9 warning signs your PC is infected with malware

  1. PC Slowing down   

Malware has the tendency to slow down your operating system, your Internet speed or the speed of your applications.

If you notice something like this and you’re not using any resource-heavy program or application, check for other causes first. It may be a lack of RAM memory, a fragmented system, a lack of space on your hard drive or maybe a hardware issue affecting your drive. Our other blog covers 10 tips to check first to evaluate such problems.

If you have already thoroughly verified these possible causes and all seems fine, you can start considering a potential malware infection.

2. Pop ups

Unexpected pop-ups which appear on the system are a typical sign of a spyware infection. Pop-ups are not only annoying, but they usually come bundled with other concealed malware threats, and which could be far more destructive for our systems.

To avoid spyware and its impact on our systems, keep in mind a few security practices:

  • don’t click any suspicious pop-up windows
  • don’t answer unsolicited emails/messages
  • be careful when downloading free applications

To remove this type of threat, you need a very good security product against spyware. A few popular products capable of removing spyware from your system are Malwarebytes, Spybot Search and Destroy, Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware and other

3. PC Crashing

If you suspect a technical issue, multiple software problems may lead to this.
Are you running various programs which may conflict with each other? Are there any orphaned registry keys which have not been removed that could down and eventually crash your system?

Orphaned registry keys are pieces of data that are left behind during the process of uninstalling programs from your computer. They take up unnecessary space and can be a serious liability for the proper function of your computer.

To clear them, you have the option of using the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) that can be opened in the search bar of Windows and then selecting the run command. The daunting part of this process is the fact that you have to manually remove these orphaned keys and this can be very tedious work for everybody.

Our recommendation is to run a program such as CC Cleaner which is free. This will automatically scan missed and unused keys while also having the option to backup the data before the actual cleaning. After installing CCleaner, click the Registry icon, select the items you want to remove, click on Scan for issues and a list of potential issues will be generated. Once the scan process is finished, you can review the list and click on Fix selected issues to solve the outstanding Registry issues. Always backup prior to cleaning the files.

4. Suspicious Hard Drive Activity

Another warning sign of a potential malware infection on your system is the hard drive activity. If you notice that your disk continues to exhibit excessive activity even when you don’t use it and there is no program or download running at that moment, this could be the right time to check your system for malware.

We have to mention that another possible cause for the abnormal hard disk activity could be a hardware failure of the disk. You should also take this into consideration.

We should mention that it helps checking what programs and processes are constantly accessing your hard drive, so you can easily detect unusual activity.

Regarding the hard drive, you also need to check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or if some of your files disappeared or changed their names.

This is another sign of malware activity, since there are numerous types of malicious programs which use various methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause it to crash.

5. Running out of hard disk space

Regarding the hard drive, you also need to check if your physical storage space has been increasing lately or if some of your files disappeared or changed their names.

This is another sign of malware activity, since there are numerous types of malicious programs which use various methods to fill up all the available space in the hard drive and cause it to crash.

6. Unusual messages or programs that start automatically

A few warning signs should really make you suspicious. If any of these happen, pay closer attention and try finding the cause:

  • Programs are opening and closing automatically
  • your PC is shutting down without reason
  • if you notice strange windows in the booting process
  • Windows informs you that you’ve lost access to some of your drives.

Though the root cause may be a technical one, it could also be a sign that malware has compromised your system. If this is the case and you lost access to some important areas of your operating system, you need to prepare for the worst. These are the cases when a complete wipe and reinstall of the operating system is the only answer

7. Your anti virus solution stops working 

You should know that some types of malware are especially designed to disable security solutions, leaving you without any defense. If you already tried to reboot your computer, close and open the security solution and all your troubleshooting efforts were useless, you could consider the malware infection scenario.

This is especially the case since traditional antivirus solutions are sometimes unable to block and remove advanced malware, such as ransomware or financial malware. There are a couple of strong reasons why this is happening, and you should read about them, so you can enhance your protection by adding multiple layers.

8. Your friends tell you that they are getting strange messages from you

First of all, you need to verify whether those emails or messages were sent from one of your accounts (so check your Sent Items folder in your email/social media account). If there’s nothing there, those messages could have been delivered from an application which is out of your control.
If you discover the messages were sent from one of your accounts, take these steps:

  • Make sure you logged out from all your accounts. We access the same accounts on our work computers, on our home laptops and of course, on our mobile devices. Since we log in to our favorite online accounts on so many devices, it can happen that sometimes we forget to log out. Therefore, always make sure to log out from your online accounts on all devices.
  • Set strong passwords for your accounts. Don’t use the same password for all your accounts! Even if you are hacked, having different passwords for each account will help you limit a potential loss. Make a habit of managing your passwords safely.
8. New Icons on your desktop

If you have noticed new unknown icons on the desktop of your computer, you may have downloaded a piece of software that contains PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs). Also known as PUAs (Potentially Unwanted Applications), these are software programs that you most likely didn’t want to install on your computer.

They are considered to be malware and can do a lot a damage by collecting private information, showing annoying ads or pop-ups on the desktop or adding toolbars on your browser. If infected with PUPs – use CCleaner and Malwarebytes to remove the offending programs.

9. Key system areas deny access

Do you find yourself in the situation when you can’t access Task Manaher, Control Panel, Registry Editor or Command Prompt? This is another sign that your computer is vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber attacks.

What is a firewall

Everyone has heard of them, right? Do you know what they actually do though – and just to confirm there is no actual fire involved either.

The simplest explanation is a tool to prevent malicious traffic from getting onto your computer.

There are software firewalls – such as that which is on Windows –

They range from basic stateless devices that block all network ports apart from those that are opened to allow things like web traffic, email to get through but they don’t stop anything coming through those open ports….moving to stateful devices that provide multi-layer protection at the point of connection to the Internet, scanning each packet of data, blocking applications from accessing the web and many other features.

For a business it is essential to implement a good stateful firewall – they not only protect your network from external risks but also allow control over what your users can do from inside your network…for example web content filtering and application control can stop your staff spending all day on social media, streaming video or downloading from illegal sites – improving productivity and removing risk of liability.

How to be safer on Public Wi-Fi

We all use Public Wi-Fi – either at our favourite coffee shop or attending a conference at a hotel. This puts your data at risk as information is transmitted across an open public wi-fi network.

Firstly ensure you connect to the real WiFi Network of that location. There are “Phishing” networks to trick people into joining their network by looking like the name of that location, then the hackers then have full access to your computer and data.

When joining a new public Wi-Fi network for the first time you will always want to choose this option:

How to be safer on Public Wi-Fi

When you’re at work or home you will almost certainly share files, folders & printers, so if you go to this location you can ensure the network discovery and file/printer sharing is turned off.

How to be safer on Public Wi-Fi

Secure Websites

Check they are https:// as per the image below. If not you are sending your data in plain text over the open public wi-fi network.

How to be safer on Public Wi-Fi

Financial transactions

It is best to leave these until at home, but if you must ensure you have two factor authentication. These can be hardware or a mobile app as shown below.

How to be safer on Public Wi-FiHow to be safer on Public Wi-Fi

There is no reason to risk more than you have to! Most banks also offer secure apps you can use on your mobile device that are worth looking into.

Speak to your bank to get the most secure option you can.

Email Programs

When using Outlook, Thunderbird etc ensure the SSL settings are setup in your mail program. If not then people could potentially access username, password or anything else they wanted. Your email provider has to allow it – but as long as it does you can check the box to maximise protection.
Your work email should be secure but if in doubt speak with your I.T or email provider and if it does not then close the email program when on a public network.

Use a VPN

if you are going to be using an open network for an extended period of time, such as a hotel for a week, you could use CyberGhost – a free tool that you can install and turn on whenever you are on that public network, you will be much safer when using it.

If you are accessing your work systems, you should be using a VPN anyway.

There are also several tools available to manage networks on a machine if you would like to try one of those – NetSetMan would be a good place to start. They are fairly intuitive and allow you to manage the settings for each network more easily.

You can never protect yourself entirely.

By following the above steps you make your device more difficult for hackers to access. Most hackers will bypass the protected computers and focus on those that aren’t