This one’s the most obvious. Ransomware authors want to make it perfectly clear that you have a malware infection—that’s how they make their money. If you’ve got ransomware, you’ll get a pop-up that tells you your files have been encrypted and there’s a deadline to pay a ransom in order to get them back.
You click on a link after doing a Google search on “my computer’s acting strange.” Link opens to a different page. You head back to your search results and try a different link. Same thing happens. Over and over you’re redirected to a different site from the one you’re trying to reach. That, my friend, is a malware infection.
Different home page
Say you set your home page to be your favorite sports news site. But for some reason, Yahoo.com keeps coming up. You also notice some new toolbars (rows of selectable icons) below your browser window that you can’t get rid of. You could either have a major case of the forgets, or, more likely, you’ve got an infection.
Bombarded with pop-ups
We’re talking: can’t escape. Close one, another one opens. Or you’re not even online, and you’re getting pop-up messages on your system. Some sites admittedly have terrible ad experiences that feel like something nefarious is going on (but really isn’t). Most of the time, if your screen is loaded with pop-ups, you’re looking at an adware or spyware infection.
Computer running slow
Lots of things can contribute to a slow computer. You could be running too many programs at once, you may be running out of hard drive space, or there’s not enough free memory. If none of those are true for you and your computer is still slow, it’s possible you’re infected.
New, unfamiliar icons on desktop
Maybe your nephew Timmy jumped on without your knowledge and downloaded a photo editing program so he could swap his face with his dog’s face and share it on social media. Or perhaps you downloaded a legitimate piece of software and a Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) hitched a ride. If it’s the latter, your computer could be weighed down by PUPs, which Malwarebytes and many other security companies consider malware.
There are a couple reasons why your applications or system might crash, including potential incompatibility between programs or software and hardware that needs updating. However, some forms of malware, such as rootkits, dig deep into the Windows kernel and latch on, creating instability.
Web browser freezes or is unresponsive
Slow Internet could be just that—check your wifi signal or your download speeds with your Internet provider to be sure. But if everything checks out and your browser grinds to a halt, it could be a sign of infection.
Lots of bounce email
We’ve all mistakenly typed in the wrong email address and hit “send.” But if you’re getting a suspiciously high number of bounces, or emails that return to your inbox undelivered, something else is going on. First, your email address could have been hacked and is now being used to spam the crap out of your contacts list. Or malware could be the culprit. How? An infected computer sends out emails using the addresses it found in your computer. If the “To” address doesn’t work, the message bounces back to the “From” address, which is often yours.
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