A brief explainer on signs your computer could be infected

Q: I’m seeing unusual activity on my computer – what are the signs of it being infected?

A: Malware is a general term for any kind of “malicious” software designed to exploit users or cause harm to their devices.

Signs of a malware infection can be somewhat obvious or in some cases very difficult to detect, depending upon the goals of the author of the software.

Malware that’s designed to exploit users for their personal information, ransomware or ID theft is the most dangerous, so it’s important not to ignore strange behavior from your computer.

Slow Performance

One of the most obvious signs of malware is noticeably slower performance.

If you’re waiting a long time for your computer to start up or it seems to lag regularly, it’s not necessarily a sign of malware, but it should be investigated either way.

Your computer has a finite number of resources that malware or running excessive programs can silently be consuming, which can lead to diminished performance.

Determining what is causing the slow performance will help you determine if you have been infected or just have too much automatically loading up when you start your computer.

Browser Changes

Your web browser has become one of the most valuable targets for malware because your daily Internet activity can be monetized by bad actors by redirecting you to their sites and services.

Some malware will hijack your browser and change your start page or default search engine, or change where and how you connect to the Internet, which can force you to malicious websites and cause everything to seem sluggish.

They can also add new toolbars or add-ons that appear in your browser’s headers.

Unusual Notifications

If you see unusual messages or errors popping up, this can be an indication of a form of malware that has infected your operating system. This type of malware can also create new icons on your Desktop or add programs that you don’t recognize.

Message Inquiries From Others

If your friends start asking if you sent a strange email or social media message, it’s possible malware has infiltrated your email program or social media profiles.

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