The symptoms of your latest illness could be indicative of a number of different health issues. Similarly, a computer virus can throw up symptoms which could be indicative of a range of different problems. While each symptom on its own may not trigger any red flags, a handful of unexpected behaviors may set off alarm bells — if you know what to look out for. Here are some telltale signs that your PC has a computer virus. If you have any doubts, contact our experts for a free consultation!
1. Your Browser Starts Misbehaving
Popups were the scourge of the mid-2000s. The incredibly irritating screen hogs were often associated with internet Explorer, and became synonymous with malware lurking on your computer. Of course, these days a popup may just be a particularly annoying advert. However, if you are getting popups even when your browser isn’t open, then it might be a sign that all is not well. Many of these malicious popups will be for fake antivirus software or alerts that your machine is infected.
2. Your Antivirus Is Disabled
If someone wanted to break into your home, then one of the best ways of entering undetected would be to deactivate your home security system. The same is true of a computer virus. Some forms of malware are able to disable your antivirus software’s service, giving it unfettered access to your device. If the service is disabled, or your preferred antivirus software is unable to update, then it’s time to start battling the infection.
3. Your PC Has Slowed to a Crawl
4. Your Files Are Disappearing
In recent years, one of the most devastating trends has been the rise of ransomware. This infection encrypts all your files, putting them beyond reach. The only way to unlock them is to pay the ransom, often in Bitcoin, but without a guarantee that they will be unlocked. The time between infection and encryption is often short, so the best defense is backing up your files regularly.
The best advice if you become infected with ransomware is to not pay the ransom. Other forms of malware can also lead to your files going errant. This can often be harder to detect, as you probably only notice once you need to open the file. However, if large chunks of data are missing then you should start scanning for a computer virus.
5. You Have Trouble Connecting to the Internet
If you suffer from poor network connectivity, then errors connecting to the internet are probably a regular occurrence for you. However, if they start fairly suddenly, or in conjunction with any other unusual behavior, then it may well be a symptom of a viral infection. You may think it seems strange that the virus would want to block your connection to the internet.
6. Programs Are Crashing All the Time
Often the BSOD can be caused by hardware issues, but if investigation comes up empty, then there’s a good chance that a computer virus may be to blame.
7. New Programs Appear Unexpectedly
If nothing is found, then perform an internet search to see if anyone else has reported that application as a PUP.
8. You Can’t Access Windows Utilities
When something goes awry on our Windows computer, the first thing we reach for is Ctrl + Alt + Del — only this time, you find that nothing happens. You attempt to right click on the taskbar to open Task Manager instead. Still nothing. Maybe opening it from the start menu will help? No luck there either.
You try to open Control Panel, and even Command Prompt to no avail. It’s almost as if there is something preventing you from opening these Windows utilities — and it’s quite likely there is.
9. Your Hard Drive Is Out of Control
Last week you had a sizable 30 percent free space on your hard drive. Now, you have less than 5 percent. You haven’t downloaded any large files, or installed any new software, so where is this data coming from? The most likely answer is that malware is downloading files and storing them on your hard drive. Another indicator is excessive hard drive activity.
Alarm bells should be ringing if you aren’t running any programs, or accessing files and your hard drive is showing a lot of activity and getting a little on the warm side.
10. Your Accounts Are Sending Spam
If you’ve received an accusatory message from a friend asking why you would recommend them weight loss pills, you should be on high alert. Odd messages like these indicate the presence of malware — so long as you didn’t send these messages as a form of misguided advice. Viruses are designed to spread, and one incredibly effective way is to bombarded your friends and contacts.
It’s Oh So Quiet
Everything we’ve described so far has been a visible symptom of an infection. However, not all malware, particularly sophisticated variants, will intentionally disguise themselves. This makes detection almost impossible. As the saying goes: “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
Unfortunately all our digital devices misbehave from time to time. This means random app crashes or unexpected behaviour can be entirely unrelated to a malware outbreak. However, if after following common troubleshooting steps you still come up empty, then these symptoms can be a sign that you may have been infected:
- Browser malfunctions and misbehaviours
- Problems with your antivirus or security software
- Sudden or unexpected device slowdown
- Missing files
- Internet connectivity issues
- Frequent and unexplained program crashes
- Potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)
- Inability to access common Windows utilities
- Unexplained hard drive activity
- Spam originating from your email or social accounts
Viruses and other forms of malware are almost unavoidable these days. While Windows has traditionally been platform of choice for malware, Mac users beware: you are at risk too. The best you can do is be prepared and take sensible precautions.