There was a time when most prevalent viruses were geared toward malicious damage and the results of those types of infections were, and still are, patently obvious. Since then though, the ultimate goal of hackers has changed considerably, with malware now predominantly designed for creating revenue rather than mayhem. Accordingly, the opposite now applies, and instead of immediately evident destructive after effects the objective is for infections to be as surreptitious as humanly possible.
This, of course, makes is much more difficult for a perfunctory diagnosis as to whether a machine is actually infected or not. However, there are a number of common telltale signs which generally provide a reliable indication that malware is at work.
Computer Running Really Slow
Strange Messages and/or Ads Popup Randomly
Antivirus Disabled or Missing
Because of this, Microsoft has incorporated an extremely useful warning system into its latest operating systems under the oft maligned Action Center. I’ve seen lots of guides on how to disable Action Center but I would advise all users to keep Action Center enabled and displaying warning messages, especially those relating to security.
Internet Connection Really Slow
Whatever, once that avenue has been thoroughly exhausted with no solution forthcoming, the next best bet would be malware. In much the same way as a malware’s running processes will chew up system resources, malware which is taking advantage of your internet connection can cause serious slowdowns in that area.
Generally speaking, I would say if a system is suddenly and consistently showing signs of aberrant or abnormal behavior, then it is likely infected. The fact that today’s malware is not only surreptitious by nature but also constantly mutating into new strains is why so many of us continue to emphasize the importance of regular and frequent system scans. If you don’t already have something like Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (free), Emsisoft Anti-Malware (free), or SUPERAntiSpyware (free) installed on you computer, do so now and run the software regularly.
*By the way, because they do not include any real time protection, you can install as many of these types of programs as you like without any negative effect on system performance.
If you do happen to have one or more of these types of on-demand malware scanner/removers installed but tend to forget they are there, tie a knot in something and start using them!
If you forget why you tied the knot in the first place, you’re probably around my vintage. 🙂
Final piece of advice; do NOT use System Restore in an attempt to undo malware infections. It may work on the rare occasion when you are absolutely certain exactly how and when the infection occurred but in the majority of cases, existing restore points will most likely include the very malware you are trying to get rid of.