What to do if your device is infected and your information's stolen

Beware — mind the malware

Malware can cause a whole lot of trouble if it finds its way on to your device. So it’s worth knowing how to tell if it’s lurking around — and how to put a stop to it doing damage. 

What is malware and what harm can it do? 

Malware is short for malicious software. Its aim — to infect, damage or steal data from your device. Criminals can also use it to take control of your device and access your contact details or use your computer network (devices connected to your home broadband connection) to infect other people’s devices too. It’s nasty stuff. 

Ransomware is a type of malware that can stop you accessing certain files on your computer. The cyber-criminal who sent you the malware might then contact you asking for payment — usually in some form of cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin. Only then will they claim to unlock your computer or data.

Just because you make the payment, it doesn’t mean you’ll have access again. After all, you can never really trust a criminal. If you decide to pay, you’ll be handing money over to criminal organisations and you might be targeted again one day. 

That’s why it’s really important to protect yourself from malware. For information on keeping your devices secure, see how to avoid being scammed

Signs that your device is infected

It’s running slower than normal

Most malware runs tasks in the background that take up a lot of your device’s processing power. So if things start slowing down, there’s a chance malware’s made its way onto your device. 

It keeps crashing on you 

Some malware will corrupt or delete files that are needed for your device to run properly. 

Things aren’t working properly

Some viruses will stop parts of your computer (such as your mouse or keyboard) from running properly — or at all. 

There’s an influx of annoying pop-ups  

Pop-ups can get on your nerves at the best of times. If you notice you’re having to hit ‘X’ on a lot more of them than you would usually, there’s a chance malware’s at work. 

How to fix the problem

The National Cyber Crime Security Centre recommends that if you think the malware’s made its way on to your PC or laptop, try updating your device — that way, you’ll have the latest security updates on there to protect you. Then run a scan from your antivirus software and do what it says. If this doesn’t fix the issue, you may need to start from scratch — first wiping everything off, including the operating system, and then reinstalling it all again.

Malware doesn’t just infect laptops and PCs — criminals can use it to attack your phone and tablet too. And unfortunately, antivirus products don’t usually work in the same way on these devices. According to the National Cyber Crime Security Centre, your safest bet is to restore your device to its factory settings — you’ll usually find this option in your device’s settings section . 

If you’re having trouble with any of this, it may be worth getting expert help on what to do next.  

Report it to the right people 

If your device has malware on it, there’s a chance the criminals who sent it to you can see everything that’s on it — your personal data, the sites you’re visiting, absolutely everything. And with this information, they could use your details to steal your data to access your bank accounts or contact your financial services providers to do damage there too. 

If you’ve been hit with a malware attack, you can report it to Action Fraud (try to do this from a different device to the one that’s infected). You should also let your bank know if you think your account details have been accessed too. 

And if you think your details for any investments, savings or insurance you hold with us have been compromised, you can report it to us directly and we’ll look into it. 

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