Four Tell-Tale Signs That You’ve Been Hacked
Today, hacking and cybercrime is becoming more and more of a real threat, with thousands of businesses and individuals suffering at the hands of hackers each year. The threatscape of today means that even the most reliable and rated of antivirus software can provide little peace of mind, with malicious hackers and malware changing their tactics on a whim, altering malware programs so that they are no longer recognised by virus scanning software.
Being hacked in real life is nothing like it is on the movies – your computer probably won’t start showing up messages saying ‘You’ve been hacked’, and you won’t see lines and lines of bright green code on a black background. In fact, although your computer behaviours may change, these changes could be quite subtle and hard to detect. Listed below are some of the sure signs that a computer has been hacked and what you should do.
Fake Antivirus Messages
Fake antivirus messages are one of the surest signs that your system has been compromised, although they are experiencing a decline these days. What most people don’t realise is that by the time they have seen the message on their screen, there is nothing that they can do – the damage has already been done, and clicking ‘no’ or ‘cancel’ to stop the antivirus scan will usually do nothing, as the malicious software has usually already used unpatched software to completely exploit your system.
So, why do hackers bother with the fake antivirus message? Because, there is more for them to gain – at your expense. The fake scan, which always happens to find loads of ‘viruses’, is a lure to buy their product. Clicking on the link provided will usually take you to a professional looking anti-virus website, where you’ll seemingly have no reason not to spend some money on this product to get rid of all the ‘viruses’ on your PC. If you see a fake antivirus message – usually a ‘virus scan’ pop-up from a programme which is not your own – the best thing to do is power down your computer, restart in Safe Mode, and perform a full antivirus scan.
Unwanted Browser Toolbars
Unless you remember installing them yourself for a specific purpose, multiple new toolbars on your browser which all have names that indicate they are supposed to provide some service to you can be one of the tell-tale signs that your computer has been hacked. Unless you recognise the toolbar as coming from a well-known vendor, the best thing to do is get rid of it.
If you suspect that your browser has a bogus toolbar, you’ll be glad to know that you can usually easily remove it in browser settings. If there is no option for this, resetting your browser back to its default settings will usually work.
Suddenly Changing Online Passwords
If one or more of your online passwords has been changed without your consent, this is a sure sign that you – or at least that online service – has been hacked. Oftentimes, this scenario can be the result of an automated, authentic-looking phishing email which claims to be from the online service in question. You will end up with the fake password as when you open and follow the instructions in the email that you have no reason to believe isn’t from the service that it says it is, the hackers will collect your login information, log on, and change the password and other information to make recovery complicated. In this case, the hacker can then use the service to steal money from you, the victim and sometimes your acquaintances.
Since most online services are used to this sort of maliciousness, however, a simple call is usually all that it takes to get back in control of your own account with a new password. It’s also essential to get in touch with your contacts on the service or in your email address book and notify them of the scam. If you use the same compromised login information on any other websites, you should also change them.
Unwanted Software Installs
Software which you haven’t installed yourself seemingly popping up from nowhere is another huge sign that your computer has been hacked. Today, most malware programs are known as Trojans and worms, which typically install themselves on a PC like legitimate programs – often to protect the hackers from the law.
To avoid this, be careful when installing anything and always scan any newly installed software. A lot of the time, these malicious, unwanted software programs are installed by legitimate software, so always read your licence agreement.
Being hacked isn’t always obvious, which is why it’s important to know the signs.