Many of us have had to deal with a computer virus at some point in our lives. They’re definitely not the most fun thing to deal with, and depending on how serious it is, you could potentially lose access to your computer!
What exactly is a computer virus?
A computer virus is a software program that needs a host to replicate and spread. It is typically acquired through downloading malicious files with the intent of spreading itself across various devices. Most viruses have similar traits: replicating, taking up power and space, and attaching to executable files.
Many people use “virus” and “malware” interchangeably. But they are not the same because “malware” is the umbrella term. To illustrate, a computer “virus” is classified as “malware” while a computer “worm”, which is not a virus, is also classified as “malware”.
Traits of a Virus
- Replicating itself – this allows it to infect a greater part of your computer, in addition to other computers
- Taking up power and space – this slows down computer startup and programs.
- Attaching to executable files – these regular files that help your computer function will become corrupted and eventually cease running without the viruses help.
- Hiding dormant in a file until triggered to execute its malicious code – they will often remain present without symptoms.
- Using polymorphic code – this means the virus can change each time it infects a new host, causing it to become more difficult to catch with anti-virus software.
- Requiring user action to spread – computer viruses can’t spread to other hosts on their own, it requires user action such as opening up an infected file or email.
How to Tell if Your Computer is Infected
If your computer’s been acting up you may be infected by malware. There are a few tell-tale signs that indicate whether the problem is caused by malware, or if it’s just a general computer problem. Here are 6 common signs that your computer might be infected.
When you’re browsing the internet, are you seeing messages telling you that there is an error on your computer and advertising you to call for support? These phone number will usually link you to a “technician” who will ask to connect to your computer and subsequently make any changes they wish.
While some websites contain pop-up advertisements; news sites, social media, and the like shouldn’t. If you are seeing similar messages on those sites, you are likely infected with adware.
Here is an actual example:
Scanners Running in the Background
Does your computer tell you that you have hundreds of new viruses every day? Lots of malware will masquerade as a “Clean my PC” product.
If your supposed antivirus is telling you that you have thousands of viruses every day or is trying to charge you additional fees, you might have accidentally downloaded a virus.
Here is an actual example:
Have you been getting confused responses from friends and family about emails you don’t remember sending? Don’t worry, you’re not losing it. Your email has probably been infected with some sort of virus; viruses often spread through email attachments. If you receive a strange message from a friend with an attachment, double check with them before opening it.
You’re Locked Out of Your Computer
When you turn on your computer, does it tell you that you’ve been locked out by the FBI or some other government agency? You weren’t doing anything suspicious on the computer so there’s no reason to be locked out. This is a common strategy used by viruses called “ransomware” to extort money and information.
Suddenly Your Computer is Very Slow
Did your computer suddenly slow to a crawl overnight? You might have a virus. These problems are especially suspicious if you haven’t recently installed new programs on your computer.
Computers can slow down over time due to the junk and clutter that collects. If your computer doesn’t have a virus but is still slow then you should try System Mechanic! It’s an easy way to stop frustrating errors, crashes, and freezes by clearing junk from your PC to make it work noticeably better.
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Nothing at All
Modern malware can hide deep in your system and may not give you any clue it’s there. Programs like keyloggers will store your passwords, online banking information and credit card information without your knowledge. You could be unknowingly at risk for identity theft. Scanning for viruses, with an external device like the FixMeStick, makes certain that you don’t become a victim.
How to Remove Viruses and Keep Your Computer Safe
Ready to clean your computer? Check out our comprehensive guide here about how to remove viruses and malware from your computer.
Have a question about a potential virus? Leave us a comment below.