Sometimes computers do wacky things that ring alarm bells and make us dive for cover. Next thing you know, you’re running scans on repeat and demanding everyone come clean about their browsing habits. Fortunately, not all weird occurrences are caused by viruses – sometimes your computer is simply overloaded, overheating or in desperate need of a reboot. Here are the tell-tale signs of a malware attack:
Bizarre error messages
Look for messages popping up from nowhere that make no sense, are poorly worded or plain gibberish – especially if they’re about a program you don’t even have. Take note of anti-virus warnings too, check that the warning is from YOUR anti-virus software and looks like it should. If a message pops up that isn’t quite right, don’t click. Not even to clear or cancel the message. Close the browser or shut down the computer instead, then run a full scan, preferably with a DIFFERENT scanner than what you have installed. After all, if the bug got past what you have installed, it probably won’t be detected the second time around!
Suddenly deactivated anti-virus/malware protection
You know the best way to get past the guard? Send him for a coffee break! Certain viruses are programmed to take out the security systems first, leaving you open to infection. Most security software will warn you if your protection has stopped. If you reboot and your protections aren’t back on the job, you are more than likely under attack. Attempt to start the anti-virus manually through its control panel and you’ll know for sure.
Social media messages you didn’t send
Are your friends replying to messages you never wrote? Are you getting lots of ‘undeliverable’ messages in your inbox? Your login details might have been hacked and your account is sending out spam or scam messages. Your friends may now be tricked into giving up personal information or money. Change your email or social media password immediately, scan your computer for infections, and then advise your friends of the hack so they can steer clear!
Web browser acting up
Perhaps you’ve noticed your homepage has changed, it’s using an odd search engine or opening/redirecting unwanted sites. If your browser has gone rogue, it’s definitely a virus, usually one intended to serve you ads or steal your personal or financial details. Skip the online banking and email until your antivirus scans come up clear and everything is working normally again.
If your computer speed has dropped suddenly, boot up takes an eternity, or even moving the mouse has become a chore, it could be a sign that something is wrong. But, not necessarily a virus. Run your anti-virus scan and if that resolves it, great. If not, your computer likely needs a tune-up or repair. You may want to bring the computer in for a diagnostic.
Constant computer activity
You’re off the computer but the hard drive is going nuts, the fans are whirring, and the network lights are flashing like a disco? It’s almost like someone IS using the computer! Viruses and malware attacks use your computer resources, sometimes even more than you do. Take note of what’s normal when the computer is not infected so you can tell when something is out of the ordinary.