Until you become the target of data theft, a malware attack is only what you read about in the news. Yet there is a big possibility that malware keeps hiding in your system for a long time without you being aware of it. Theft of data or money is not always a sudden event; it can be a long process.
While smartphones are considered more vulnerable to malware, even computers are not totally safe. With mass malware attacks becoming common, you should watch out for suspicious activity on your computer that you might ignore as random malfunction. You start your computer and it takes forever. Your internet runs morbidly slow. Your programs are taking ages to respond. When you open your browser, unexpected pop-ups appear. Any of these routine troubles could be a sign of malware infection.
India remains a high-risk country for personal computer infections with 50.4% computers getting infected with malware in 2016, according to the Kaspersky Security Bulletin.
Your computer could be infected without you knowing it: Here’s how to find out
Below are some telltale signs of malware infection in a computer, based on research by Kaspersky Lab:
Direct signs of malware infection
A message pops up informing that one of your programmes is attempting to access Internet without your command. Or you see an unusual error message saying you have a corrupt file in your computer. These can be signs of malware infection.
You click a link while searching for Google. The link directs you to a page different from what you are looking for. You head back to your Google search results and try a different link. Same thing happens again. If you are trying to reach a page through a Google search link but are being redirected to a different site again and again, then chances are your computer is infected with malware.
One of the clearest signs of malware infection is unwanted messages popping up on your system. If your screen is loaded with pop-ups even if you are not online, then you are looking at an infection. Pop-ups usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats, and they can be very destructive for your computer even if they look very useful or promise to perform a useful task.
Different homepage and new toolbars
Your homepage has been changed without your knowledge. Or a new toolbar pops out of nowhere and lands at the top of your browser window. You can’t get rid of the toolbar however hard you try. These incidents are clear signs of a malware infection. You must have accidentally clicked a link or a pop-up window, which then downloaded unwanted software and installed it on your computer.
CD-ROM tray opens and closes
Your CD-ROM tray or your DVD burner opens every 10-15 seconds and closes immediately. You may not be able to control it from its switch.
Firewall gets disabled
You find your firewall is disabled again and again. It could be a trojan which got accidentally installed and is now trying to connect to an outside source.
Programmes run voluntarily
You notice programmes on your computer start running on their own without you starting them. It could be a sign of malware infection.
Indirect signs of malware infection
Excessive hard drive activity
If you notice abnormal or excessive hard disk activity and there is no program or download running at that moment, then you should check your computer for malware. The abnormal activity could also be due to a hardware failure of the disk. It is always better to keep a check on what programmes and processes are constantly accessing your hard drive, so you can easiliy detect unusual activity.
Unresponsive web browser
Something goes wrong with your web browser. It freezes or does not respond to commands. It may be due to slow internet too. Check your WIFI signal or download speed before suspecting a malware infection.
Everything slows down
Malware has the tendency to slow down your operating system, your internet or your application. But there could be other things which slow down a computer. It may be due to lack of hard drive space, lack of RAM or may hardware issues affecting your drive.
PC frequently crashes or hangs
There are several reasons why your system crashes. It could be due to technical issue caused by incompatibilty between programmes or software and hardware that needs updating. One of many reason could be malware infection.
Signs of email infection
Your friends or colleagues tell you about having received emails or messages sent from your email box or social media account which you did not send. You find a lot of messages without sender address and subject in your mailbox. But before suspecting malware, verify whether those emails or messages were sent from your accounts (check your ‘Sent Items’ folder in your email/social media account) because such signs are not always explained by presence of malware. These messages/emails could have been delivered from an application which is out of your control.