How Do I Check for Malware?

check for malware?

Image via Flickr by Christiaan Colen | CC BY 2.0

Malware is one of the most common threats to the security of your computer or system. Malware includes viruses, spyware, and ransomware. It’s essentially a type of software secretly installed on your computer or devices without your consent to steal information or wreak havoc on your system. Detecting and removing malware is an essential skill for anyone interacting with the internet or concerned about downloading malware. Understanding how to detect malware and remove it can help save you a lot of time and stress.

Signs You May Have Malware On Your Device

Here are some of the signs you can look for to see if there may be malware on your devices:

Malfunctioning Systems

If your computer is suddenly much slower than it previously was, it may be slowed down by integrating additional software that you didn’t realize you downloaded. This could be malware. Malware is essentially a virus on your computer, so the same way your body doesn’t function correctly when it’s sick, malware can cause your device to malfunction. Malware can also cause your computer to act strangely by crashing or displaying repeated error messages.

Your computer can malfunction by shutting down unexpectedly, taking too long to load certain programs, or glitching in the middle of tasks. Sometimes, malware may shorten your battery life because additional programs run without your consent in your computer’s memory. Take note of these behaviors to identify potential hostile actors in your system.

Inappropriate Ads

Ads are common occurrences on websites, and they may be tailored to your browsing history if you have certain settings enabled on your web browser. However, some ad behavior is a sign of a more nefarious program at play than typical marketing. Some malware targets you with inappropriate ads or pop-ups.

If you notice that ads are popping in places where you would not normally see them, like on a government website or your desktop, you may experience the effects of malware. If the ads on websites interfere with their content or if they’re inappropriate or disproportional to your normal browsing experience, this can also be a sign that you have malware.

Unexpected Changes

Malware is also used to access your information and control your data, so if you notice any changes to your settings that you didn’t authorize, you may have malware on your device. You should be careful what information you enter into your device before removing it. Any activity happening on your device without your knowledge or consent is cause for concern because another agent is at work inside your network. If you didn’t consent to have multiple users, like on a personal computer versus a work computer, you might be dealing with malware.

Other examples of changes caused by malware are changing your default browser or displaying new tabs or bookmarks that you didn’t open. This can mean that a third party uses your network to access the internet. You can also look for messages sent from your accounts that you didn’t write. This can be a huge clue that someone is posing as you from inside your network. If you notice any of these changes on your devices, you may have malware.

How To Check Your Computer for Malware

You can follow these steps to check your computer for Malware:

Run a Malware Scan

The best way to find malware on your computer is to get malware software to check for you. You can pay for and download various software onto your system that will run extensive checks in each of your files and programs to find the negative agent. Then, the system can remove the malware from your computer without any more problems. Sometimes malware is programmed with contingency plans to prevent you from deleting it, but the systems and services are usually equipped to handle most malware problems.

Make sure that your device is updated with all new software updates. Having outdated software can sometimes make your device act the same as if it had malware. After updating your device, you can install a malware scanner by finding a service or product that matches your operating system and your preferences. Consider asking trusted IT professionals or colleagues about what they used to get a recommendation.

You can install the system onto your computer, and it may display a pop-up menu walking you through the process. You can set it up and let it scan your documents to see if it finds the malware. This may take hours, depending on how much memory your device or system has. You may have to restart your device once the scan is complete to ensure that the software has gone through everything. Most malware is identified and removed at this stage. If not, you may use more extreme measures or find an IT professional to help you.

Check Your Applications and Documents

If you don’t want to purchase an online malware protection service, you can also come through your applications and documents yourself, looking for unfamiliar saved items. This is much more time-consuming and doesn’t allow you to use your computer simultaneously, but it can make you feel more in control of the process.

Comb through each folder and file saved to your computer and try to find any unusually named items that you don’t remember downloading. If you can’t think of the purpose of the file, it may be malware. You can delete these files yourself, as long as you remember to delete them entirely from your computer by emptying your trash can when you’re finished.

Malware can be stressful and damaging to your sense of security. Detecting and removing malware is always easier with a professional assisting you, so don’t hesitate to reach out to our IT professionals with any questions or concerns. You can also contact us if you have a better way to identify malware on your device. If you believe that you may have malware on your computer, refrain from mentioning where you live, or purchasing anything on that device.

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