Does Your Computer Have A Malware Infection? – Part 2

malwareOn Wednesday we looked at the obvious, visual symptoms of a malware infection.  Today we will explore some changes in performance that can indicate that your computer is infected.

Performance Symptoms

Most malware writers are NOT interested in giving you easy visual clues, but the malware will create additional activity on your system that can tip you off to an infection.

  • Constantly Flashing Hard Drive Light – If the hard drive activity light is constantly illuminated or flashing furiously, especially if you are not actually doing anything with your computer, this usually means you have a malware infection.  Sometimes this is just an indication that some automatic updates or malware scanning is happening, but in these situations you hard drive activity will return to normal in a few minutes to an hour.  If it stays pegged, you’re infected.
  • Sluggish Performance – If your computer suddenly is running slower than usual, taking forever to load programs, or change web pages, this is often a sign of infection.
  • Crashing – If your computer just stops and hangs, blue-screens, or restarts repeatedly without warning, this is usually the sign that something serious has gone wrong.  Sometimes its a hardware problem, but more often it is caused by malware.
  • Short Battery Life – If your battery gives up way too early in the day, this can mean your computer is busy working behind your back.  This can be malware.
  • Browser Freeze – When you are driving on the Internet you will be using Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, or Edge.  These are the most common web browser programs.  If your browser is very slow to change pages, or freezes and becomes unresponsive, this is almost always malware related.  You may have suffered a change in search engine or home page as well, as we described earlier.
  • No Sign of Problems – The really good malware leaves very few if any clues.  So just because everything seems normal does not mean you might not have a problem anyway.

The solution is to keep malware off your system in the first place.  Use a good computer security software product, and making sure you are getting active scanning on all downloads coupled with daily scanning of the computer for new malware.  Web filtering, like that provided by OpenDNS can save you from visiting malware infested sites.

Once infected, you may need additional help.  Many malware programs include features which disable installed anti-virus and anti-malware products, so scanning your computer may be ineffective.  Malwarebytes has proven itself to be a great scanning product that can be successfully installed on an already infected system, and will successfully find and remove malware.

If the infection is serious enough, the only sure solution will be to wipe the hard drive and reinstall the operating system and everything else from scratch.  Since your data is backed up already (right?) so restoring it should be easy.

On Monday we’ll wrap up this topic by looking at the second way most computers are compromised – with stolen user credentials.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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