Of all the ways that the computer age has changed our language, perhaps none has the evocative metaphoric power of the word “virus.” “Google” used to be a big number that people used to show off; now it’s a verb that means to search anything on the web, even through other search engines (“You should google it on Bing!”). “Tweet” was just the noise that birds made. But “virus” didn’t so much alter the language as appropriate it. Like in real life, a virus is a terrifying thing that can come from nowhere, spread suddenly, and possess the horrible power to ruin everything it touches.
For someone using their home computer for their personal small business/home office needs, who may not be an expert in technology (which is most of us), a viral infection can be horribly damaging. A little glitch can turn into a terrible infection, destroying records, photos, schoolwork, family finances, and business information. The only way to fix it is to identify it right away and have it removed by experts. Knowing the signs of a virus on your home computer is the best way to protect yourself.
5 Signs That Your Home Computer Has a Viral Infection
The first thing that is important to remember is that it isn’t like in the movies: when your computer gets a virus, you won’t see a graphic of a laughing skull-and-crossbones. There won’t be sirens going off to tell you that you’ve been infected. Pranksters enjoyed stuff like that in the older and wilder days of early hacking, but even then it wasn’t common. Whether you are dealing with Trojans, botnets, or scamware, most viruses hide their intent so that they can get the most information before you discover them. Still, there are a few signs of infection that you should be aware of.
Your computer is moving slowly and freezing up
There are a lot of reasons why your home computer may be moving slowly – it’s possible that you have too much clutter on it and need to clear out some space on your hard drive. Running too many programs at once can also cause freezing. But if your computer is relatively new and clutter-free, a sudden decrease in speed, slow boot-up times, and unusual crashing can be a sign that something foreign has gotten into your system. Don’t just say, “My computer must be acting up.” There’s always a reason and you can’t count on it to be benign.
You notice unusual external activity
Some viruses target hardware or otherwise influence it. If anything connected to your computer, from the external hard drive to the printer system, is acting oddly, that’s probably a virus. Many viruses take control of all parts of the computer, and this is their way of “testing their power,” so to speak, and learning about your machine. If you can’t turn on your printer, you may be having the same problem. This is the case with wireless printers, as well.
Your files have gone missing
This is where it gets tricky. A lot of viruses work by accessing your system and deleting internal files that are used to control security or otherwise act as safeguards to stop the user from doing something damaging. They are removed by viruses so that the bot can do its damage. Of course, it’s hard for the average user to know if they are gone, because who checks those files regularly? However, sometimes personal files get deleted, as well, during the purge. If you notice that your files are going missing for no reason, that is a big sign that you’ve been infected by a virus. Additionally, on the same token, if you can no longer access files or have trouble with different drives, you may have been hacked.
You notice extra files on your computer
Alternately, you may notice new files on your computer that you hadn’t noticed before – extra programs, especially ones that are running during startup, or more popups than you are used to. Most people have popup blockers now, but pay attention to what is or isn’t coming through. An excess of potential popups could be a sign that something is at the very least trying to get into your system.
One of the oldest scams in the book is telling people that they have been infected and that they have to click on a popup in order to protect themselves (this is “scareware”). Of course, when they do, they get a viral infection on their device. It’s an old trick, but it continues to work because it has become increasingly sophisticated. It does a better job of mimicking actual security applications, and it can be very difficult to tell the difference for inexperienced or non-expert users.
That’s the terrifying thing about this type of viral infection and another example of why they are so aptly named. In nature, a virus mutates and adapts as its prey strengthens their defenses. It is an arms race. The same thing happens with computers. We protect ourselves, they try to figure out ways to get around those walls. It will probably never stop. That’s why you need to recognize the signs of when you might have lost that skirmish so you can get your computer cleaned by experts and ready to go again.
At ClickAway.com, we help you stay secure from viruses and fix any problems that happen to your home computer. We offer set-up, security, and repair for home computers and Northern California business needs. Contact us today to find out more!