Have you been trying your hardest to get your work done to no avail? Or has your casual browsing been interrupted by spontaneous pop-ups or unusual lagging? You might be wondering if your computer has been infected with malware.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have learned:
- The most common ways computers get infected with malware
- How to identify the signs of malware on your device
- The process for removing malware
- How to prevent malware attacks in the future
How Do Malware Attacks Happen?
Cybercriminals prey on vulnerability. Malware attacks can come in many different forms like spyware, ransomware, and command and control. Even more commonly, the average person becomes a victim of malware through methods like:
- Phishing emails
- False advertisements leading to malicious websites
- Downloading seemingly harmless images and videos that contain hidden viruses
- Sketchy browser plug-ins, extensions, and apps
After deceiving the user, the malware finds its way through to the device and begins authorizing actions on its own. Malware tends to install and replicate itself in the computer system, which often comes in the form of trojan horses, viruses, and worms.
Of all the kinds of cyberthreats, malware attacks are especially dangerous because they’re constantly evolving, trying to find ways to appear practical and user-friendly. Cybercriminals know that the malware’s effectiveness lies in how harmless it seems, so they make sure the malicious attack is as deceiving as possible.
How to Begin Detecting Malware
It’s a bit disheartening to know how easily we can find ourselves susceptible to predatory malware, but thankfully, there are ways to detect if malware has infected a device. After all, your primary concern is your business’s security and compliance.
Perhaps you and your employees have been extremely careful about avoiding any malware attacks, but you’ve received reports of your computers behaving in ways they never have before. Or you’ve gotten word of a data breach, yet nothing unusual has alerted your IT team.
Regardless of the specifics, it’s in your best interest to create a method for finding malware on your computer systems. We have some recommendations.
Check Your Computer For Five Signs of Malware
We believe you should begin detecting malware by looking out for these five signs:
- Your computer is running much slower than usual and takes forever to start – If your PC usually performs quite well and has suddenly become sluggish, you could potentially be dealing with malware that’s eating away at your device’s memory.
- You’re constantly getting redirected to strange websites – If clicking on regular links or websites like Google takes you to bogus sites you don’t recognize, you could be experiencing malware that’s tied to a browser extension you never deliberately installed.
- You’re being harassed with pop-up windows – A common side effect of malware is an incessant amount of pop-ups interrupting your scrolling. These often show up as advertisements, strange messages, or even threats of your computer being hacked.
- You’ve seen an uptick in spam emails and social media posts – It’s normal to see spam posts every now and then, but if you’ve been seeing an exponential increase in quantity and, even worse, have gotten reports that others have been getting strange emails and direct messages from you, you likely have a malware problem.
- You’ve found that your system tools and antivirus software is disabled – Being a responsible user, you might have felt compelled to investigate with Task Manager or check your antivirus software once you’ve identified other signs of malware. But if you’ve started seeing messages about your administrator restricting basic tasks, or your antivirus protection being disabled, your device has probably been affected.
The Most Effective Ways to Remove Malware
Once you’ve determined your computer has suffered from a malware attack, attempting to remove the threatening material can be headache-inducing. However, while the purging process isn’t always ideal, there are ways to remove malware that can save your business time and energy.
Some of our suggested methods are:
- Updating your current antivirus software and re-enabling security permissions like real-time monitoring
- Using your antivirus software or built-in security defense to start a virus scan
- Using your defense to quarantine and delete dangerous files, if you’re lucky enough that the malware hasn’t spread too much
- Getting rid of temporary files that you have recently downloaded
- Recovering and reinstalling your operating system
- Wiping your computer clean of all files
Learning How to Prevent Malware Attacks
Detecting malware and taking the proper steps to remove it can save you from a world of hurt, but going forward, you’ll want to equip yourself with the knowledge to prevent future attacks. After all, there is no better way to fend off malware than making sure your device never gets infected in the first place.
A small part of warding against a malware attack lies in personal responsibility. If you’re a business owner, you should invest in training materials that will empower your employees with methods to better identify what malware attempts look like and how to avoid them. A common example of this can be creating fake phishing emails and mandating training seminars for employees who fall for them.
Using the Most Efficient Options
Personal responsibility isn’t foolproof, though, and as established, cybercriminals are cunning. Malware is so deceptive that the most savvy users can fall victim to a scam. Considering this, the best option for preventing malware attacks is fortifying your defense systems.
If you already have antivirus and anti-spyware programs installed on your device—you’re off to a great start. Keep this software updated, and be sure to install firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) on your network that controls access to your systems. Set up spam filters to regulate emails and keep communications within company-approved limits.
Additionally, you can set up multiple secure authentication methods that strengthen your network’s security, like stronger passwords that need to be updated every few months, two-step authentication, and biometrics. This keeps your device usage in check and limits the opportunity for just anyone to gain access.