How to Know if Your Computer is Infected with a Virus

Computer viruses have existed since the time dependency on computer driven work has grown exponentially. Traditional viruses use to be more a nuisance, with the ability to delete files or lock down computers. Today, there are Trojans, Worms, spyware, Ransomware, Adware & other malicious programs. Our security industry collectively defines them as “Malware”.

Unlike humans, who have wondered since time immemorial the purpose of life, Malwares are “designed for purpose”. There is a clear, specific, calculated intent behind malware, from – reconnaissance of sensitive information to disruption of computer operations to stealing of private/personal information for abuse.

Malware is commonly spread through Internet: primarily by e-mail and compromised applications, web platforms. And, in-spite of many anti-virus or anti-malware programs, spread of malware has multiplied because of their ability to evolve and at the same time, our own poor browsing habits (to be fair!).

As per Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, approximately – 20% of computers have ‘encountered’ one or more malwares every three months. Essentially meaning, every fifth PC has encountered malware, which could run into millions of computers and data worth billions.

Fortunately, there are quite a few good anti-virus products in the market – which offer real time protection based on both virus signatures (see this as an identification number for malwares) and heuristic techniques (pattern based threat remediation).

Every type of malware does things differently, making it difficult to recognize for our own self. That said, below are few symptoms that might indicate a potential virus or malware.

Pop-Up Ads

Pop-ups are common, when browsing websites but there’s a fine line between advertisement pop-up Vs annoying pop-up. If a pop-up ad keeps reappearing inspite of closing it or pop-up blocker, chances are it’s malicious. Also, if you see pop-up suggesting, “a virus was detected. Click here to resolve” – chances you are either on a malicious web page or your browser is compromised.

Phantom Messages

Malwares use Internet: e-mail, instant messages, social media to propagate.

If you see a reply from your friend to message you do not recall sending or a post on your social media profile that you did not write, chances are – your system is infected.

Locked Computer

You’re surfing the Web minding your own business. Suddenly a scary message appears. It says law enforcement has detected illegal material on your computer. You’ve been locked out until you pay a fine!

Of course it’s a lie. A virus has taken over and is holding your computer ransom. That’s why it’s commonly called “ransomware.”

Essential Software or Program Stops Working

If a computer is misbehaving, most computer users hit Ctrl + Alt + Del. The “three-finger salute” lets you open up Task Manager. This can show you what programs are causing trouble.

Sometimes, you’ll hit this keyboard shortcut and nothing happens. Your Start Menu won’t open. Nothing happens when you right-click on the desktop. Your security software won’t run.

This is often a clue that a virus is messing with your computer. It’s doing what it can to keep you from identifying it and removing it.

Slow Computer or Slow Browsing

Does your computer seem to run much more slowly than it used to? This could be the result of malware as the malicious code begins to drain your computer’s processing resources. If you aren’t running a resource-heavy application but your computer is very slow, you might have a computer virus.

Unrecognized Credit Card Charge

If you see a charge on your card, that you did not authorize or card used on a website that you do not visit; it is possible that your identity is stolen, more likely by a malware sitting on your computer. It is important, that you contact your bank and clarify the charge. And, once you are sure the card has been compromised, advice your bank to deactivate this card and re-issue a new card. Ofcourse, raise a formal dispute about the charge with bank & have them revert the transaction.