How To Know You’ve Been Hacked And What To Do About It
Any attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in devices or networks without authorized access falls under the broad category of hacking. From individuals to politically-backed groups, hacking has been around for decades.
Redirected URLs, random pop-up ads, encrypted files and folders, unsolicited banking transactions and more are all examples of hacks.
The Top 5 Signs
It’s extremely difficult to know that you’ve been hacked. Any antivirus software can detect the older threats, but not always the newer ones that pop up. That said, there are certain signs that are clear indications of a possible hack. These include:
- Random pop-up ads
- Unapproved installs
- Task Manager/Registry Editor is disabled
- Strange data consumption patterns
A Ransomware Message
Ransomware is one of the most common threats. If you see a full-screen message that tells you that all of the data on your device is now encrypted and you must pay to unlock it, you’ve been hacked. You’ll be asked to pay in order to release your data.
While government agencies have made it clear that one shouldn’t succumb to these demands, more than 50% of victims pay the bad guys. This is one of the many reasons why hackers keep using ransomware attacks. Put simply, it works.
What to Do?
- Use a premium antivirus software that offers real-time protection from ransomware
- Back up and encrypt all of the important data in an offline storage device
- Try using decryptors available online to recover some or
An Illegitimate Antivirus Message
This is another common tactic, sometimes referred to as scareware. You’ll receive a pop-up message on your computer or mobile phone saying it’s infected with a virus, Trojan, malware, or the like. The message will look exactly like that of a legitimate software and it’ll tell you about a number of problems, file names and such. It’s an extremely annoying pop-up that keeps showing over and over again.
A lot of scammers target older individuals with this hack and take huge sums in the name of clearing viruses from the device.
The moment you click on the message, you’ll open backdoors into your device and network, thus increasing your exposure.
What to Do?
- Clear browser cookies and restart the browser. In extreme cases, use a private browser like Tor
- Use Adblockers and other security-oriented features available with premium antiviruses
- Scan the device and remove redundant files/folders
You Can’t Log in
Another tactic that’s quite commonly used is changing your online passwords. Hackers lure victims into clicking fake attachments and redirected URLs that log the user information in the background, meaning all of your keystrokes are recorded. Once the hacker has your credentials, the first thing they do is change your passwords.
If you’re suddenly logged out of a website or app and receive an “incorrect password” error the next time you try to log in, and you’re certain you’re not mistyping the password, chances are your online credentials have been compromised. In extreme cases, hackers can clear out your bank accounts, gain access to private data, and much more by merely gaining access to your passwords.
What to Do?
- Change potentially compromised passwords immediately and don’t panic, as sometimes it can happen simply because the website is temporarily down
- Use virtual keyboards and set-up two-factor authentications
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments received on emails and messages
Unruly Browser Behavior
If your device is compromised, one of the primary things that get impacted is your device’s browser. When you search for something, you could be redirected to a random website or the like.
Browser hijacking is commonly done using malware. When compromised, every click opens a new fake website which is ultimately controlled by the hackers. By controlling the browser, hackers can steal banking and private information, place trackers, adware, and other malware in your device. At times, the browser will open on its own or keep running in the background.
What to Do?
- Remove all random extensions from the browser and reset the settings to default
- Uninstall and reinstall the browser
- Use malware removal tools like Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Norton
Your Webcam Suddenly Lights Up
Unless used explicitly, the little light near your computer’s webcam shouldn’t light up. If the device’s camera lights up on its own, it’s quite possible that the device has been infected with malware. The light implies that your web camera is on and everything is being recorded.
This problem can be small and a complete device reinstallation can fix it. Still, there are reported cases wherein certain malware had impacted the device’s firmware or UEFI, and users had to replace the device. If your device’s camera turns on for no reason, you should be highly cautious.
What to Do?
- Don’t connect external webcams to devices when you don’t need them
- Get webcam protection (available with premium antiviruses)
- Use a tape/sticker to cover the inbuilt camera when you aren’t using it
General Things to Look Out For
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t a standard or a predetermined method that hackers use to get into computers and networks.
No matter how many security layers you use, a couple of these still sneak past the guards.
In general, there are certain things that you should stay wary of:
- Your device is extremely slow
- Important files are missing without you removing them
- Browser settings have changed
- Your friends are receiving unsolicited messages, emails, and links from your accounts
- There are missing funds in your online account
- Applications/Software boot on their own
- Some or all of your private data has been leaked online
If you feel that you’ve been hacked, the first thing to do is disconnect from the network. That way you can limit the spread of the malware.
Next, you might want to try and figure out the problem and use antivirus software to neutralize the threat.
It’s important to stay cautious and not click on random links or emails when you’re online.
Double check the address bar and use extensions and device security features to ward off hackers and other malicious elements. If you keep an eye out, you can avoid a lot of these attacks.