Viruses: how do you spot if your computer has fallen prey to infection?

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Alan Stainer runs an IT company specialising in technical advice and support and website design, based in the Horsham District. In each column he’ll look at issues affecting computer use.

When I started writing this piece, I had no idea that the very next day I would meet someone over lunch, who would describe a problem on their PC which was the exact same situation I had started writing about; computer viruses, malware and spyware.

They didn’t know their PC had an infection, because they didn’t recognise the signs. Malicious software comes in many guises, but it is fairly easy to spot once you know what to look out for. Here are a few things to keep in mind which may help you.

n Is your computer abnormally slow?

n Does clicking a link open a website you were not expecting?

n Are pop ups or additional web pages appearing when browsing the internet?

n Has your browser homepage been reset without your knowledge?

n Has a new browser toolbar been installed without your knowledge?

n Are you unable to log in to your computer?

n Are you unable to run programs normally?

n Has your e-mail account been blocked or hacked?

n Have files disappeared from your hard drive?

If I was to try to summarise all of the above it would be, ‘Is your computer behaving unexpectedly?’ If it is for any of the reasons given above, then you may well have an infection on your PC.

Now antivirus software is generally pretty good, but new viruses can and do slip through the net. It has nothing to do with your own capabilities, it can happen to anyone.

If you suspect an infection, make sure your anti virus software is up to date and run a full scan. If you still believe you have an infection, then the virus could have compromised your anti virus software itself. At this point you should consider seeking professional help.

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