In 2022, there were over 1.3 billion malware programmes in existence and 10% of these were computer viruses, according to research from the AV-Test Institute.
A computer virus may spread from one device to another, take over your software and steal information that can be held at ransom.
Spam emails, instant messaging, file-sharing devices, fake antivirus downloads, unpatched software and infected hardware are the ways in which viruses can infect your computer.
Cybersecurity experts VPN Overview reveal six common symptoms of having a computer virus and how to remove it.
Six signs of a computer virus
- Slow performance
If you’re questioning whether your computer has a virus, observing its performance is one of the first tell-tale signs. As long as you’re regularly updating and taking care of it, your device should work soundly. Malicious code, however, typically hijacks computing power and may lead to unbearably slow performance.
- Freeze-ups and crashing
There are multiple reasons why your laptop might be crashing. It may be time to restart it, close down one of the many windows you have open or buy a new one – but it could also be a sign your computer has a virus.
- Missing files
Malware has been known to delete important data. Once it has infiltrated your device, you may receive multiple pop-ups and notice your files are missing. Don’t ignore this – it’s a tell-tale sign of a virus that should be taken seriously.
- New files appear
In addition to missing files, you may also notice new files mysteriously appearing. Viruses can replace your files with encrypted ones, although these are likely malicious and will only further harm your device if you click on them.
- Problems with hardware
Viruses have been known to cause system changes that affect external hardware and accessories. If you can’t get that USB drive and wireless mouse to connect properly or work as it should, for example, it could be a sign of a virus.
- Computer operating by itself
Computers are complex machines, but they shouldn’t be executing demands without your authorisation. If you’re noticing that your device is acting unusually – maybe files are opening by themselves or it feels like another person is controlling your computer – you may have a virus.
How to remove a virus from your computer
- Download an antivirus programme
To remove a virus from your computer, start by downloading an antivirus programme. These will offer you effective real-time protection against malware. There are countless options to choose from, such as Bitdefender for Windows and Avast Security for Mac.
- Disconnect from the internet
Malware often spread viruses through the internet, which can lead to multiple devices becoming infected. To stop this from happening, disconnect from the Wi-Fi network.
- Run a virus scan
Run a virus scan using your chosen antivirus programme. This will likely detect the virus infecting your computer and remove it. If the scan fails, you may wish to remove it manually by using the Windows Registry or launching your activity monitor on a Mac.
- Check for updates
Next, check for any recent updates on your computer. Windows and Mac regularly release these to keep your device as secure as possible from cyberattacks.
- Enable your firewall
Firewalls help protect your device from any unauthorised access. These are usually included in your antivirus software, so remember to enable it by going into System Preferences or the Windows Start menu.
A spokesperson at VPN Overview has commented: “The digital landscape is constantly evolving. In turn, cybercriminals are developing more ways to steal data, money and cryptocurrency. By understanding the tell-tale signs of a virus, consumers and companies can protect themselves from the dangers of malware both at home and in the workplace.
Downloading a reliable antivirus software, updating your computer, adjusting your privacy setting and installing a firewall and anti-malware apps are all ways you can defend yourself from malware. You should also avoid opening suspicious email attachments.
If any of the above symptoms persists, it’s good practice to address the problem as soon as possible and take your device to a professional. We’re eager to see if cybersecurity statistics will decrease this year in light of this information.”