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How to Detect Malware

Jack Vines
October 9, 2021
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Over 7 billion malware attacks were reported in 2019. Every minute, four companies fall victim to ransomware attacks, a form of malware. Learning how to detect malware and get rid of malware is becoming increasingly important for anyone who accesses the Internet and works online. In this article, we’ll cover how to detect malware on your computer, including the many warning signs that you’ve been infected with malware.

But first, this article is part of our Definitive Guide to Malware series:

Definitive Guide to Malware

How to Detect Malware

How to Get Rid of Malware


Malware, the delivery vehicle for cybercriminals to steal and hold your information or data for ransom, is built to avoid detection. Ransomware and other malware imbed themselves in your computer to steal passwords, financial information, and anything personal that can be sold for profit.

But not all malware can go undetected. There are several typical signs that malware has made its way to your computer and you are infected.

Redirects You intend to visit a specific URL and the browser or URL isn’t loading properly or even directing you to a completely different web page altogether. If you’re experiencing several redirects, you might be infected with malware. It’s time to run a scan and check your computer.

Warning Messages Malware can disguise itself as a local computer warning. Typically the messages will alert the user that their computer has a problem and they need to follow specific steps to fix it. By following the directions on this fake message, the user may inadvertently execute the malware.

Pop-up Ads If you’re seeing an unusual amount of pop-up ads and they’re increasingly frequent, you need to run a scan for malware on your computer. If they’re harder and harder to get rid of and often include offensive or suggestive content, your computer is likely infected with malware.

Slow Performance If you notice that the general functionality of your computer is running slower or not as smoothly as it was before, it’s time to run a malware scan. If applications don’t open as quickly or you can’t seem to do simple tasks within each application, malware may be slowing your system down.

Problems at Start Up or Shut Down As you start your computer or shut it down, if you run into any problems, delays, or suspicious activity, your computer may be infected with malware. These are common signs that something is running on your computer that you likely didn’t approve or install yourself.

Plug-ins or Tools You Didn’t Install If you notice a plug-in or a tool in your browser that you didn’t install yourself, you likely have a malware problem that is installing these applications without your knowledge or permission. Run a scan and follow instructions for getting rid of the malware.


Once you’ve noticed initial warning signs of malware, it’s time to investigate further and gather evidence that the malware is present.

Run a Malware Scan If you have anti-malware software already installed on your device, many are pre-installed when you purchase a computer or are added as IT approves devices for employees, it’s time to run a malware scan. These scans can help you better detect a problem on your computer and will deliver exact next steps to get rid of the malware.

Run an On-demand Antivirus Scanner If you can’t seem to find the malware with a traditional anti-malware software scan, you can use a free online option like Malwarebytes Free. This second line of attack against malware may catch stealthy malware that the initial scan can’t catch.

Get Professional Help If your initial scan and your on-demand scan can’t find the malware you believe is on your computer or system, it’s time to get professional help. If your device is company-owned, you need to contact your IT department. If you’re using a personal device, you need to seek professional, third-party help. They may need to wipe your system or reform your hard drive.

Understanding the signs of malware and the early warnings can help prevent a larger malware attack on your computer or system. Protect yourself and your data by staying up-to-date on cyber security best practices and good hygiene.

Learn more about malware and how to get rid of malware here.