Today, with millions of us depending on the internet for work, education, entertainment and socialising, it has become a backbone of sorts, for all things communication. While offering a plethora of advantages and benefits, it is easy to forget that, like all things, the internet too has a dark side.
While the number of web users keeps increasing by vast numbers, so do the number of opportunities for those who are looking to commit crimes and cause chaos. As our dependency on the internet grows, cybercrime grows as well. Government systems, corporate mainframes, and even personal computers are being hacked from across the globe.
While cyber criminals keep developing newer ways to compromise our systems using computer viruses, it becomes crucial for us to “up our game” and protect ourselves. Successfully protecting your computer means you’ve got to know when you’ve been hacked by a computer virus. In this article, we pull back the curtains on the obvious symptoms that you need to watch out for. Let’s get started:
Computer Running Slowly
One of the key symptoms to watch out for when using your computer daily is sudden drop in speed. What once took moments before now takes minutes. You can rest-assured that some type of a virus is at play, taking up heaps of resources, thus resulting in slow functionality.
You will notice that:
- Your computer takes much longer than usual to boot up,
- And, programmes take too long to start up.
Viruses such as malware are known to affect the computer’s operating system, resulting in a drop in speed. However, before jumping to conclusions, first inspect whether your computer has adequate RAM and harddisk space, both of which are essential to run sophisticated software or games. If the problem does not lie in the RAM or hard disk space, your computer may have been infected.
Another symptom of infected computers is the display of random pop-up messages all over the screen. This is due to a virus infection commonly known as “spyware,” and is not only annoying as you have to keep closing umpteen message boxes, but may come attached with other dangerous viruses that can seriously compromise your computer. Whenever you notice unwanted pop-boxes ensure that you never:
- Click them;
- Download unsolicited messages;
- Or, download free applications such as virus guards, upgrades etc.
Sudden Freeze or Crash
You continue working as usual on your computer and suddenly it happens: everything freezes or the machine just shuts down. Under adverse computer virus attacks, it may even be impossible to turn on your computer. You have no other option but to turn to professional help. However, if you are able to restart your computer, but keep encountering sudden freezes or the Blue Screen of Death (exactly as bad as it sounds) appears and you have to restart your computer each time, it can be one of two problems:
- A virus attack hampering various operations;
- Or, a technical issue that is the result of incompatibility between software you have installed and your machine’s hardware configuration.
A Mind of Its Own
Virus attacks can make your computer do all sorts of things. It might open files on its own, it does not respond to your clicks or it might even scroll through files automatically, all of which are indicators of a virus attack. Remember, no matter how powerful or state-of-the-art your computer is, it should not be doing things on its own. Again, this can be due to a simple technical issue or a virus attack. However, when it comes to your computer and all the important data you have saved in it, it pays to err on the side of suspicion. The next time you switch on your computer, keep an eye out for one or more of the following warning signs:
- While your computer is booting up, strange windows (or screens) seem to pop up;
- Programmes or files open or close without you clicking them;
- You have lost access to some drives or files;
- Or, your computer shuts down automatically.
Files are Missing, or New Ones Have Appeared
Imagine you find out your home security systems didn’t work, you open your wardrobe and notice some of your clothes and jewellry missing. Instead, clothes you have never seen before have appeared on the shelves. Something is obviously wrong. The same goes for your computer. If files go missing, or new ones have popped up out of nowhere, it is time to pay attention. Always, keep track of the files on your computer: which software you have installed, what documents you have, and more. Some viruses install various versions of themselves all over your computer, or can even delete important files – often permanently.
When you discover this virus attack, it will be too late as you may have lost important files. Therefore, always keep backups of important files in a flash drive or external hard disk. Unlike other virus attacks, where discovering the problem helps you fix it, you have already lost your files. Although you will be able to eliminate the virus, you might not be able to recover your documents.
Antivirus has “Disappeared”
Often you may notice your antivirus has been switched off and your computer’s firewall has been disabled. In other words, your machine’s defenses have been pulled down. If you get a prompt on the bottom right hand corner of your computer screen with a message that says something along the lines of your antivirus having been disabled, pay attention. Once your defenses are down, your computer is vulnerable to a range of virus attacks. Hackers or viruses will disable your computer’s virus guard to allow them access to the machine and also ensure that their activity is not picked up by the system, resulting in you not being warned against it.
As a rule of thumb, whenever your computer acts differently, do not ignore it. Often, we tend to overlook what may seem like a minor “change,” only to pay a heavier price later on. Ensure that you have a proper antivirus software and keep updating it regularly to protect your machine from the latest viruses.
What is your preferred antivirus software and why?
About the Author Joanna Sommer
Joanna Sommer is the Senior Editor for InformedMag and is passionate about security and tech. She has been working in the home safety and security field for 5 years. Joanna loves to travel and enjoys going to hot yoga and Barre classes. She is dedicated to creating articles that both educate and help people make an informed purchasing decision.