Ten Signs of a Malware Infection

I just finished helping a client with a strange issue that I thought might be malware related, and we successfully fixed his issue by email, without having to meet or even set up a remote support session.  And it occurred to me that I have not covered the issue of malware remediation in ages.  Since this can be a fairly easy DIY project for most computer users, I thought a fresh look might be fun.

Not all computer problems are the result of malware, sometimes the hardware itself is failing, and that’s the problem. But it can’t hurt anything to make the assumption that your problem is malware related.  Often there are clues:

  • Pop-up windows – Especially if the pop-up is from your “tech support” scammer, pop-up windows and alerts can sometimes be caused by the very malware that infected your system.  These can also look like operating system warnings, or may just be pop-up ads.
  • Dramatically slower system performance – If you computer just got slower, or hard drive activity is higher, or the system hangs and crashes, you may have malware.
  • New search engine – If Google, Bing, or Yahoo search has been replaced by a cheap look-alike, or your search results are taking you to the wrong websites, you may have a malware infection.
  • New browser home page – A new unexpected home page is usually a sign your browser has been hijacked or modified.
  • Unusually annoying or intrusive ads – This is usually the result of “adware,” a type of malware that pushes ads onto your system.  Sometimes adware comes packaged with other applications such as coupon, games, or social apps.
  • Increase in network traffic – If your Internet connection seems unusually slow, it could be a sign your computer is busy crypto-mining, sending spam or phishing emails, or an active part of a DDoS bot-net.
  • Anti-malware software is disabled – You tried to clean your system, but your anti-malware won’t run, or reports the system is clean.  Often, malware disables the software solutions we use to rid ourselves of malware.
  • New desktop icons – Another sign that someone else is messing with your computer.
  • Strange emails from you – When friends, coworkers, or business associates report receiving strange emails this is often a sign your email has been hijacked by malware.
  • Control Panel disabled – This was the issue that my client was describing.  Malware often tries to restrict your access to the built-in tools that are in the Control Panel, to prevent you from using them to fix your computer.

This is a short list of common symptoms.  If  your computer is behaving strangely, malware is always an option.  In our next post, we will provide you with six simple methods to remove the malware yourself.


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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