Malware Explained: How to Know If Your Device Has Been Infected

There are different types of malware that can infect your system.

Published28 Jul 2020, 02:54 PM IST
Explainers
4 min read

Has your computer or smartphone been acting weird lately?

Do random ads pop up in your browser and is your phone heating up without any applications running on it?

If you’re encountering such problems, among others, then there are chances that your device is infected with a malware. Now, hang on! I don’t want you rushing to the service centre for something like this when there is an easier, DIY fix to the problem.

But, before we get to diagnosing this little pickle, I think it’s important for you to understand what a malware is and how you can spot it, and more importantly, how you can get rid of it.

Malware Explained: How to Know If Your Device Has Been Infected

  1. 1. What is Malware?

    Let’s break it down tino two words: Malicious and software. To put it simply, malware is a software that has been written by a programmer to steal or damage information on a computer system. It can occur in your PC, smartphones and other smart devices.

    There are different kinds of malware like spyware, viruses and even ransomware. Most of these are used to extract information and can be delivered to a user via email, text messages and can also be manually injected into a system.

    Hackers use these malicious programs to make money by either threatening to delete the stolen information, blackmail by making confidential data public or by just selling the data to the highest bidder on the Dark Web.

    Expand
  2. 2. Different Types of Malware

    There are different types of malware. Therefore, they are categorised by the kind of payload they carry and what they are being used for. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of malware:

    1. Virus: Similar to its biological namesake, a computer virus attaches itself to a file or a program and infects other clean files. This is the most common type of malware contained within executable (.exe) files.
    2. Spyware: As the name suggests, spyware is used to spy on a computer system to know what the user is doing. It hides in the background and copies critical information like credit card details, passwords, etc, and sends them to the hacker.
    3. Trojan: This type of malware disguises itself as a legitimate software so when the user activates it, the Trojan creates a backdoor into your security system to let other malware in. It can also be used to steal data.
    4. Ransomware: This is another common malware and the most profitable for hackers. Ransomware installs itself into the system of a user and encrypts all the files. The only way to gain access to the files would be to pay the hacker and get the decryption code.
    5. Worms: Worms have the ability to copy themselves very quickly from one computer to another through a network. These can be local networks or the internet. They are most commonly used to exploit security weaknesses.
    6. Adware: These are used to push unwanted advertisements on your computer or phone. Though Adware isn’t as malicious as other malware it can help pave the way for entry into your network.
    Expand
  3. 3. How to Know If You’ve Been Infected?

    Some of the signs of infection are obvious. Your device will start to lag and unknown software will automatically get installed on your system without you even knowing about it.

    These are some of the symptoms if your smartphone has been infected:

    • Phone heats up
    • Battery drains faster than usual
    • Unknown apps get installed
    • Unexplained in-app charges
    • Lags & reduced performance
    • Pop-up ads

    Some of the symptoms if your PC is infected with malware:

    • Your PC is slowing down
    • Blue screen error
    • Programs open & close on their own
    • Lack of storage capacity
    • Pop-ups, ads & unwanted programs show up
    • Your security solution is disabled
    • You cannot access the control panel
    • You spot suspicious shortcut files
    • People say they receive strange messages from you
    • Internet traffic increases suspiciously
    Expand
  4. 4. How to Protect Against Malware?

    You have to understand that most malware rely on user’s actions to infect a system. Many smartphone and PC users click on unknown links and even download applications from third-party sources, which can lead to an infection.

    Here is how you can protect your device against a malware:

    • Don’t click on unknown links you get on email, text or a social networking apps. Most of them contain malware
    • It is also important for users to be vigilant and not download any content from sources not known to them
    • Limit the number of applications on your device and keep your system up-to-date with the latest firmware
    • Do not give your device or system to any unknown person to access. If it is absolutely necessary, make sure you know what files/software the other person is accessing
    • Perform regular checks on in-app purchases and spending
    • Make sure only those apps are installed on your device that you are aware of
    • For a PC, download an antivirus and perform regular system checks
    Expand
  5. 5. How to Get Rid of Malware?

    So, you’ve got malware! What to do now? One way of getting rid of the malware is to completely format your system and restore it to its factory settings.

    Another way to do it is through an antivirus but before that, you need to follow these steps:

    • For PC, hold the Shift key and restart the machine to take you into the Troubleshoot mode
    • Follow the onscreen procedure and restart the machine in Safe Mode
    • While you’re in Safe Mode, delete all temporary files using the Disk CleanUp tool
    • After that, download a virus scanner and run it to check for system errors and viruses

    You can follow the same procedure for an Android smartphone. All you have to do is enter the phone’s Safe Mode and delete unknown apps.

    Please make sure that you backup all important files on a USB or on the cloud before you start the procedure to remove the malware.

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    Expand

What is Malware?

Let’s break it down tino two words: Malicious and software. To put it simply, malware is a software that has been written by a programmer to steal or damage information on a computer system. It can occur in your PC, smartphones and other smart devices.

There are different kinds of malware like spyware, viruses and even ransomware. Most of these are used to extract information and can be delivered to a user via email, text messages and can also be manually injected into a system.

Hackers use these malicious programs to make money by either threatening to delete the stolen information, blackmail by making confidential data public or by just selling the data to the highest bidder on the Dark Web.

Different Types of Malware

There are different types of malware. Therefore, they are categorised by the kind of payload they carry and what they are being used for. Here’s a look at some of the most common types of malware:

  1. Virus: Similar to its biological namesake, a computer virus attaches itself to a file or a program and infects other clean files. This is the most common type of malware contained within executable (.exe) files.
  2. Spyware: As the name suggests, spyware is used to spy on a computer system to know what the user is doing. It hides in the background and copies critical information like credit card details, passwords, etc, and sends them to the hacker.
  3. Trojan: This type of malware disguises itself as a legitimate software so when the user activates it, the Trojan creates a backdoor into your security system to let other malware in. It can also be used to steal data.
  4. Ransomware: This is another common malware and the most profitable for hackers. Ransomware installs itself into the system of a user and encrypts all the files. The only way to gain access to the files would be to pay the hacker and get the decryption code.
  5. Worms: Worms have the ability to copy themselves very quickly from one computer to another through a network. These can be local networks or the internet. They are most commonly used to exploit security weaknesses.
  6. Adware: These are used to push unwanted advertisements on your computer or phone. Though Adware isn’t as malicious as other malware it can help pave the way for entry into your network.

How to Know If You’ve Been Infected?

Some of the signs of infection are obvious. Your device will start to lag and unknown software will automatically get installed on your system without you even knowing about it.

These are some of the symptoms if your smartphone has been infected:

  • Phone heats up
  • Battery drains faster than usual
  • Unknown apps get installed
  • Unexplained in-app charges
  • Lags & reduced performance
  • Pop-up ads

Some of the symptoms if your PC is infected with malware:

  • Your PC is slowing down
  • Blue screen error
  • Programs open & close on their own
  • Lack of storage capacity
  • Pop-ups, ads & unwanted programs show up
  • Your security solution is disabled
  • You cannot access the control panel
  • You spot suspicious shortcut files
  • People say they receive strange messages from you
  • Internet traffic increases suspiciously

How to Protect Against Malware?

You have to understand that most malware rely on user’s actions to infect a system. Many smartphone and PC users click on unknown links and even download applications from third-party sources, which can lead to an infection.

Here is how you can protect your device against a malware:

  • Don’t click on unknown links you get on email, text or a social networking apps. Most of them contain malware
  • It is also important for users to be vigilant and not download any content from sources not known to them
  • Limit the number of applications on your device and keep your system up-to-date with the latest firmware
  • Do not give your device or system to any unknown person to access. If it is absolutely necessary, make sure you know what files/software the other person is accessing
  • Perform regular checks on in-app purchases and spending
  • Make sure only those apps are installed on your device that you are aware of
  • For a PC, download an antivirus and perform regular system checks

How to Get Rid of Malware?

So, you’ve got malware! What to do now? One way of getting rid of the malware is to completely format your system and restore it to its factory settings.

Another way to do it is through an antivirus but before that, you need to follow these steps:

  • For PC, hold the Shift key and restart the machine to take you into the Troubleshoot mode
  • Follow the onscreen procedure and restart the machine in Safe Mode
  • While you’re in Safe Mode, delete all temporary files using the Disk CleanUp tool
  • After that, download a virus scanner and run it to check for system errors and viruses

You can follow the same procedure for an Android smartphone. All you have to do is enter the phone’s Safe Mode and delete unknown apps.

Please make sure that you backup all important files on a USB or on the cloud before you start the procedure to remove the malware.

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

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