Your smartphone, router and even that little webcam on your desk is vulnerable to cybercriminals today.
So how would you know if they are in and already prowling through your personal information?
Well, keep reading for the most clear-cut signs that you have been hacked.
Your device slows down
It is normal for your devices to slow down with use. Gigabytes of junk files, large app caches and unnecessary applications can do that. However, if your device abruptly begins slugging, it may be a sign of malicious software, viruses or trojans. This is because malicious software is designed to operate in the background and can consume resources when active, slowing down your device.
To know more, access your device’s Task Manager and look for any resource-hogging application you don’t recognize. If you don’t know the application, chances are it’s a virus.
The Task Manager lists down all current applications along with the resources it is consuming. Sometimes, you can find a process that’s using 100% of your CPU power. Open the related program and try to see what it is for. Restart it and monitor your resources, chances are it is the culprit.
Unknown software installations
Any unfamiliar software installs are a huge sign something’s wrong.
Back in the early days, most viruses were disguised as programs. After gaining access, these viruses would modify legitimate programs. This allowed viruses and malware to better conceal themselves.
The practice continues in some form today with viruses and Trojans masquerading as a legitimate program. This also gives creators some legal protection by claiming to be a legitimate software company.
Other times, unnecessary software is installed alongside other programs – read your license agreement and untick any optional software installations and browser add-ons when installing any software.
How to check this? There are several free software that can show you a list of all your programs. You could also log on to the system’s native program manager and have a look. Make sure to uninstall or disable unwanted software.
Also, check your startup apps – these are apps that automatically start when your device is switched on. Most malware programs are programmed to run on startup. In this case, it can be somewhat difficult to separate the legitimate programs from the malicious ones. When in doubt, disable the app, restart your device and reenable it only if some necessary functionality is not available anymore.
Your data usage is higher than usual
Every device has a tool that allows you to keep track of your bandwidth consumption. If you are running out of bandwidth faster or see a spike in consumption, do take a look at the data usage. Compare it with your earlier months and look for sudden spikes in data activity.
Usually, the native data monitor will show you apps that are using data so that is another way you can look for any unknown apps accessing the internet.
This spike in usage is because malware or adware infected apps and software attempt unsolicited background clicks, thus generating profit for perpetrators. These stealthy clicks use up bandwidth and should be easy to spot.
Your passwords are changed and you are logged out of your accounts
If your passwords are suddenly changed and you find yourself locked out of your accounts, it is a sure sign that you have been hacked. In such cases, hackers generally gain access through phishing – where users respond to an authentic looking fake email that directs them to a website. Here, the user logs in to the fake site assuming it to be the real deal – a keylogger then notes the login details and passes it on to the criminals. This could be to gain access to streaming websites and, in worse cases, bank account details. Consider using two-factor authentication as an additional wall of protection.
You see more pop-up ads
Malware tends to add pop up ads to your device, bookmarks you never added, website shortcuts to your home screen and redirects your search engine queries to another search engine. These slow down your devices, consume your data while the intrusive pop-ups make using your device a frustrating experience.
Some criminals use DNS hijacking to show you different ads when browsing. Instead of the regular advertisements, you may start seeing malicious, scammy or inappropriate ads.
Malwarebytes for Mac and Windows is a great option to remove adware from your system. SpyBot Search & Destroy also comes recommended.
Scheduled restarts aren’t uncommon, generally occurring after a key application update or OS update. However, the device will warn you ahead of time and often allows you to postpone or delay the update.
Sudden updates are a bit more concerning. If you are on Windows 10, use Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool to look for any malware programs.
Do you have any unwanted browser toolbars?
This ranks among the most common signs of infection. Unless you recognize the toolbar as something you intentionally added, immediately remove it and scan your device.
Some malware make themselves difficult to remove – if so, look for the browser reset option that reverts everything to default settings. To avoid such software on to your device, remember to untick and avoid installing any bundled software and toolbars bundled in with legitimate software.
Unexplained activity on your accounts
By now, you know that hackers prioritize passwords and usernames above all. With these details in hand, they will attempt to gain access to your banking profiles, social media accounts and other online services.
Every now and then, scan your email’s ‘sent’ folder for any unexplained emails. Do the same with your social media profiles. If you see emails you don’t remember sending and direct messages you never sent, it’s a sign you have been hacked.
When it comes to streaming sites, look for unexplained activity on your movie history, purchases you never made, and songs you never listened to.
Expecting your antimalware program to easily detect and protect you from all forms of hacking isn’t truly feasible. However, by keeping an eye out for the most common symptoms and signs, you easily add another layer of protection to yourself and your personal information. The majority of malicious software comes from three sources; Trojans, phishing emails and unpatched software. Watch out for these and you will instantly be safer.
In the event of a breach, do an immediate system restore. It is the safest route to go and will completely remove all traces of malware or worse. Some may argue that there are easier ways to remove malware and viruses but there is no doubt a system restore is the most reliable way to go about it.