How to Tell If You Have Malware and Ways to Prevent it in the Future

Our computers and devices can slow down for a number of reasons as they start to get older. It can be annoying, but it’s important to know the difference between a computer that’s simply showing its age and one that’s infected with dangerous malware. 

What is Malware? 

Malware is the collective name for any piece of software that has been written to cause harm to your computer and devices. Malware comprises numerous malicious software variants, including common viruses to ransomware and spyware.

Malware is usually installed onto devices without the owner of those devices having any idea that it’s there. Some malware attacks are carried out through phishing attempts that lure device owners onto websites that compromise their devices. Other pieces of malware are installed through email attachments and other downloads. Seamlessly harmless downloads, like screensavers and even innocent browser extensions, can all carry malware. But how can you tell the difference between a computer that’s infected with malware and one that’s just, well, slow? 

Your Computer is Painfully Slow 

If your computer has suddenly become unusually slow overnight, it may be a sign that it’s infected with malware. Malware can consume a substantial amount of your computer’s memory, leaving limited resources for other programs to use which ultimately results in an extremely slow machine. 

Your Social Media Profiles Are Posting Updates That Aren’t Yours

We’ve all seen it happen to someone we know online. That friend who usually whinges on about politics in every single Facebook update is now posting about cheap Rayban sunglasses three times a day. Unusual posts on social media platforms that haven’t been posted by you are usually the result of malware. If you see posts on your friends’ profiles, make sure you never click any links as they could infect your own devices with malware. 

You Must Pay Money To Regain The Use of Your Device 

Warning. The FBI has seized this device! You must pay $500 to regain the use of this device. Despite how alarming these warnings might be, make sure you never follow any of the links to pay. This type of malware is known as ransomware and takes control of your device and then orders payment to be made on the false premise that you will regain the normal use of your device. 

Your Computer Keeps Crashing 

As malware attacks your computer, your computer may have its own systems in place to prevent the further spread of the malware. This will often result in crashes as your system tries to minimize the amount of damage that’s being caused. While this kind of defensive action should be seen as a good thing, it’s also incredibly annoying and can ultimately render your computer useless! 

Pop-Ups Are Appearing Everywhere 

It’s hard to ignore pop-ups and advertisements as websites continue to compete for advertising spend, but if you’re starting to notice an alarming number of pop-ups, your computer may be infected with malware that’s trying to goad you into clicking harmful websites. 

How To Avoid Malware Attacks 

Use Strong Anti-Malware Protection 

If you suspect your computer is infected with malware, you should install a powerful anti-virus application to clean your machine. As well as being able to rid your machine of malware, a decent application should also tell you where the malware came from, allowing you to avoid picking it up again in the future. 

Secure Your Network 

Don’t risk the security of your device by connecting it to a public network. Doing so is essentially inviting hackers to access your information. Make sure your computer is connected to a secure, private network, preferably with additional protection provided through a VPN. 

Use a VPN 

Using a VPN provider such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN encrypts your internet traffic and makes it harder for hackers to access your personal information. As many VPNs offer a clear no-logging policy, you can be assured that your information will never be sold to shady third-party websites. 

Use a VPN Browser Extension 

In addition to connecting your devices to a VPN, some VPNs also offer browser extensions and plug-ins for browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. These extensions will warn you against potentially harmful websites and always ensures you’re using the fully encrypted versions of websites. A notification will pop-up if your browser suspects you are putting your computer at risk. 

Don’t Recognize It? Don’t Click It 

As many malware attacks rely on phishing attempts, don’t give the hackers what they want by clicking on suspicious links. If something looks too good to be true, or you simply don’t recognize it, don’t click on any pop-ups or advertisements.

Adam Stevenson
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