Hacking is a common issue in the digital world. If you suspect that your computer has been hacked, it is important to know how to tell with certainty. This awareness can also help you in the future so that you can prevent major costs and issues.
Let’s take a look at some ways to know if your computer has been hacked and what you can do in such situations.
If you notice multiple and frequent pop-up windows coming up whenever you access websites on your browser, it is possible that your computer has been hacked.
While some sites tend to show pop-ups on a regular basis as well, the problem arises when these pop-ups show up on more legitimate and authentic websites too. Sometimes, these pop-ups might even be able to ignore the pop-up blocks that you may have installed.
It is important to not click on any of these pop-ups as they could end up causing more harm to your computer. You can simply close the window and confirm all the software and settings that might be present on your computer.
In case you notice something out of the ordinary, you should uninstall and delete it as soon as possible. Before downloading and running any new programs, you should also go through their legitimacy and reviews so that they do not clear the way for more malware.
However, not all Pop-Ups mean you have been hacked. You might have clicked on allowing Pop-Ups from certain websites or it could be an application you installed, read more about What are Pop-Ups.
If you come across some unknown software or program on your computer that you yourself have not downloaded, this can be another indicator of hacking. Such kinds of software might be used by hackers to collect sensitive information from your saved data.
You should immediately uninstall and delete such unknown software if you ever come across it. Further, whenever you download anything new, you should confirm its security and legitimacy before moving ahead with the process.
Many kinds of software also ask you to allow pop-ups or to download some additional programs or tools on your computer. This is usually unnecessary and can end up using your data in harmful ways.
You can easily untick or cancel these additional downloads so that you don’t have to face issues later on.
You can also make use of your computer’s ‘safe mode so that it can be easier for you to see and erase all harmful programs and software on your computer.
If you have reason to suspect your computer hacking, one of the primary things you should check to include your bank accounts and cards. It is likely that there might be some unsolicited transactions in your statement.
If you notice such transactions that you yourself did not initiate and approve, then that can confirm your suspicions of account hacking.
In such a case, you should make it a point to temporarily close your accounts and delete all possible information from your computer in order to maintain further security.
You should also let your bank or financial institution know about it so that they can help you out. In a few cases, your bank might be able to prevent the transaction from happening if they notice suspicious activity on your account.
You should also turn on alerts and notifications so that you are immediately aware of such unsolicited transactions and changes to your bank accounts.
Malfunctioning Online Accounts
Often, it is possible that your online accounts will display some suspicious activity on your behalf if your computer gets hacked. This could be untimely log-ins, contacting people on your list with mass messages, mature content or requests to share sensitive information, among others.
This can also lead to situations wherein all your passwords get changed, making you lose access to your account. To prevent this kind of situation, it is important for you to have sufficient privacy measures and login security options in place along with a strong enough password that makes it difficult to hack into.
Usually, online platforms can tell whenever there seems to be some kind of suspicious activity or login attempt through your account, in which case they will notify you about the situation and ask you to take the next steps.
In case they don’t, you can contact them yourself and let your other contacts know about the situation.
One of the consequences of malware or hacking is the fact that it can significantly slow down the performance of your computer in a way that it becomes sluggish and difficult to use.
This can be due to the presence of several viruses and programs that threaten the efficient functioning of your computer, causing programs to stop, end, freeze or slow down completely due to the malware utilizing a majority of the resources of your computer that are otherwise sufficient for your computer.
To figure out which process is the culprit, you can go to your Task Manager or Activity Monitor to view the active processes and end them if required. Usually, the problem should lie in a program that shows a high percentage and that you cannot recognize.
By stopping the relevant processes, your resources will clear up and work well again. You can also check for VPN setup guide for further help.
Clicking on something in your browser can sometimes redirect you to a completely different site, with the clicks benefiting the hackers and leading to issues in your computer. This can also prevent you from carrying out the tasks that you actually want to on your computer.
Usually, you can manage to figure this out by seeing what kinds of websites are causing this issue. You can also uninstall and delete unwanted toolbars, icons, or programs on your browser.
You can also check your traffic in case that indicates some kind of suspicious activity.
Another way of getting rid of such problems can be to check your drivers in case there are harmful configurations in the folders. You can then delete those configurations or change some of their settings and properties.
These kinds of files are not used very often, which is why a relatively recent timeframe may point towards malware or hacking.
Your contacts across multiple online platforms such as email may receive suspicious invites sent from your account that redirect them to unknown and harmful sites. These could also simply be mass emails sent from your address.
This can take place on social media platforms as well, with your friends receiving invites and messages from your account that you have not initiated.
Usually, you will get alerts whenever there is suspicious activity on your email or social media, but in case you don’t, you should contact the platform as well as your contacts to take action.
You can then change your settings and improve the security options, such as adding two-factor authentication that can confirm your identity well before letting you log into your account. This can make it slightly more complicated for anyone to hack into your account in the future.
Large Data Usage
There is generally a fixed amount of data that you make use of each month to access the internet, with minor fluctuations. Your provider can easily monitor this usage, based on which it can then charge you accordingly on your internet bills.
You might also have the option of accessing this usage on your own from your computer. Go through your activities and see if there is anything suspicious. If you find a much higher consumption that you cannot account for, it also indicates hacking.
Usually, malware or viruses can use up plenty of data in the background with constant functioning to benefit the hackers. It might be a good idea, in this case, to pinpoint the malware and delete it from your computer.
You can also clear out different processes so that you can reduce background data consumption.
There might be unknown toolbars present on your browser that you have not installed on your own. These toolbars generally get installed automatically whenever there is malware or a threat on your computer.
By running in the background, these tools can control several activities on your browser while collecting data. If you notice such toolbars, it is important to delete these immediately while also restoring your default settings on your browser.
Many toolbars also come with seemingly harmless software or downloads that you may have sourced from illegitimate websites. In fact, a download requirement might be for you to enable these toolbars on your browser.
Usually, you can refuse to do so while still going ahead with the download. As far as possible, you must ensure that you download files only from well-known and trusted sources. Make sure you go through all the details of the file before downloading it.
You might also be able to find relevant information online to assist you.
Home Page Changes
Whenever you open your browser, there is usually a set window that opens up depending on your settings. This could include a search bar, your recently or frequently visited pages as well as a few shortcuts and settings.
In the case of hacking, it is possible for this homepage to undergo several changes in terms of its display. For instance, there might now be a new default search engine that appears with shortcuts and icons that you might be unfamiliar with.
If this happens, you can go to your settings on your computer and restore the default settings on your browser. You will also need to reset some of the settings through your browser as well.
If there are some icons or programs that still appear, you can manually get rid of them or use reliable anti-malware software to detect and delete the problematic files.
These shortcuts might also appear on your desktop page, so it is important to go through that thoroughly as well.
Hoax Antivirus Warnings
In case you get warnings from different antivirus software that is not your default or preferred choice, this could also indicate that your computer is prone to hacking.
This new software could constantly run in the background and use up data, memory as well as important information on your computer that the hackers can then misuse.
Additionally, your default software might get disabled, preventing it from detecting any threats on your computer and increasing the harm that could potentially be caused.
These warnings may also be abrupt and random, which is why it is important to not give them any clicks. Instead, you can find the source of these warnings and delete the software from your computer.
Whenever you download something new on your computer, make sure you do not end up downloading additional software that can be unsafe. Moreover, go through the details and reviews of new antivirus software before downloading it.
Quite directly, you might be able to view a ransomware message on your computer that restricts your access to the data on your computer. It might ask for something in return to grant you back access to your computer.
This generally involves encryption on the part of the hackers to change the settings and passwords to your data and accounts. It is, however, not necessary that you will easily get back your data access if you pay the ransom as the encryption might be more complicated than expected.
It might also involve a long process to actually recover everything and take the steps to secure everything again.
To prevent losing important information, you must keep accessible backups of all your files. Seeking professional help to assist you with dealing with the ransomware can get rid of it or ensure that you do not need to pay the ransom.
Computers can sometimes shift the cursor on their own from one place to another or from one file to another without you controlling the mouse. However, when this happens along with an attempt to click on and open certain files, there might be an issue with hackers trying to access certain kinds of information.
This can either happen while you are using your computer or outside active hours if your computer switches on.
If you notice such activity, it is important to ask professionals to help you out so that they can detect the issue and get rid of the threat on your computer.
You must also switch off your computer and disconnect it as soon as possible so that no further information can be extracted. Contacting your bank and other contacts can also help prevent too much damage.
It can help to record the cursor activity taking place on your computer, provided that you have the time to do so.
If the hackers have managed to access important data and information on your computer, they might also make it public in some form or the other. This could either be out in the open or on more obscure parts of the web.
If you or someone you know comes across such data, you should try to confirm that it is yours and whether or not it is confidential. This can particularly be relevant to bigger companies and organizations who already have some information about them out in public parts of the internet.
Once you have determined these data leaks, you should make a note of them and seek legal assistance to investigate the breach and ways to return the data to you so that you can get rid of it from other platforms.
You might also need to contact the relevant people who would also directly or directly be affected by the data breach.
There might be various programs on your computer that you have to disable without your awareness or approval. This could also serve as an indication of hacking.
You can use antivirus software to figure out and identify potential malware on your computer so that you can effectively get rid of it. Once you do it, you can enable and reinstall the programs so that they can function efficiently again.
In case the programs are disabled using a complex process or encryption, you will need to seek help from a professional.
These programs may include all kinds of functions, whether those are specific software or processes from your task or device manager, important applications, files, and more.
After recovering these programs, you can make it a point to secure your computer and specific applications properly.
That brings us to the end of all the possible ways in which you can tell if your computer has been hacked. It is important to be aware of these so that you can both prevent and catch any instances of hacking on your computer.
If you notice an issue with any of the above processes, you can usually get rid of them on your own by tweaking a few settings and making your computer and saved accounts more secure.
It is also important to invest in reliable and authentic anti-malware software that can detect malicious processes for you while also effectively getting rid of them.
Maryam has been teaching IT as a school teacher for over a decade, and her main subject of choice is Internet safety, especially helping parents keep their families safe and secure online. When Maryam is not teaching or writing she is a big fan of the outdoors, the complete opposite of staring at a computer screen for hours.