Malware and various other forms of cyber-attacks have been around for as long as computers. But over the past couple of years, there’s been a relative increase in the number of malware attacks. It’s pretty obvious why that is the case; the number of people on the internet has increased steadily, year after year. In addition to that, the number of ways that a hacker can attack an end user on the internet has also increased.
Security professionals are constantly adopting new methods of preventing these hackers from succeeding in whatever it is they are attempting to do, but the reality is that the onus lies squarely on the end user, for him or her to protect themselves.
In order to help with that situation, I have provided you with 10 warning signs that indicate that your system may be compromised.
System Slows Down
One of the most obvious and biggest giveaways that a system may be infected with a virus, is slow system performance. When a system has been infected with a malicious file, it usually adversely affects the computers performance. As a result, the operating system will take longer than usual to start, or some or even all of your applications may run much slower. Internet performance can also be adversely affected by malware. So if your computer exhibits any of these symptoms, there is a good chance that it has been compromised.
The Browser Has Been Hijacked
If your browser defaults to an unusual homepage whenever you load it up, there is a good chance that a spyware program has been installed on your system. You may also find that your favourite’s folder has been modified and that you are unable to alter the settings of the browser.
Less System Resources
If you’re on one of the older operating systems like Windows 2000/XP, when you launch the Windows Task Manager and click on the Processes tab, you may find that CPU resources is constantly at 100% – which is a dead giveaway that something is wrong.
Pop-ups appear even when your internet browser has been closed or when your system isn’t even connected to the internet, or ads appear that address you by name.
Constant System Crashing
If your system is constantly crashing, and you’re frequently seeing blue screen errors, then there is a good chance that a malicious file has found its way onto your system. Before coming to this conclusion however, you may want to consider all possibilities. One main cause of system crashes is a conflict between hardware and software or between two different applications. A common example would be when an end user has two different types of antivirus tools installed on the same computer running at the same time – this is known to cause system crashing.
Unrecognised Icons on Desktop
If you notice that there are more icons on your desktop, many of which you are unfamiliar with, then there is a good chance your system has been infected with a malicious file, in the form of a PUP. These malicious files typically get onto your system via other applications and software downloads. Once they’ve been installed on your computer, they are capable of causing random popups, installing new toolbars and collecting sensitive information about you, then sharing it across the internet.
Spam Emails Sent From Your System
Most people know never to click on any links in an email, especially from a spam email. But if you were to receive word from a family member or friend, that they just received a spam email from you? What if they told you they are receiving a lot of instant messages and emails from various social accounts under your name, messages that have attachments in them? This is a good reason for you to worry, as it’s likely the result of an application installed on your computer. The dangers are obvious for all to see.
Disabled Antivirus Software
This situation is quite rare, but when it does occur, it usually spells disaster for your system. If you notice that your antivirus program has stopped running or that the update component has been disabled, then there is a good chance that it’s the doing of a malicious file. There are tons of malicious files that are designed to target the security software of the user’s computer in order to prevent detection and prolong its existence on your system.
Random Browser Toolbars
Toolbar’s appear on your browser despite not requesting for their installation. After attempting to remove the toolbar, it reappears after you restart your browser.
Odd Network Activity
There are those situations when, despite no one using the internet, you get high network activity. Most end users observe such circumstances even when their browser is closed and there are no programs running that are either uploading or downloading anything.
Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website