Your home for online safety

Does your device have a virus?

Many of the tell-tale signs of a device being infected with a virus are similar to what can happen if you have been hacked.
2-minute version

Devices being infected with a virus (or other kind of malware) will often show the following symptoms:

  • your computer or laptop running slower than usual or showing unusual behaviour, including
  • pop-up ads (especially when you’re not actually in an internet browser), your browser homepage changing without you doing so or you being redirected to unfamiliar websites when you’re surfing
  • contacts receiving messages or emails from you that you didn’t send
  • antivirus software suddenly being disabled without your knowledge
  • laptops and desktop computers crashing frequently or restarting themselves, or displaying error messages you haven’t seen before
  • important files or documents going missing
  • warnings from your broadband or mobile phone provider that you are using unusually high amounts of data 

Steps to take:

  1. Install (if necessary), update and run a manual antivirus scan (links to reputable providers here) and follow through with deleting any infected files.
  2. If the antivirus software finds something, or if you still feel uncertain about things, change passwords on key online accounts e.g. banking, healthcare, email and social media. Ideally change the passwords on ANY accounts you might have used the infected device to log-in with. Use strong, unique passwords – tools available here.
  3. For the longer-term, consider signing-up to the have i been pawned? notification service and to credit monitoring services.

If you’re still unsure, and if you have a cyberSOS:respond, cyberSOS:restore or cyberSOS:protect plan, call our friendly cyber experts at any time of the day or night and we will happily help.

FULL VERSION FOLLOWS

The presence of a virus (or other kind of malware) can show itself in several different ways:

  • your computer or laptop runs slower than usual or shows unusual behaviour, including
  • pop-up ads (especially when you’re not actually in an internet browser), your browser homepage changing without you doing so or you being redirected to unfamiliar websites when you’re surfing
  • contacts receiving messages or emails from you that you didn’t send
  • antivirus software suddenly being disabled without your knowledge
  • laptops and desktop computers crashing frequently or restarting themselves, or displaying error messages you haven’t seen before
  • important files or documents going missing
  • warnings from your broadband or mobile phone provider that you are using unusually high amounts of data 

As with all things cyber-related don’t panic. You can make wrong decisions if you allow yourself to become panicked into doing something, so please try and stay calm.

Some or many of these things can be explained away perfectly innocently, so please don’t immediately assume the worst.

Follow the 3 steps below to help you work out what’s going on.

Step one

Have you got antivirus software on the device you think might have been infected?

If so, has it updated recently, and has it been run recently? If the answer to either of those is “no”, then please make sure it is up-to-date and then manually run a scan. We will put a list together of how to do all of that for the top 5 antivirus software providers in the next few weeks.

If you haven’t got any antivirus software running, pop over to our “downloadable tools and software” page and use the download links there to get access to software from reputable antivirus providers. There are FREE options and plenty with free trials, so it needn’t cost you a penny.

Once you’ve installed the software and run a scan, you’ll be in a much better position to know whether your device has been affected by a virus or malware.

Step two

This bit can take a bit more of your time.

If the antivirus scan tells you that your device has been infected, then let the antivirus software do its thing to remove it (if it can).

Given that certain types of virus can track what you’ve been doing on your device, it’s also a good idea to seriously consider changing your passwords, particularly on your most sensitive online accounts – like banking, healthcare, email and social media. Ideally you should change all of them if you have used an infected device to log-in to them.

Remember to use unique, strong passwords – and if you need help to understand what that means, head over here to our helpful glossary of terms.

If you’d like some assistance in creating strong passwords (and then storing them somewhere safely) you might want to consider a password manager – we have plenty of FREE and free-to-try examples on our “downloadable tools and software” page for you to choose from.

Step three

Thinking about the longer-term.

We said earlier how closely hacking attacks and virus infection are related to each other.

That’s often because hacking attempts often start out by a criminal trying to get a piece of code into your device that will give them the information they need to go on and hack into your online accounts.

So it follows that what we recommend doing longer-term if you think you have been hacked also applies here.

Both of those can give you early warnings that your data is being used by someone else.

If you’re still unsure, or in any way worried, or don’t know where to start, if you have a cyberSOS:respond, cyberSOS:respond plus, cyberSOS:restore or cyberSOS:protect plan, call our friendly cyber experts at any time of the day or night and we will happily help.

If you don’t have one of our plans, our emergency helpline won’t be open to you this time as there is a 14-day wait period at the start of all our plans, but please take a look at what we can offer for next time.