Diagnosing the cause of a ‘slow’ computer is not uncommon request, and you’re probably thinking that the customer in question was about to be tactfully told that her ageing laptop was really past its best. But hang on a minute – this was a year-old Acer running Windows 8.....

While our customer enjoyed a cup of coffee (there’s a permanent supply in our office!) we ran some diagnostic tests that produced shocking results. There were four defined viruses and a staggering 1154 pieces of ‘malware’! Our customer was astounded – but this is the very real risk you run when you connect a computer, phone or tablet to the Internet. It’s a bit like catching a cold – you never plan to do it but it sneaks up on you unannounced anyway.

Computer viruses and malware are pieces of computer code that are left floating around the Internet just waiting for a ‘host’ to visit an infected website, open a rogue email by mistake, or connect to another infected wireless network. Simply by being ‘online’ you run the risk of infection. The most sinister virus that we found was a ‘keylogger’ which monitors and records what you type into your keyboard before quietly sending the information back to it’s originator via the Internet. Very nasty.

Now before you think, “That will never happen to me! I have a secure wireless router and the latest antivirus software installed!” – so did our customer. In fact, they had two antivirus programs installed and used a router provided by a major broadband provider. But the situation then got worse; it turned out that the laptop is used at their place of work and they regularly use a small USB pen drive to swap files between devices.

Having identified all of the viruses and malware on the laptop, we now had to assume that just as they could have appeared from anywhere, they could also have been innocently passed on the office network and other devices. Just like the real thing, viruses and malware can spread with astonishing speed unless they are detected and dealt with. Fortunately, we were able to remove all of the nasty stuff from the Acer, and it’s performance improved immediately.

Just as with cold and ‘flu viruses, prevention is better than cure and now we’ve treated our ‘patient’ we’ve helped her make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Then of course, there’s the delicate matter of they break the news to their colleagues at work...

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