8 Signs Your Computer Might Be Infected with Malware

Anti-malware software plays an important role in the battle against cybercrime. However, it is not infallible. Cybercriminals are constantly releasing new malware programs or variants of existing ones, and it takes a while for anti-malware software companies to update their products to defend against them. So, even if you use anti-malware software, your computer might still get infected.

It will be obvious if your computer is being attacked by ransomware, since you will get a ransom note and not be able to access your files. However, infections from other types of malware are usually not as apparent. Here are eight signs that might indicate your computer has a malware infection:

1. Your Computer Is Running Much Slower Than Normal

Computers infected with malware sometimes run much slower than they normally would. This is because the malware runs in the background, consuming your computer's processing power, bandwidth, and free memory.

Your computer can also slow down if it is part of a botnet. A botnet is a network of compromised computers that cybercriminals use for malicious purposes, such as launching cyberattacks.

2. Your Computer Is Active in the Middle of the Night

Legitimate backup, maintenance, and software-update processes often run in the middle of the night. However, if your computer is experiencing disk or network activity at night when one of these processes is not scheduled to run, your machine might be compromised. A hacker or botnet might be using it to carry out cyberattacks.

3. Unfamiliar Processes Are Running

Most major operating systems come with a utility (e.g., Task Manager in Windows, Activity Monitor in Macs) that lets you see what processes and applications are running at any given moment. If you notice that a strange process is running, you might be infected with malware.

You can often find out a process's purpose by performing an Internet search. The search results should reveal whether the process is legitimate or associated with a specific malware program. If you are having trouble finding information about the process, contact your IT service provider.

4. Your Web Browser Gets Redirected

If your web browser is going to websites you did not request, you might have browser redirection malware installed on your computer. Cybercriminals use this type of malware to earn money through disreputable advertising programs that pay them to send traffic to specific sites.

Having your browser redirected might also be a sign of a more serious malware problem — you might have a rootkit installed on your computer. Cybercriminals use rootkits to control computers. There are malware affiliate marketing programs that pay cybercriminals to install rootkits in as many computers as they can. Control over the infected computers is then sold in underground cyber markets. The infected machines can be used for all kinds of cybercrimes, including phishing attacks.

5. Pop-Up Ads Are Constantly Appearing

Constantly having pop-up ads appear in your web browser even though it is configured to block them or having pop-up ads appear when your browser is closed might mean that a cybercriminal has snuck a malicious program onto your computer. Cybercriminals use pop-up ads to earn money through dishonest advertising programs and to install malware on computers.

6. Your Contacts Are Receiving Messages You Did Not Send

If your contacts are receiving messages that you did not send, your computer might be under a cybercriminal's control. Cybercriminals sometimes use malware to hijack an email account and send messages to every contact in the account's address book. They usually do this to carry out phishing attacks or spread malware. Similarly, they can hijack social media and instant messaging accounts for malicious purposes.

7. System Tools Will Not Open

Not being able to access or open basic system maintenance and restoration tools might mean that your computer is compromised. Cybercriminals sometimes include code in malware that uninstalls certain system tools or makes them inaccessible. That way, you cannot use the tools to remove the malware.

8. Your Anti-Malware Software Is Not Working

Having your anti-malware software stop working for no apparent reason can indicate your computer is under attack. Sometimes, a malware program disables the anti-malware software as a self-preservation tactic. In other words, the malware ensures that any future updates designed to detect and remove it will never reach the anti-malware software.

Do You Suspect Your Computer Is Infected?

If you suspect your computer might be infected with malware, contact your IT service provider for help. They can thoroughly examine your computer as well as remove any malware that is found.