Maybe it’s moving slower than usual, taking seconds too long to load websites or start applications. Maybe it’s acting erratically, closing programs arbitrarily or jumping from screen to screen unpredictably. Maybe you just clicked on a suspicious link or downloaded a program without considering the dangers. Whatever the reason, you are concerned that your device has contracted malware, and you aren’t sure what to do.
Viruses, worms, and other malware have existed nearly since the beginning of computers, which means you can rely on decades of experience combatting viruses to help your infected device become safe.
Know the Malware Warning Signs
Not every computer glitch or malfunction is indicative of corruption. To ensure you don’t waste your time chasing malware that isn’t there, you should know the true signs your computer has come under attack from malicious hackers. These range from the banal to the outrageous, so it helps to have some examples:
- You get pop-ups even when you aren’t browsing
- Your browser navigates to the wrong pages
- You get warnings from security programs you didn’t install
- Your computer is running much slower than normal
- You see strange posts from your social media accounts
- You can’t access common system tools
- You can’t find data you saved
- Your computer is running at all hours
- You can’t identify processes at work
- Your computer is entirely inaccessible or held for ransom
Of course, some malware doesn’t exhibit any signs or symptoms at all. Even if your computer is behaving correctly, there might be a corrupt program in the background recording your keystrokes or leeching your processing time. Therefore, it makes sense to schedule regular security check-ins just to make sure your device is safe to use.
Scan to Double-Check
If you haven’t already, you should download a virus scan program from a reputable company. Usually, security software runs perpetually in the background, scanning websites, links, downloads, and more to discern any corruption or danger. You can manually check these scans to make sure nothing insidious has snuck in, but usually, they will alert you if they find something suspicious.
However, you can initiate a deeper, one-time virus scan when you suspect something might be wrong. Trend Micro even offers a free online virus scan, as well as other free security tools for various devices, so you can get the reassurance you need right now before you reinforce your regular computer security.
Backup and Disconnect
If you still have reasonable control of your device, you should backup your data right away. Using a cloud storage provider or a physical drive, you should make copies of your most important files, so you can have them on hand should your entire computer crash. You should avoid the temptation to make a duplicate of your entire hard drive because you could copy the corruption directly into your backup. Then, when the danger has passed, you should set a reminder to update your backup every few weeks, so if a more destructive malware finds its way onto your machine, you’ll have data to fall back on.
After your backup is complete, you should disconnect your device from the internet. You might feel powerless without the web, but any virus on your computer will also lose its teeth when you disconnect. You want to weaken the program as much as possible, and cutting it off from its source – the hacker that created or spread it – will do just that.
Identify the Bug and Search for Solutions
In the digital era, it is incredibly likely that you have some other device nearby that can assist you while you diagnose your infected machine. You should investigate how to boot your computer in safe mode, which will likely require a combination of the shift and F8 keys. Then, using your healthy, reliable device, you should try to diagnose your computer’s problem. You can perform web searches on your computer’s symptoms to find active bugs and common solutions. You might need to try more than one solution, such as deleting files and installing corruption removal tools, so you should strive to be patient and calm.
Be Better Protected in the Future
You will probably be able to delete the malware and resume normal operations without too much headache, but if you don’t learn from your mistake, it will happen again. You should protect your device with sufficient security software suite, which should include a strong firewall and thorough virus scanner. You should also practice safe computer-use habits, such as avoiding suspicious-looking links, downloads from dubious websites, and weak passwords. If you don’t, the next time you think your computer is infected, you might not have a hope for recovery.