13 Warning Signs that Your Computer is Malware-Infected [Updated 2018]
Watch out for these malware-infection signs!
Here’s a scenario you may not like, but could happen every day, because it’s always viruses season for computers. You’re working on an important project and suddenly start noticing annoying pop-ups displayed on your computer. Also, it takes too long for your files or computer apps to load. You wait and wait until you start asking yourself:
“Does my computer have a virus?”
Unfortunately, the answer might be “yes” and your computer could be already compromised with viruses or advanced malware that are slowing down its activity and performance.
This is one of the signs that show your PC might suffer from a malware infection. There are more of them you need to be aware of and understand, so you can quickly take action.
In this article, we’ll show you the most frequent warning signs of malware infection and what can you do about it.
Quick links with what you’ll find out:
1. Your computer is slowing down
2. Annoying adds are displayed
4. Pop-up messages
5. The Internet traffic suspiciously increases
6. Your browser homepage changed without your input
7. Unusual messages show unexpectedly.
8. Your security solution is disabled
9. Your friends say they receive strange messages from you
10. Unfamiliar icons are displayed on your desktop
11. Unusual error messages
12. You can’t access the Control Panel
13. Everything seems to work perfectly on your PC
Scenario 1: “My computer applications run slow lately and it takes longer than usual to start”
If you’re dealing with this scenario, it could indicate the presence of viruses on your computer. We know, it’s so frustrating to see it loading slowly. It is a known fact that one of the malware’s main activity is to slow down your operating system, whenever you’re navigating on the Internet or simply accessing your local applications.
What can you do? First off, you need to check for causes and find the real problem.
Here are some of the most common causes that slow down your PC:
- Your system’s RAM memory is low and might be caused by the number of high apps you’re currently using. Windows Task Manager is a great tool to look for programs which use the most of your RAM memory. Press CTRL+ALT+DELETE simultaneously on your PC, choose Task Manager and will open a list of your current apps you have open;
- There is no storage space on your hard disk, so you need to check your files and documents stored there and do a cleaning;
- This behavior is particularly happening when you’re browsing the Internet, so you need to check your browser’s Settings, then clear your browsing data;
- A fragmented system which means that the storage space is used inefficiently and reduces your PC’s performance;
- Your Windows OS hasn’t been updated or you’re using outdated drivers.
If you have already thoroughly verified these possible causes and all seems to work just fine, you can start considering a potential malware infection. Use these tips to help you optimize and speed up your Windows operating system. This article shows 5 ways to keep an eye on those programs accessing your drives.
Scenario 2: “I keep getting annoying ads that are opening randomly or strange messages on my computer’s screen”
Unexpected pop-ups which appear on your screen are a typical sign of a malware infection that wreak havoc on your computer. This form of malware is known as spyware and is designed to collect and steal users’ sensitive data without their knowledge.
In this particular case, the main issue is created not only by the numerous pop-up windows that affect your Internet browsing but also because it is quite difficult to remove them from the system.
These pop-ups are not only frustrating, but they usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats and could be far more destructive for our systems. They could be disguised as legitimate programs and actually track your web browsing data or monitor your online activity to collect passwords and other personal information.
We strongly recommend to NEVER CLICK on a suspicious pop-up!
Try one of these free spyware removal tools to get rid of those annoying pop-ups or strange messages.
Also, to better keep your computer away from malicious threats, make sure you use these security measures:
- Do not click on pop-up windows
- Don’t answer unsolicited emails or messages
- Be very careful when you are trying to download free applications from various websites
Use this guide that includes useful steps that will make the removal process easier and more effective, as well as your Internet navigation hassle-free.
Scenario 3: “My laptop keeps crashing when I watch Youtube videos or play games. It simply freezes, then a blue screen shows up”
Oh, I know this one. It happened to me with my current laptop so many times, and was quite frustrating. It crashed so many times and got that popular BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). Then it restarted and told me that Windows was recovering from an unexpected shutdown.
You are probably familiar with this kind of error, don’t you?
There might be two things causing this type of issue:
- You could be dealing with a technical issue caused by a potential incompatibility between your software and/or hardware
- Or it may be a malware issue.
- If you suspect the technical problem, it may lead to this:
Various programs are running on your PC which may be in conflict? Are there any orphaned registry keys which have not been removed that could eventually crash your system?
Orphaned registry keys are pieces of data information that have been left behind during the process of uninstalling several programs from your computer. They don’t only take up unnecessary space on the PC but can cause a serious issue for its proper functionality.
How to fix this: Use the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) that can be opened in the search bar of Windows where you select the run command. The daunting part of this process is that you have to manually remove these orphaned keys.
Our recommendation is to run an automated cleaning session using a specialized program like CC Cleaner which is free (Two versions of this tool were recently compromised by malicious actors who spread malware inside it, but CCleaner is safe now) and will automatically scan missed and unused keys while doing a backup of your data before the actual cleaning.
First of all, install the CCleaner program, click the Registry icon (as displayed in the image below), select the items you want to delete, then Scan for issues and a list of potential issues will be generated. After the scanning is done, you can review the list and click on Fix selected issues to solve the outstanding Registry issues. You will be asked to backup changes.
- For malware infection: run a complete scan on the system with a good antivirus product. If you have a dilemma about which antivirus is the best one, we wrote this useful guide on how you can find the right one for your needs. It is also important to rely on another layer of security on top of antivirus to better fight against online threats and proactively block them.
If your programs or your system crash constantly or the infamous BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) appears regularly, it’s a clear warning that your system is not working properly and you should look into it.
There are two things that can cause this type of issues:
- You could be dealing with a technical issue caused by a potential incompatibility between your software and/or hardware
- Or it may be a malware issue.
If you suspect a technical issue, multiple software problems may lead to this.
Scenario 4: “ I started getting this popup message <you’re running out of disk space on Windows (C:)”
If you are receiving this warning message, it means that there’s no free space left on a particular partition (in this case, C) on the main hard drive in your computer. More and more users are reporting this issue.
The cause? Here’s what Microsoft has to say about this:
This behavior can occur if the free disk space on your computer has dropped below the low disk space notification threshold associated with the Disk Cleanup utility.
How do I fix this? First of all, you need check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or if some of your files disappeared or changed their names. Also, make sure, you delete all those old or unnecessary files that can lower your PC’s performance.
This could be another sign of malware infection, since there are so many types of malicious programs which use different methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause it to crash.
Scenario 5: “For quite some time, every time I start my PC, I notice that the Internet traffic suspiciously increases”
If you saw this message, chances are there is an unusually high network activity happening on your PC that could lead to a malware infection.
There are cases when the user is not connected to the Internet through his browser, and there is no program that may connect to online servers to download or upload any data, but high network activity can still be observed.
What can I do? Have you checked for:
- The last Windows update for your computer?
- Is there any program or application that’s downloading any data?
- Is there any update for a certain app running at this moment?
- Is there a large download that you started and forgot about, which may still be running in the background?
If the answer to all these questions is NO, then you should check where all that traffic is going. Here’s how to do this:
- Monitor your network and detect hidden threats by using one of these programs: GlassWire, Little Snitch or Wireshark.
- Check for a malware infection, by using a good antivirus product to fully scan your system.
- If you suspect your computer has been infected by a dangerous financial malware, we recommend using a specialized security suite designed to address advanced and new online threats.
Scenario 6: “My homepage has changed and I don’t remember doing it myself”
If you noticed this unusual behavior or a new toolbar showing out of nowhere, or you’ve been redirected to a different web address than the one you’ve initially accessed, they could be signs of a malware infection.
It usually happens when you visit a website and you accidentally click on a link or a pop-up window. This triggers the unwanted software to download and install on your device. Its effects are not only annoying, but also malicious.
What to do? Run a complete scan with your security software as soon as possible. Why? Because these type of threats don’t go away easily.
Scenario 7: “My PC is acting weird because I get unusual messages that appear unexpectedly.”
I get this! That’s usually the type of warning message that could make you wonder “What’s going on with my computer?”
Here are some frequent warning signs to watch out!
- Suddenly you see programs opening and closing automatically
- Your Windows OS is shutting down unexpectedly, without any reason
- You’ve noticed strange windows when your PC tries to boot
- Windows tells you that you’ve lost access to some of your drives.
Although the root cause may be a technical issue, it could also be a warning sign that malware has taken over your computer and is slowing down its activity.
How to mitigate the impact of a malware infection?
Follow these steps:
1. Keep your Windows system up to date
2. Scan your computer with an antivirus product
3. Install a proactive security solution to enhance your computer’s protection
4. Consider reinstalling your operating system. This 13-step guide will show you how to secure your PC after a fresh (re)installation.
Scenario 8: “I use an antivirus product and keep getting the message that <Protection is disabled>”
If you observed that your antivirus solution doesn’t seem to work anymore or the Update module is disabled, then you should check immediately for ways to fix it.
Did you know that some types of malware are sneaky and can disable your security solution?
Well, yes, they are designed to leave users without any defense and making difficult for users to detect them. If you already tried to reboot your computer, closed and opened the security solution and all your troubleshooting efforts were useless, you could consider the malware infection scenario.
This is especially the case, because it’s a known fact that traditional antivirus solutions can’t easily detect, block or remove new and advanced malware( such as ransomware, adware or financial malware). Thus, you can get exposed to all kind of attacks, and we strongly recommend enhancing your protection by adding multiple layers of protection.
Read these 10 reasons why second-generation malware evades antivirus detection.
Scenario 9: “My friends tell me they’re getting strange random messages from me on Facebook, which I didn’t send”
If your friends recently got several strange messages/emails or suspicious links from you, and you didn’t send, it’s likely that you’ve been infected with malware. Here’s a recent example of malware spreading via Facebook Messenger and tricking users into clicking on links they’ve received from one of their friends.
But first, check your online accounts and see if those random messages were actually sent from one of your accounts. If something like this happened, take immediate action by following these security measures:
- Log out of all your accounts. For most of our online accounts, we log in to multiple devices and we often forget to log out. So make sure to log out from your online accounts on all connected devices.
- Use unique and strong passwords for all your online accounts. Always remember to change passwords for your online accounts! NEVER set the same passwords for multiple accounts, because if you are hacked, all your accounts will be exposed and lose important data stolen. This password security guide will help you master passwords like an expert.
- Start using two-factor authentication RIGHT NOW. Do you want to increase your control over your accounts’ security? Then add this second security layer that will ask for an extra step in the login process, along with your credentials.
Scenario 10: “There are these new, yet unfamiliar icons on my desktop that I don’t recognize”
If you’ve been noticing unknown and new icons on your PC, you most likely downloaded by accident these sneaky programs called PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). They are malicious programs that can do a lot of damage and expose you to data leakage, displaying annoying ads or pop-ups on the screen, or adding toolbars on your browser.
If you’re infected with PUPs, have a look at this guide showing how to avoid these unwanted programs and remove them from your computer.
Scenario 11: “Sometimes I see unusual error messages displayed on my computer”
An error message like this one could indicate that there’s a bug in your system that needs to be fixed, or it could be a warning sign of malware infection. These types of error messages showing missing or corrupt files folders suggest that your PC has been compromised and its performance is affected, which makes it run slowly.
How to fix this: Do a full scan of your PC and see if any viruses are detected. Also, make sure you have the latest updates installed on your operating system and regularly check for security patches, applications updates, and drivers.
Source: Microsoft Windows Dev Center
Scenario 12: “It seems that I can’t access my Control Panel by clicking on the button”
If you are facing this issue and your Control Panel will not open, it means that your computer is having a technical problem and is not functioning correctly.
How to fix this: The first thing to do is run a full scan with your antivirus software. Then, see if you can open Control Panel in Safe Mode and follow these steps described here. It could also be another sign that your computer is vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber attacks. After running a full scan with your antivirus product, use also a proactive security solution to keep your confidential information properly safe.
Scenario 13: “Everything seems to work perfectly on my PC. Are any chances to be paranoid and still check for malware?”
When it comes to data protection, it is essential to be a little bit paranoid and very careful, even if everything seems to look normal. Why? Because cybercriminals are ingenious and can hide malware in the most unexpected places, leaving no visible marks and still infecting your computer.
Everything may seem to work perfectly normal on your PC until a bot on your system could silently wait for instructions to access and collect your most sensitive data.
Can you avoid malware infections?
Yes, you definitely can, if you’re paying close attention to these early malware infection signs and prevent them from happening. Make sure your operating system, browsers, and plugins are always up to date, because keeping your software patched can keep online criminals at bay.
Also, here’s a list of recommended articles: to help you better survive a malware infection:
Make sure your network is safe and secure, and always think before you click on something. Also, remember to practice safe browsing and always access trusted online sources to easier prevent potential online threats.
Reminder: Knowledge and long-lasting education are our best weapons to fight against these threats, so it’s vital to learn and educate yourself to understand how malware behaves on our system, and how we can mitigate its impact.
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