How do you tell if your computer or accounts have been hacked? When we’re using our home computers, we don’t have an IT department to reach out to in order to troubleshoot our systems, servers and wi-fi for us. Below are seven, ways to tell for yourself if your system and/or accounts have been compromised. If you suspect your system or accounts are under any sort of attack, it’s important not to panic. Be sure to log the suspicious activity, report the issue and use trusted tools to mitigate the situation. We recommend a password manager, robust firewalls and a VPN as easy-to-implement preventative measures. We’ve added a few more items to this list. You can see the original blog here.
1. Slower Speeds
Slower internet speeds could mean a lot of different things, so aren’t necessarily an immediate cause for alarm. You should troubleshoot your router, Wi-Fi reception issues, etc. before you start considering it a sign of hacking. So, assuming it’s not your connection, your server’s connection, you’re in the middle of downloading large files, issues with your router, or issues with your modem, slower internet speeds could indicate that your system has been compromised or your Wi-Fi connection is being hacked. If a hacker has hacked your Wi-Fi connection, they’re likely trying to take cover under your IP address to do any number of illegal deeds. To see if you have indeed been hacked, you’ll want to troubleshoot all those things listed above to make sure the problem doesn’t lie elsewhere first: test that your internet speed matches what you’re paying for; check your router’s admin console; etc. After that, get network security, software security and get a password manager to make sure you have strong passwords and that no one can track your keystrokes upon entering a password in manually. Slower internet speeds paired with any of the items listed below puts you at a high likelihood of being at risk.
2. Login and Password Difficulties
If you can’t log in to an account or system, and you know you’re using the right username and password, it’s possible your account/system has been hacked and the password(s) changed (especially when you use the same password across accounts). Another clear sign, you’ve been hacked, is if you receive password reset emails from your accounts that you have not requested. Even if your family shares your Netflix account, it’s unlikely that anyone who is not the account owner would be prompted to change the password. Finally, if you have been locked out of your account(s), it’s plausibly due to suspicious activity on your account, which means you’re probably being hacked. Be wary of phishing emails which could come disguised as legitimate emails from your accounts. Be sure not to click any links or open any attachments in such an email.
3. I didn’t sign up for this!
If you have received emails from websites or software programs that you didn’t subscribe to or register for, it is possible that your email account has been hacked, or a hacker has other information of yours which they could use to sign you up for unwanted websites and programs. Be sure not to click any links or open any attachments in your email if you suspect it has been compromised. Again, any legitimate looking email asking you to reset your password, or seemingly notifying you of a security breach, is possibly a phishing attempt. If you notice large amounts of grammar and spelling errors, it is definitely a phishing attempt. Either way, do not open or interact with suspicious messages like these.
4. Your computer is acting like an autonomous being
A tell-tale sign you’re being hacked is when programs automatically run every time you start your computer, and you did not ask them to do so. On the flip side, if you are having a hard time shutting your computer down, or restarting, it’s also likely you’ve been hacked. Hackers want to keep your computer on and maintain access for as long as possible. Notice your antivirus software has been disabled? Registry editor? This is a sign you could have been hacked. Try reactivating and updating the software. If you cannot, you’ve likely been hacked. All these signs are sure-fire ways to know your system has been compromised. You’ll want to uninstall any non-essential programs and software and get an anti-virus.
5. Frequent Popups
If you suddenly start getting popups left-and-right, your browser may have been hijacked. Popups could be anything from ads, links, banners, tech support alerts and ad popups that continually interrupt video playback. If you’re seeing one type of popup, or a combination of these sorts of popups you’ve likely had your browser hijacked, which means hackers have changed your web browser settings without you knowing it. How did your browser get hijacked? It could have been a number of ways, from installing add-ons, clicking malicious websites or adds, or opening a malicious attachment from an email phishing campaign. If you suspect the hijacker has infected your system using Chrome extensions, you can use the Google Chrome tool to remove unwanted ads, pop-ups and malware. You may also want to uninstall any programs you didn’t intentionally download and download an anti-malware software, there are free options such as Malwarebytes and subscription services such as Avast.
6. Redirected Internet Searches
If your browser keeps taking you to sites you didn’t direct the browser to go to, you may be experiencing malware redirects. Whether a malicious software is sabotaging incoming and outgoing requests, code injections redirect traffic from a specific website, or malicious toolbars or browser extensions are intercepting search queries, if your internet searches are redirected you should investigate. As always, you’ll want to uninstall any software that you didn’t intentionally download. You’ll also want to ensure whichever browser you’re using is secure. To see how to protect Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer from malware redirects, check out this article from Techwalla for simple instructions on how to do it.
7. Check your installed programs, login histories and settings
If you go into your control panel, and see multiple programs that you don’t remember installing, you’re likely being hacked. Similarly, check your login activity on your major accounts (mail client, social media accounts, etc.) if you see any suspicious locations listed under your login history, it’s another sign of a breach. Another account related tell, social media accounts specifically, is to see if your privacy/security settings have been tampered with. If someone is trying to leverage your Facebook account for spam, they will likely go into your privacy/security settings to maximize their efforts. If this is the case, revoke access from all active sessions, change your account password and change your email account password as well, to prevent further hampering.
Of course, a great way to know your security posture is to study cybersecurity yourself! Whether you’re looking to change or further your career, or you just want to better understand cybersecurity for your own interests and security, check out our beginner courses like Comptia A+ and Comptia Security+!
About CyberTraining 365
CyberTraining 365 is an online academy that offers nearly 1,000 hours of relevant and cutting-edge cybersecurity training. Our training provides the most in-demand industry certification prep courses including EC-Council, CompTIA, (ISC)2 and Cisco; all taught by leading cyber security experts. All of our offerings are aligned with the national initiative for cybersecurity education (NICE) and ensure the most up-to-date information for this constantly shifting field. With engaging content in a scenario-based format, CyberTraining 365 uses bite-sized micro-learning methodology ensures learners are not overwhelmed with information. On Demand, LMS platform has white-label capabilities ideal for internal training purposes.