Malware has unfortunately become a trending buzzword over the past few years as hackers and cybercriminals have ascended in number and scope of influence in the digital realm.

Malware itself is a shorter name for ‘malicious software’  and refers to any software that tries to infect a digital device. The purpose of malware depends on who designed it, but common attacks include stealing money, extracting personal information, or encrypting your data for the purpose of locking you out of your own device.

Malware can be sneaky in the way it gets onto your machine and the way it manifests itself once it’s active. It can’t always be spotted by every form of antivirus software. However, you can find some of the best security software to spot and remove malware from your computer. In the meantime, here’s a deeper dive into some of easy-to-identify symptoms that your computer has been infected with malware.

Pop-ups Won’t Stop Popping Up

A pop-up ad on your favorite entertainment site is nothing to worry about. Six or seven appearing every time you go to a new site, or even when you’re not actively using the Internet is the equivalent of a neon sign flashing “you’re infected!” One of malware’s favorite deployments is adware, which triggers pop-ups for legitimate and fraudulent advertisements to appear on your computer at specific intervals.

Landing on Unknown Websites

You click Google for a search, select a promising link, and end up somewhere completely different and unrelated. Sound familiar? It’s a good bet there’s malware involved in your system sending you to phishing sites or website clones that will try to grab your personal information for bad purpose. These sites might try and install extensions into your browser while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on. If you suspect suspicious activity, give your browser’s extensions folder a look and make sure nothing out of the ordinary has been added.

Random Threats

One minute you’re minding your own business online and the next you’ve got a message from an app you’ve never seen before demanding that you download a software patch immediately to protect yourself from some futuristic threat. Most often these fake apps are the malware trying to fool you into downloading more fraudulent software onto your computer, get you to reveal personal information like your email address, or worst of all, have you pay for some fake software in order to swipe your credit card information.

Ransom Threats

The slam-dunk guarantee that your computer is infected with malware is the moment your computer boots to a screen informing you that your data has been encrypted and will not be released until you pay a ransom fee, usually in cryptocurrency. The screen will sometimes pretend to be representing the FBI or another security agency claiming you have violated some law, but that’s never the case. It’s also very unlikely that paying the ransom will get you your files back. It’s usually more of a lesson in investing in good antivirus software to prevent this sort of thing from happening.