As tough luck would have it, the answer to “was I hacked?” or “have I been hacked?” can relate to different parts of your digital existence. For instance, cybercriminals can compromise or otherwise hack your emails, computers, or even social media accounts in terrible ways.
Knowing you’ve been hacked can keep you up all night. After all, there’s a chain of so-called “black hat” hackers whose livelihood depends on exploiting vulnerable systems, extortion, and blackmail.
Sometimes, they leave a trail of devastation in their wake – weird ads, malware, a stolen identity, and even a drained bank account. But most often, you’re left without a trace, wondering, “What the F just happened?”
Luckily, there are multiple ways to detect how and when hackers strike. In this article, we’ll cover five signs that you’ve been hacked, as well as what you should do to prevent it from happening again.
Sign #1: Bogus Antivirus Messages
Bogus antivirus alerts are among the sure-fire signs that your system has been compromised. Most users don’t realize that the damage has already been done by the time they see these fake messages. Clicking “Cancel” or “No” to stop the phony virus shot is too little, too late.
The wicked software has already used unpatched software, often an Adobe product or the Java Runtime Environment, to completely take over your system and steal your sensitive information, including passwords.
The malicious software that sends antivirus pop-ups functions as bait to buy the product. Clicking on the provided link transfers you to a professional-looking website filled with glowing letters of recommendation. There, you are asked for your credit card info.
You’d be surprised how many people get tricked into giving personal financial information by this scam. For bad guys, gaining control of your financial information is the Holy Grail of hacking.
If the stakes are high, you need is a service, such as zero trust security, to ensure maximum protection. Out-dated methods of data protection don’t work anymore. Even if you receive antivirus warnings, the zero-trust security ecosystem will minimize the attack surface by protecting every bit of your system.
In addition to this, turning off your computer is necessary too. And when you turn it back on, boot it in Safe Mode without connecting to the internet! Once done, follow up with a thorough antivirus scan. Often, the scanner will discover other sneak attacks as well.
Sign #2: You’re Webcam Lights Up Suddenly
Have you ever seen pictures of people in front of a computer, with a tiny piece of tape attached to their webcams? That is because webcam hacking is a real thing, and the last thing you want is for a hacker to spy on you in a private moment! Therefore, if you notice your webcam activity light flashing when you aren’t even using it, be very suspicious of it!
Again, immediately run your antivirus and malware software. Also, you’ll want to see if the model of your webcam has received firmware or driver fill-ins. If yes, these may contain a lead for any security blemishes hackers have found.
Furthermore, if you have a webcam that can be disconnected or switched off, you should only have it turned on when in use. On the other hand, if you have a built-in camera, tape it!
Sign #3: Random Pop-Ups
Pop-ups are one of the most widely-known signs that you’ve been hacked. When you’re receiving random browser pop-ups from different websites that do not usually generate them, your system is in danger. It is fascinating how legitimate websites can bypass any browser’s anti-pop-up contrivances. It is like battling with junk email, but worse.
You will need to get rid of phony toolbars and other line-ups if you even hope to remove the pop-ups from your system. Enter your browser’s settings and delete all unnecessary toolbars and add-ons, especially those you do not use. Afterward, scan your device and remove any potential threats that your security software identifies.
Sign #4: Redirected Internet Searches
A butt-load of hackers earn their living by readdressing your browser somewhere other than where you want it to go. Every time you click on searches, the hacker gets paid. Often those (clickers) have no clue that the clicks to their website are from faulty redirections.
You can often identify this type of malware by entering a few related, common words (such as “goldfish” or “puppy”) into Internet search engines. You can see if the same websites appear in the results – almost frequently with no actual significance to your terms.
Unfortunately, most hacks efficiently hide redirect internet searches from the user via additional proxies, so the false results are never returned to warn the user.
Faulty toolbars programs can also mean you are being redirected. Tech-savvy users can sniff their network traffic. The traffic returned and sent will always be unique on an uncompromised computer vs. a compromised device.
Same as above, removing bogus toolbars and other programs is enough to get rid of spiteful redirection.
Sign #5: Your Task Manager, Registry Editor, or Anti-Malware Software is Disabled
If this happens, consider it a massive red flag. If you notice that your anti-malware software cannot be restarted or is disabled – and you didn’t do it – you are in big trouble. Even worse, if you try to start your Registry Editor or Task Manager and they won’t start, or start and immediately disappear, it is time to panic!
You should perform a thorough restore because there is no telling what has already happened. But, if you want to try something less drastic first, research how to restore the lost functionality (you’ll receive many results). Then, restart your system in Safe Mode and begin the hard work or figuring out how substantial the damage is.
Show the Hackers Who’s Boss!
Any one of us can get hacked at any moment. But that doesn’t mean we have to take it lying down. Shady people will always target least-expecting people for personal gain. However, if you pay attention and implement a robust safety approach, you can control the situation before it worsens.
So the next time you observe something fishy, show these hooded people who’s the boss by fighting back with the strategies mentioned above. Soon, your system will become a no-hack zone.