Security

Five tips for spotting the signs of malware

Malware has become one of our most challenging security issues -- and it isn't going away any time soon. Learning to recognize the symptoms of an infection will help you preempt malware havoc.

If you've ever experienced a malware infection, you know what a hassle they can be. Cleaning your PC of these infections as quickly as possible will help ensure that the malware doesn't do any more damage or infect another machine. These tips should go a long way to help you recognize the symptoms of a malware infection.

1: Software

This is the most obvious method. Tons of anti-malware applications are available, and the choice is as subjective as your choice of antivirus software. You can choose tools like Malwarebytes or Spybot Search and Destroy. There are also some antivirus tools that can scan for both virus and malware (such as Ashampoo Magical Security 2). One of the issues you might face with certain anti-malware tools is a lack of real-time scanning. Because of this, you have to make sure your end-users do frequent manual scans to catch any infections. When a client neglects a scan, not only can that malware cause more issues, more malware may be picked up.

2: PC slowdowns

Malware is notorious for slowing down machines, be it network connections or speed of application use (or opening/closing said application). Of course, a slowdown alone does not a malware infection make. Since many other issues can cause a slowdown, I would advise taking steps to cure that slowdown first (defragmenting, adding RAM... the usual). If the PC is still running poorly after you've taken the necessary steps to address a slowdown, it's likely to be malware.

3: Pop-ups

One potentially embarrassing sign of malware is the popup. Lately, we've seen a spike in porn-related popup malware issues that either put a blush on the user's face or elicit pure anger. Unwanted pop-ups (especially those that happen when a browser is not open) are a sure sign of malware infection. The problem here is that they can't always be removed in standard mode. In those cases, the machine must be booted into safe mode. As with nearly all malware, you'll need a strong anti-malware application to remove them.

4: Change of home and/or Google links

If a browser's home page changes without your intervention, more than likely there is a malware problem. The same is true if you Google a topic, click a Google-provided link, and are sent to a random link. If you're seeing this behavior, you have a malware or virus infection.

5: Browser offline

If you can't browser the Internet but you know your network connection is up and running (a ping check is an easy way to test this), you probably have a malware infection. To double-check this, go to your browser's network connections settings and make sure a proxy hasn't been set (without your or your IT department's knowledge). If this is the case, and you know you don't use a proxy, you have a malware infection.

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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