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How To Spot A Computer Virus

Worried that your computer may have a virus? If you have security software installed on your computer, it’s likely that you’ll be guarded against any threats. However, viruses can still sneak their way through occasionally.

There are many ways in which viruses can enter our computer.

Clicking on links in suspicious emails, visiting untrustworthy sites and clicking on malicious ads are some of the most popular ways to get infected. Ignoring software updates can also put you at risk – such updates could be necessary to protect you against the latest viruses.

At first, it may not be obvious that there is a virus on your computer.

However, gradually you may begin to notice that things aren’t right. Most viruses are designed to extort money or steal personal details and they can become a bigger threat the longer they go ignored. As a result, it’s good to know the warning signs so that you can act fast and remove the virus.

Below are just a few of the tell-tale signs your computer may have a virus.

Your computer is slow

Unusually slow loading times are one of the most common signs of a virus.

Slow loading times could be due to other issues such as a hard-drive fault or a lack of disk space, but if the problem seems to have developed fast, a virus could be more likely.

You’re getting lots of strange pop-ups

Many viruses will trigger pop-ups to appear.

These pop-ups may be designed to get money out of you – they may include ads to unusual products or threatening messages trying extort money from you (as is the case with ransomware).

You could also see fake anti-virus messages popping up that claim you have hundreds of viruses on your computer (in reality, you have only one virus – the fake anti-virus program that is sending these messages).

Annoying pop-ups aren’t always a sign of a virus – if they appear to be from genuine programs and their messages don’t seem to be scary in tone, they could just be regular notifications. There are usually ways to disable these.

There are programs on your computer that you don’t remember installing

Icons for unknown programs suddenly appearing on your desktop could be a concern.

This could be malicious software – commonly known as ‘malware’ – that could be stealing information from you or possibly triggering various changes to your software. Some of this malware may open up as you start up your computer.

There could even be hidden programs only visible through task manager. Whatever the case, you should be wary of such programs.

Your homepage has changed

If the homepage on your browser has changed, this could also be the result of a virus.

Your browser may have been switched to a malicious search engine, which could aim to encourage you to click on websites that let in more viruses.

You may be able to change your homepage in your browser settings, however, some viruses may prevent this.

Websites constantly redirect to other sites

If you’re constantly being redirected to new sites, this too could be a clear sign of a virus.

Every one of these redirects could be sending you to a site that downloads further viruses onto your computer. Avoid using your browser if you have noticed this happening to avoid worsening the problem.

Your security software has been disabled

If your security software is locked or doesn’t seem to be working, it could be because the virus has taken hold of it.

Security software rarely crashes or refuses to open for no reason – to check that it’s definitely been disabled, restart your computer and see if the problem persists.

Other programs won’t open

It’s possible that browsers or standard programs may not open.

These programs may deliberately be shutting the virus out, helping to protect your files. However, it could be possible that the virus has locked them and has already taken control of your files.

Your friends have received emails/social media messages that you didn’t send

Some viruses are able to log into your emails and social media.

They are then able to send bulk messages to your friends and contacts. Such messages could be designed to spread the virus or they could be there to extort money from your friends.

This can be one of the more nasty symptoms of a virus – you should seek out IT support immediately in such cases to avoid the virus from causing further damage to others.

What to do when you have a virus

Most of us aren’t computer savvy enough to beat a virus. The best thing that you can do is to stop using the device that is infected and seek out IT support as soon as possible.

In the case of ransomware in which you may have been given a threat to pay up, it could also be worth contacting the police (reporting sites or email contacts to the police that you think you may have got a virus from is also worthwhile).

Jeff Campbell