Malware has turned into a major problem during the last couple of years, now infecting more personal computers and business networks than ever before. While a good anti-malware program can go a long way in keeping your system protected from malware attacks, there is still nothing that is completely fullproof. How can you tell if you have been infected with a malware program?
What is Malware?
Malware is a program that can secretly infect your machine, often disguised as a legitimate program or website. The way that most malware programs work is not by outright stealing information the way exploit viruses or keyloggers do, but by tricking you into voluntarily submitting your private information. These types of programs make use of scare tactics, as well as trust factor, to try to fool you into volunteering your information. They may create fake problems on your machine, or send advertising offers that seem like they are coming from a company you trust.
Identifying a Potential Infection
If your machine is running fine and suddenly popups appear claiming there's a problem with your computer, be cautious! Malware disguised to look like a legitimate diagnostic program can mimic logos or brand names of hardware and software from your system, making it seem to the untrained eye that you really do have a problem.
A definite warning sign of a malware infection is your computer suddenly running very slowly, or frequently crashing for no apparent reason. Malware programs run multiple processes in the background to do their dirty work, which can bring your system to a crawl.
Another tell-tale sign is seeing unfamiliar popups when you visit a familiar site. These ads may look like they're the real deal, but they might actually be targeted malware phishing scams that copy the design of the real site.
Random changes to your browser can also be caused by malware. Watch out for malware programs that replace the default search engine in your browser with another bizarre version you've never heard of, or install extra toolbars at the top of your browser that hijack your searches and lead you to questionable websites.
If you experience any of these changes and are unsure if you're infected or not, play it safe and get an expert to take a look at your computer. Recognizing a malware infection before it spreads too far can help to protect you from further risk.
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I am a Windows database developer/designer.