If your computer has been infected with a virus, you need to act quickly to contain the infection. You should install antivirus software to remove any viruses from your infected device. Computer viruses can be a hassle to deal with, and they put you at risk of a security breach, identity theft and loss of your personal data.
Continue reading to learn what computer viruses are, how they spread, what signs to look out for, how to get rid of them and how to prevent them.
What Is a Computer Virus?
A computer virus is a type of malware or malicious software that infects a computer and replicates itself to spread to other devices. Once a device is infected, computer viruses can damage your device by slowing down performance and crashing applications. They can also hide themselves by altering files, and can steal your personal information to sell on the dark web.
How Do Computer Viruses Spread
The main goal of a computer virus is to replicate itself and spread to as many devices as it can. Unlike some malware, viruses need a user to take action for it to infect their device. Here are the ways in which computer viruses spread and infect your device.
Phishing is a type of cyber attack that tricks users into opening a malicious link or attachment to reveal their personal information. These malicious links and attachments often contain viruses that infect the user’s device when clicked on. Phishing is the most common form of cyber attack that tricks users into downloading viruses without them knowing.
Spoofed websites are fake websites that look like legitimate websites with the goal of getting you to either download something or reveal your confidential information. Viruses can infect your computer if you visit these fake websites or download something from them.
Malvertising is a cyber attack that uses online advertisements to infect your device with viruses and other malware. Cybercriminals will inject viruses into legitimate or fake advertisements on high-traffic websites. They want users to click on these malicious advertisements to install viruses without their knowledge.
Signs of a Computer Virus
Although computer viruses do their best to remain hidden, you can detect if your computer has been infected by a virus if you look out for these signs.
A common sign that your computer has been infected with a virus is when you start noticing performance issues. A computer virus may be running in the background causing performance issues such as long loading times, trouble shutting down or restarting, frequent crashes and error messages.
When you start to notice files that have been missing or altered without your knowledge, your computer has most likely been infected with a computer virus that is trying to steal and sell your data. Some viruses alter your files to hide themselves and wait for you to send the corrupted file to others.
Unexpected pop-up windows
A clear sign that your computer is infected with a virus is an excessive amount of unexpected pop-up windows. These pop-up windows tend to prompt you to open a link to another website or download an application, which actually downloads other viruses.
New applications you do not recognize
If you see new applications downloaded on your computer that you did not download, then a virus has probably infected your computer. These new applications may contain more viruses to either further damage your device or steal your personal information.
Spam emails sent from your email address
The main goal of computer viruses is to replicate and spread themselves to other devices and repeat the process. To do this, viruses will impersonate you and email your contacts list with an infected link or attachment to trick your contacts into falling for phishing attacks. If someone contacts you about receiving a spam email from you, then you should scan your device for any viruses.
Battery drains quickly
If you notice your battery is draining faster than it used to, your battery has most likely just degraded over time. However, if there is a more abrupt change in your battery life and it suddenly starts to drain quickly, then your device has probably been infected with a computer virus. You should run a scan of your device to try and identify whether the cause of your battery drainage is a virus.
Changed system settings
Changes to system settings that you did not make indicate that your computer has been infected by a virus. Computer viruses try to infiltrate your device without detection, so they turn off your security settings and change any other system settings that help keep them hidden.
How To Get Rid of a Computer Virus
If you notice any signs of a virus on your computer, you need to contain it and get rid of it right away. Here are the steps you can take to get rid of a computer virus.
Reboot your computer on safe mode
Safe mode is an alternative way to boot up your computer which uses only the basic and essential programs needed to turn on your computer. If your computer has been infected with a virus, you should disconnect from the internet and reboot your computer in safe mode. This ensures you can restart your computer without any viruses interfering– allowing you to restore your security settings and download antivirus software.
Download antivirus software
Antivirus software is a tool that detects, monitors and removes any viruses from your computer. When a virus infects your computer, you need to download antivirus software to get rid of the infection. You start by running a full virus scan on your computer to search and quarantine any viruses. Once you have identified the viruses, you can delete them from your computer. Moving forward, you should keep the antivirus software installed so it can proactively detect and prevent other viruses from infecting your device.
Delete temporary files and clear your browser cache
Some viruses may be hiding in temporary files or your browser cache. You should delete any temporary files, especially ones you do not recognize or remember downloading. You should also clear your browser cache to prevent any viruses from lurking on your computer. Once you have done this, you can safely reboot your computer.
Change your passwords
After you have gotten rid of any viruses on your computer, you should change your passwords if they have been compromised. Viruses can steal personal information such as your login credentials, so you should change your passwords to remove any unauthorized access to your online accounts from cybercriminals.
If you are unable to get rid of the viruses by yourself, then you should contact an IT professional to assist you with the removal of the viruses. IT professionals have the knowledge and tools to deal with almost any virus and will remove them for you. Even after removing computer viruses yourself, you can also check with an IT professional to make sure that your computer is completely clean of any viruses.
How To Avoid Computer Viruses
Avoiding viruses altogether is much easier than removing them, so here are some ways you can avoid computer viruses.
Install antivirus software
The best way to avoid computer viruses is by installing antivirus software. Antivirus software constantly monitors your computer for any incoming viruses and will remove them before they can infect your device.
Keep your software up to date
Computer viruses will look for any security flaws or vulnerabilities to infiltrate your device without detection. You should keep your software up to date to patch any security flaws and strengthen the security of your devices.
Secure accounts with a strong and unique password
If a computer virus has been installed on your device, you could be at risk of losing your login credentials. Use strong and unique passwords to prevent your login credentials from being compromised.
You should also store your login credentials in a password manager to protect your credentials from viruses and cybercriminals. A password manager is a tool that securely stores and manages your login credentials in an encrypted vault. It can protect your online accounts from getting compromised, even if a virus infects your computer.
Avoid phishing attacks
Phishing attacks are the most common way viruses infect a computer, but are easy to avoid if you know the signs to look for. The basics are to never click on a link or attachment in an email if you don’t know the sender or you didn’t directly ask for the link or attachment to be sent to you.
Back up your data
You should regularly back up your data in case a virus alters or deletes the data you have stored on your device. In order to get rid of some viruses, you need to wipe everything off your computer and return it to factory settings. Backing up your data will protect you from losing important photos, videos and documents.
Staying Safe From Computer Viruses
Although computer viruses can be scary, they can be easily removed when using good antivirus software. However, the best way to get rid of computer viruses is to avoid them altogether. If you follow cybersecurity best practices, you will protect your online data and identity.