Every computer user will at some stage or another come in contact with a malware infection. Home users are often inexperienced when it comes to knowing what signs to look out for, if their computer does become infected with malware. Some malware is stealthy and there will be no visible symptoms that your computer has been infected. Your computer will work fine for a month or so, but then, one day, you’ll get a Ransomware message saying that all of your files have been encrypted and you need to pay money to retrieve them. Other malware is obvious straight away, because as soon as it’s been installed, it starts popping up ads or asking you to install random software updates.
Below is a list of some common signs that could indicate you have a malware infection on your computer:
- Your computer is running much slower than usual
If it is taking a very long time to load the start-up screen when you first turn the computer on, or if it takes a long time to open files, it could be a sign that malware has infected your machine and is high jacking your computer’s processing resources for its own purposes.
- Unusual advertising appears at random times
If you are browsing online shopping websites or reading something like The Age online, it is normal to see advertising on the screen, or have boxes pop up trying to sell you something or get you to visit other related websites. However, if you are typing up your resume in Microsoft Word, entering some figures into a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel, or composing an email, it is not normal to have an advertisement pop up. Those popup ads could be a sign that your computer is infected with malware.
- Unauthorised transactions from your bank account or credit card
We all know we should check our bank statements and credit card statements regularly, but how many of us actually do it? You would definitely notice if your bank account is suddenly emptied out, but it is less likely that you would be aware of small $10 purchases that occur once a month. A quick scan of your statements could alert you to any unusual transactions, which you can then investigate further.
- Unauthorised purchases; for example, iTunes, Amazon or credit card purchases
Malware may have been installed on your computer with the intention of stealing your iTunes or Amazon account details. The hackers have friends who create fake apps or products online, and they use your account to purchase those fake apps or fake products. These purchases then get charged to your credit card (which is linked with your iTunes or Amazon account) without your knowledge.
- Websites you regularly visit, start looking or acting differently
Malware that is infecting a computer can alter the display of websites you visit regularly or cause pages to appear that ask for info the company should know. For example, if you are visiting your Bank’s website and a page appears asking for your DOB, Driver’s Licence or credit card details. These are all details your bank should already know, and, unless you are in the middle of a purchase, you would not expect this type of authentication.
- Website overlays
Some malware create fake overlays on web pages, which trick users into thinking they are still on the legitimate website. For example, you may visit your Credit Union’s website, however the standard login page gets replaced (overlayed) by a malware login page, which then captures your details and sends them back to the hackers to exploit.
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms while using your computer, you may have been infected by malware. It is important to make sure you have Anti-Virus software installed on your machine and that you have the latest database update. Some of the companies, like Symantec, even offer free virus scanners, which you can download and use to do a quick check to see if your machine has any infections.
If you can’t clean up the malware yourself, contact a reputable Computer Services company to assist.