The usual suspects that cause a computer to run slowly include obsolete hardware, an outdated operating system, fragmented disk space, and old software applications. Most of these issues can be resolved by utilities associated with a computer's operating system, but certain issues related to cyber security can slow down computer operations and require greater vigilance.

Cyber Security Issues

For nearly 50 years, Cate Machine & Welding repaired almost anything with metal in it: farm equipment, airplane parts and even a pair of broken glasses. In 2016, the family-owned business in Belleville, Wisconsin, was running its business using a dusty tower PC in a disheveled office. The company was completely unaware that one of the reasons for its computer's slow speed was its use as a launchpad for Chinese hackers. In fact, the machine had provided a platform for the hackers to steal information from a variety of organizations, according to The New York Times.

Companies and consumers must understand that if their computers are connected to the internet, their systems are vulnerable to hackers and invasive software, including adware, spyware, malware and rootkits. These programs not only wreak havoc with privacy and personal information, they diminish computer speeds on even the most advanced equipment.

How Does Adware Slow a Computer?

Adware is one of the most pernicious forms of malware on the internet. Short for advertising software, these programs typically appear as pop-up links and banners associated with apps you download and websites you visit. Adware usually has a local component that has been downloaded onto your computer.

Another form of adware is tailored to your specific interests. You've probably experienced the phenomenon of searching for a new pair of shoes, and then ads for shoes you've viewed or similar styles follow you from site to site, even after you've purchased shoes. Tailored adware also has a local component that is stored on your computer, allowing the adware to use precious system resources.

It's possible to flush local adware-related files from web browsers by deleting cookies, site data and cached files and images. The command is usually found in the Settings menu of web browsers.

How Does Spyware Affect a Computer?

Many vendors who drop adware components onto websites also install spyware on computers without permission. Spyware tracks user visits and may even record private data like contact information, user IDs and passwords. Like adware, spyware is always active and accessing the device's processing power.

What Are Rootkits and How Do They Affect a Computer?

Rootkits are the most insidious type of malware used by hackers to invade personal computers and mobile devices. They give cybercriminals the ability to control a computer remotely. Hackers often introduce rootkits disguised as other software, called trojans -- named after the infamous Trojan horse.

Rootkits permit hackers to control all computer functions, including the webcam, internet browser and software applications. They can also view and copy data files.

In some cases, hackers use rootkits to convert computers into platforms for launching attacks on other computers. As in the case of Cate Machine & Welding, the assaults on other devices continue night and day, reducing even the fastest computers' processing speeds.

What's the Best Way to Stop Malware?

You can wipe most adware from your devices by routinely deleting cookies, cache history and other legacy files. Most web browsers have this option in the Settings menu. Ad blocker apps are also effective at keeping websites from installing programs that display advertisements and track activity on the internet.

High quality cybersecurity software is the most comprehensive approach to defending against intrusions that could damage or slow computer operations. Security software operates in the background to monitor and issue alerts if vendors or hackers attempt to download programs onto your computer without permission. It also gives you tools to clean malware from your computer. For optimal protection, keep your computer software and hardware up to date, and install a strong cybersecurity program.

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