IT Solutions Basics: Signs of Viruses & Malware

Published April 11, 2017

Viruses and malware are a constant threat to business technology.

There are precautions you can take to limit the risk of infection to your devices. Using spam filters, web filters, antivirus software, and network security can help protect your computer.

You can also limit the risk of infection by practicing safe computer behavior: 
  • Only using websites with good reputations or ones that you are familiar with
  • Not opening emails or attachments from people you do not know
  • Avoiding the installation of programs, games, and toolbars from random websites

But as viruses and malware evolve, it is still possible that these protections will fail and your computer will become infected.

Download: Technology Security IQ Test for Employees  

Here are some signs of a computer virus and what to do if your believe your device is infected:

  1. Homepage or Search Engine Change: It's a red flag if you open your browser and the homepage suddenly changes to a weird website. Another sign can be if you are searching for something on the Internet and the search engine appears to be something other than Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Sudden changes to your web browser are signs of malware.

    While malware is typically not harmful right away, it is smart to get it resolved quickly. If you suspect your device is infected with malware, you should contact a computer support company like Pegasus Technologies to have your default browser settings restored and have any malware removed.

  2. Pop-Ups and Pop-Unders: Strange ads, coupon offers, "free service" offers, or "urgent warnings" are all examples of pop-ups that can cause viruses or malware. These usually come from an unsafe website. Pop-ups like these can become a threat to your cyber security so try closing the website by clicking the X in the top right corner. If the pop-up window will not close:
    1.  Restart your computer. If the pop-up persists…
    2.  Contact your IT support company to assist.
  3. Infection/Warning Pop-Up or Webpage: These warnings try to imitate an identity of authority, such as the federal government, Microsoft, or even your own antivirus software company. The warning will state your device is infected and you should either click a link or call a number for assistance. 

    Avoid this scam.

    These webpages or pop-ups are meant to look real, and their purpose is to convince you to trust them. Following their directions could allow a hacker to breach your security or could install malicious software that will infect your computer. If you fall victim to this sort of attack, the best option is to shut down your device and seek the help of professional IT support.

  4. Unfamiliar Programs and Toolbars: A common byproduct of installing unfamiliar programs or toolbars is that it installs malware on your device. While they are often more of an annoyance and a performance-killer than a danger, it can still affect the security and performance of your device. It's a good idea to remove them. You can remove the programs and toolbars through the control panel of your computer.

  5. Email Attachments: If you receive an email from someone you know and it has an unusual attachment, or it looks like something they wouldn't send, do not open it. Confirm with the sender they meant to send the email or add an attachment through another channel.
    Other red flags in an email to watch out for:
    1. You don't know the sender
    2. The subject line or message contains strange characters
    3. The email is addressed to somebody else
    4. The email says you requested the attachament
    5. The email says its instructions must be followed urgently 

If you suspect your computer is infected, seek the help of an IT professional

This post covers a few of the more common malware symptoms and how to react to them. Anytime you question a program, website, or the computer’s behavior, it's always safer to have it checked by someone you trust like your managed IT solutions provider.

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Joe Lileikis

Written by Joe Lileikis

As Technical Account Manager for Pegasus Technologies, LLC, Joe Lileikis brings a passion for addressing the short-term and long-term technology needs of client businesses. Joe most enjoys educating customers about their immediate and long-term technology issues. He is committed to providing excellent customer service, and believes those skills have come naturally to him throughout his career.

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