.
Reduced storage space
A sudden decrease in storage space is a common sign of malware infection. Malware, a generic term for viruses, trojans, and other malicious software programs threat actors use to disrupt devices and steal sensitive data, often installs additional files on the device that consume processing power and reduce the amount of storage available.
Many forms of malware, especially Trojans and ransomware, communicate back and forth with command and control servers. This activity can cause a spike in Internet traffic on your network and may also explain why you’re running out of space.
Junk files (system junk, temporary files, browser, and Windows application data) pile up over time and can quickly drain a device’s hard drive. For this reason, you should regularly clean junk files using a free program. However, if you’re experiencing a low disk space warning even after clearing junk files, the issue could be caused by malware or another infection. To prevent this from happening, you should consider a holistic approach to cybersecurity that includes conducting regular data inventory and implementing a consistent data backup solution.
Unlike the flu, which has its season, computer and mobile device malware is always lurking and ready to attack. Whether its aim is profiting from forced advertising (adware), stealing private information (spyware), or stealing all your broadband bandwidth by establishing a botnet to distribute email spam, child pornography, or ransomware, malicious software is designed to disrupt the operation of an infected system and expose users to more danger.
Sluggish performance is one of the main signs of a malware infection, as malware can tie up processing power. Another sign is when your device connects to unfamiliar websites. Malware can also suck up your memory resources, preventing other applications from running or slowing down your experience.
Fortunately, malware infections don’t always result in full-blown system failures or crashes. However, if your computer or mobile device works more slowly than usual, you should run a full scan using the user files you backed up earlier to a cloud drive or USB stick. You can also use an antimalware program to detect and remove any threats.