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Is your computer acting strangely? It may be malware

Malware is a term used to describe malicious software, and it’s a computer user’s worst nightmare. When your machine is loaded with malware, it means that something malicious is affecting, interfering or deliberately damaging your computer systems. And if you find out that it’s there, it can lead to trouble.

How could malware get on my computer?

Malware can find its way onto your computer in a myriad of different ways, but generally speaking it’s installed very sneakily using either an infected link or website. When you, as the user, click the link or access the website, this can trigger a download. The malware is then installed on your machine, intended to run (somewhat) quietly in the background, collecting your information, feeding you adverts, disabling your computer or even overtly asking you for money for its removal. 

If you’re asked for a payment to remove malware, it’s known as ransomware. This is because often your files, documents and programs are effectively held to ransom until you’ve paid up - usually in Bitcoin. However, the malware that we’re looking at today is the more subtle software that doesn’t announce itself; the kind that is more interested in tracking your clicks, logging your keystrokes and stealing your passwords. 

How do I know if there’s malware on my computer?

It’s in the best interests of the unscrupulous individual behind the malware for it to go undetected for as long as possible - and this is one of the difficulties in discovering it. However, there are a number of telltale signs that would suggest that your computer has fallen victim to a nasty download.

1.Your computer is running slowly

If something on your computer is tracking your clicks and secretly watching what you’re accessing, then it’s naturally going to use up some of your computer’s processing power. As such, if your computer is running noticeably slower than usual, it might be because something (or someone) is slowing it down.

2. You’re suddenly out of disk space

Not only does malware slow down your computer, it’s also going to use up some of the disk space on your computer. When you install a new program or download a new game, it uses up a chunk of your disk space. Malware is just the same; it’s a program that’s installed in a similar way. If you’ve noticed a decrease in your disk space, malware may be responsible.

3. There are adverts, toolbars and plugins everywhere

This is one of the least subtle forms of malware, because it is designed to get your attention. Adware essentially fills your computer full of adverts; these could be pop-ups (windows that spontaneously appear on your computer for seemingly no reason), plugins (additions to your internet browser that you didn’t put there) or toolbars (new bars at the top of your browser that you also didn’t put there). If you’re experiencing one of these things, there’s a strong chance that malware is behind it.

4. Your computer just won’t stop crashing

If your computer is fighting away against malware, or if the malware is deliberately damaging your computer systems, then it’s likely you’ll notice a crash. This might be the screen freezing, repeated restarts or a blue screen of death if you’re on a Windows machine. If some or all of these are happening repeatedly, something is definitely wrong.

5. You can’t use your anti-virus software

Malware’s greatest enemy is great anti-virus software, and so it has a vested interest in shutting it down. If you’ve noticed that you’re not able to complete a systems scan, search for malware or even open your anti-virus software, it might be because some malware is interfering. 

What do I do about malware?

If you suspect that your computer has fallen victim to malware, we’d advise running your anti-virus software immediately if possible. Do not enter any account details or passwords, and do not click on any pop ups or links that appear. If you can’t access your anti-virus software or scanning your computer hasn’t solved the issue, give your IT support team a call. Our support engineers will be able to help you remove malware, and ensure that it doesn’t get back on your computer in the future.

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