Rather than pulling your hair back,
It’s not uncommon to hear anyone say, “I’ve been hacked.” It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot, whether it’s someone responding to a random malware infection or someone trying to undo a regrettable social media message.
Hacking is, however, a real risk for modern users of devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets. There is a thriving underground of so-called “black hat” hackers who make a living by manipulating flaws in systems and human psychology. Identity theft and direct financial theft are two of the most common motivations for criminal hackers.
The issue is that recognising that you’ve been hacked can be difficult. There isn’t even a massive blinking red light to warn you. As a result, you should be aware of popular indicators that something is wrong with your digital environment. Here are some indicators that you’ve been the unfortunate victim of a hack.
Hacker calls you
We’ll start with the most obvious indication that you’ve been hacked, which is simply being approached by someone claiming to be the hacker and them stating that you’ve been hacked.
This could be done through a direct message, an email, or malware like ransomware. In any case, the hacker will normally inform you that you have been hacked and provide evidence. And there would be some kind of demand, usually in the form of money in the form of a cryptocurrency payment.
So, what are your options? The first thing you should understand is that just because someone claims to have hacked you doesn’t mean it’s true. One recent technique is to send an email to an individual and then show them that you have their password for a particular account.
What’s going on here is that the scammer has dug up an old password in the hopes of scaring you into handing over money or something useful. If they really had access to your account, they’d show it to you in a tangible way (like encrypting your entire computer).
So, if necessary, log into the account in question, update the password, and enable two-factor authentication. Also, if the password you’ve been threatened with is used on any other accounts, change it right away. Then put it out of your mind. Also, never give money to these people; it will serve no purpose other than to embolden them.
If the danger is legitimate, contact your service provider and inform them that your account has been compromised. Cut your losses if you’ve been a victim of ransomware, which encrypts your data and demands money. Wipe the hard drive clean and recover the data from backups. Keep your most important data in a cloud storage service like Dropbox, which allows you to roll back any changes over a long period of time.
You are unable to log in.
When your account credentials fail to function, it’s one of the first signs that you’ve been hacked. You’ve reviewed everything and still can’t log in. Isn’t that strange? This is an obvious indication that someone else controls your kingdom, which can be a very dangerous situation.
So, what are your options? A few factors influence the best course of action in this situation. You can immediately perform a password reset and, if possible, change your password. Enable two-factor authentication if the provider allows it. This requires you to type in a second one-time code from your phone or by email, but it is a very successful method of preventing hacking.
If your primary email account has been compromised and you have not set up any backup recovery options prior to the attack, you must contact the service provider immediately to have the account suspended and your identity verified.
It wasn’t you
Are your friends messaging you about something you wrote on Twitter that wasn’t you? Did your online persona suddenly give your boss any NSFW content?
That’s a pretty good indicator that your account has been hacked. You can follow the same advice as in the previous point, just make sure to apologise for the content and disclaim yourself on your social media pages.
Your Web Browser Is Acting Angry
When you first opened your web browser, did you see anything odd? Your normal landing page has vanished. Instead, like an unwelcome frog in the water, some mysterious new search engine sits there waiting for you. When you try to type a search word into the address bar, it only takes you to that strange new location. When you try to access your favourite websites, the url and site don’t look quite right. What really is going on?
Browser hijacking is a common method used by hackers to achieve this through malware. Your browser has been hacked, and you can no longer rely on it. When a browser is hacked, you’re often redirected to false versions of websites managed by the malware’s creator. They will then take your information and use it to gain access to other sites, such as online banking services.
Sometimes what you want to do is transform your computer into a money-making advertising machine. Ads will appear and be automatically clicked on. Make money for the advertisers by gaming the method. Whatever the case might be, it’s a terrible position to be in!
So, what are your options? To begin, uninstall any software that has been applied to the system since the problems began. You can also search for and uninstall any software you don’t recall downloading.
This is normally insufficient to resolve the problem, so once you’ve completed the standard uninstall, you’ll need to use a malware removal tool like Malwarebytes to clean up the mess.
Your computer is behaving erratically.
The warning signs mentioned above are fairly obvious, but a compromise of your device is often more subtle. If your machine is consistently sluggish and running at maximum capacity, something isn’t quite right. Is your phone’s battery draining any faster than usual? Is it possible for the mouse pointer to switch on its own, or for applications to open and close without your intervention? Have any features, such as your antivirus, been turned off unexpectedly?
External intrusion, such as a hacker taking control of your device, is indicated by these and other related indications. Isn’t it terrifying?
So, what are your options? First and foremost, turn off the device’s internet connection! If someone is actively sending commands to it, the first move is to disable that access. Second, run anti-malware and antivirus software if possible.
However, a factory reset or a full wipe and reinstall of the device is possibly the best alternative. You may also want to get the computer cleaned by a professional to ensure that nothing is left on it that might allow the hacker to gain access again.
When your webcam is not in use but lights up
Have you ever seen pictures of people sitting in front of their computers with a piece of tape covering their webcam? That’s because webcam hacking is shockingly popular, and you don’t want to be watched! Be very suspicious if your webcam activity light comes on while you aren’t using it!
So, what are your options? We want to run malware and antivirus applications once more. You should also check to see if your webcam’s make and model has received a driver or firmware update, which could include a patch for any security vulnerabilities discovered by hackers.
If your webcam has the ability to be shut off or disconnected, you can only use it while it is on. If your computer has a built-in camera, the sticky tape approach isn’t so bad.
Checking to See if You’ve Been Affected by a Data Breach
It could take years for big (or small) corporations that hold your data to be compromised and used against you. Often, businesses are unaware that data has been hacked before it is placed up for sale. Fortunately, you can go to Have I Been Pwned, which keeps track of all reported data breaches in a searchable database.
You can check if your email address has been compromised by simply entering it. If you’ve been a victim, update all of your passwords right away. In reality, you may want to use a password manager that creates strong passwords for you automatically.
This can be hacked!
Although there are plenty of shady people on the internet who want to prey on ordinary people for personal gain, you don’t have to accept it. You can always contain the situation until any real harm is done if you pay attention and follow a good security strategy!