I’m a victim of a malware attack. What should I do?
Malware (short for 'malicious software') is software that cybercriminals use to gain access to or harm your device or network. Malware attacks can target individuals, for example, a targeted email sent to your email address. Or they can target many users, for example, with a fake download link that secretly installs malware.
Some common signs that a device is infected with malware are:
- You notice unusual account activity, for example, logins from an unusual location or at an unusual time, or your passwords have been changed and you are unable to access your accounts
- Your device consistently slows down, overheats, battery drains fast or runs its cooling fan faster than usual (these are signs that your processor is running at capacity)
- Unexpected files and programs on your device. You may notice new programs, toolbars and icons have been installed
- Unable to access files, or ransom demands for release of your files
- You consistently see error messages that you never used to see
- Your web browser automatically takes you to a web page you did not intend to open
- Suspicious pop-up ads about updating or downloading a program
- Someone knows something that they could only have found out if they had access to your device.
A malware attack can have serious and ongoing impacts. Malware can also act as an entry point for cybercriminals, opening the door to further malicious activity.
Steps to take if your device is infected with malware
A guide to removing malware, recovering your files and protecting yourself against future attacks.
This guide has simple steps to follow if you are a victim of a malware attack. Not all malware attacks are the same, so some of these steps may not apply to your situation. If you are unsure of what steps to take, consider seeking professional IT assistance.
Before you begin
- If you can no longer access your files or have received a ransom note, it is possible you have been infected with ransomware. For specific recovery advice, follow our guidance on ransomware.
- If you suspect your device is infected with malware due to unusual activity on one of your accounts, start by following the ACSC’s guidance on account compromise. You should secure important accounts like bank accounts and email accounts as a priority.
- As you complete the steps below, avoid entering passwords or other sensitive information on your infected device. Some malware can log your keystrokes and steal any sensitive information you input. If you need to change your passwords, ensure that the device you use is clean of malware.