Phone displaying "Malware Detected" with a finger press a quarantine button

Malware 101: Understanding the Basics

Is your device running slow? Maybe the battery is dying quickly or you are experiencing frequent system crashes. You may also notice unexpected pop-up windows or problems with shutting down or restarting your device. These are all signs that your device may be infected with malware. 

Signs of malware include:

  • Frequent freezing or crashing
  • Deleted or modified files
  • New programs, files or desktop icons that you didn’t install or create
  • Programs running or closing without your consent
  • Changes to your security settings that you didn’t make
  • Strange emails or social media messages being sent to your contacts without your permission
  • Your default search engine has been changed without your permission
  • New toolbars appear in the web browser
  • Browser links redirect to the wrong webpage
  • Your camera activates without your consent

Malware comes in many forms, including viruses, trojans and ransomware, but the logistics are always the same. Malware is any type of malicious software that is unknowingly installed onto your devices, designed to do damage or disable your computer, phone or tablet. 

Types of malware include:

Viruses attach to files and programs on infected websites, flash drives (USB), and emails activated by opening the infected application or file.

Worms transfer and copy themselves from computer to computer.

Trojans look like a legitimate application or file and mislead a user to load and execute the malicious software onto their computer.

Rootkits enable an unauthorized user to gain control of a computer system without being noticed.

Keyloggers record keystrokes made by a user in order to gain access to passwords and other personal/financial information.

Ransomware blocks access to your system or data until a sum of money is paid.

Spyware gathers data from your devices to take control of its features.

Although antivirus software can prevent many malicious software threats, it won’t prohibit you from installing malicious software onto your device or clicking on malicious links in a phishing email. If you notice that your device is running slow, restarting itself, overheating, or crashing, it’s time to take action. Follow these steps on the affected device:

  1. The virus may only be present in a program you recently installed. First, uninstall recent apps and remove new browser extensions.
  2. Download a virus scanner.
  3. Disconnect your device from the internet. This will help stop the spread of malware to other devices on your network.
  4. Restart the device in safe mode. To learn how to restart your specific device in safe mode, go to the device manufacturer’s support site.
  5. Run a full system scan to check if your device is infected. 
  6. If a virus is found, delete the file(s). 
  7. Rescan your device to check for additional threats. If additional threats are found, delete those files too.
  8. Once the scan comes back clean, restart your device. It no longer needs to be in safe mode.
  9. Change your passwords in case they were compromised.
  10. Update your operating system, software and browser. These updates will patch security vulnerabilities to help protect your data

*If you are still noticing issues with your device, it may be time to bring in a professional.

Remember, these are just basic steps to help you through the process. Go to your device manufacturers website or reach out to their customer service to get full, detailed instructions to remove viruses from your specific device.