What are common signs of a malware infection on a computer?

Malware infections can manifest in various ways, and detecting them involves observing abnormal behavior or changes in the system. Here are some common signs of a malware infection on a computer, explained technically:

  1. Unusual Network Activity:
    • Description: Malware often communicates with a command-and-control server or other malicious entities over the network.
    • Technical Details: Monitoring network traffic for unusual patterns or connections to suspicious IP addresses can indicate malware activity.
  2. High CPU or Memory Usage:
    • Description: Malware may consume system resources to perform its malicious activities.
    • Technical Details: Use system monitoring tools like Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac) to identify processes with unusually high CPU or memory usage.
  3. Unexpected Pop-ups or Advertisements:
    • Description: Malware might display unwanted advertisements or pop-ups on the desktop or within web browsers.
    • Technical Details: Monitor the system for processes or applications responsible for generating these pop-ups. Browser extensions and plugins should also be checked.
  4. Changes in Browser Settings:
    • Description: Malware often targets browsers, altering homepage, search engine, or new tab settings.
    • Technical Details: Check browser settings and configurations for unauthorized changes. Inspect browser extensions for suspicious or unfamiliar ones.
  5. Disabled Security Software:
    • Description: Malware may attempt to disable antivirus or anti-malware software to avoid detection.
    • Technical Details: Regularly check the status of security software processes and services. Malware often tries to manipulate these to remain undetected.
  6. Unexplained File Changes or Deletions:
    • Description: Malware may modify or delete system files to disrupt normal functioning.
    • Technical Details: Use file integrity monitoring tools to detect unauthorized changes to critical system files.
  7. Slow System Performance:
    • Description: Malware activities can slow down the overall system performance.
    • Technical Details: Monitor system performance metrics using tools like Performance Monitor (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac) to identify performance bottlenecks caused by malware.
  8. Unusual System Behavior:
    • Description: Malware can cause strange behavior such as unexpected crashes, freezing, or system instability.
    • Technical Details: Analyze system logs and event viewer entries for unusual errors or warnings that might indicate malware-induced issues.
  9. Unauthorized Access or User Account Changes:
    • Description: Malware might attempt to gain elevated privileges or create new user accounts.
    • Technical Details: Regularly audit user accounts and permissions. Look for unexpected changes in user privileges or the creation of new accounts.
  10. Unexpected Outbound Email Activity:
  • Description: Malware may send emails with malicious attachments or links.
  • Technical Details: Monitor outbound email traffic for unusual patterns or suspicious attachments. Check email server logs for any signs of unauthorized access or activity.