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How to know you’ve been hacked; what can you do

Been hacked? It is a real danger for modern day users of devices like computers, smartphones and tablets. There prevails a whole underground of so called “black hat” hackers that get advantage from exploiting vulnerabilities in systems and human psyche. Identity theft and direct monetary theft are two major drivers of these criminal hackers.

The issue is that understanding you’ve been hacked can be difficult. Therefore, be aware of common signs of how to comprehend that something isn’t right in your digital world. Thus, here are the signs that you have been the unfortunate victim of a hack.

A Hacker Tells You

This one is the most obvious signal that you’ve been hacked, which is plainly being contacted by someone purporting to be the hacker and having them say so.

This could be via direct message, by email or through malware such as ransomware. Either way, the hacker will generally reveal that they’ve compromised you and then give some form of proof. This will then be followed by some sort of demand, often money in the form of a cryptocurrency payment.

And when this happens, the first thing you should know is that just because someone says they’ve managed to hack you, doesn’t mean that’s it.

Besides, never ever give money to such people, it will do nothing to help you and only strengthen them.

If the threat is real, then contact the service provider and let them know your account has been hacked. If you’ve been a victim of ransomware, which encrypts your data and asks for money, cut your losses. Wipe the machine and restore data from backups. You should also keep your most critical info in something like Dropbox, which lets you roll back any changes for a long window period.

You Can’t Log In

One of the foremost signals that you’ve been hacked is when your credentials for an account refuse to function.

In case it happens, you should instantly initiate a password reset and change your password if you can. Then, if the service provides it, activate two-factor authentication. This means having to type in an additional one-time code from your phone or via email, but is a very effective way to prevent hacking.

Activity That Wasn’t You

Is anyone coming up to you in the virtual world – calling or texting that you have posted something wrong on your account? Then my friend, your account has been taken over. You can follow exactly the same advice as in the point above, but also be sure to post a notice on your social media accounts apologising for the content and disclaiming yourself.

Your Browser is Being Rebellious

Did you notice something strange when opening up your web browser? Your usual home page is nowhere to be seen. Instead some strange new search engine is visible, you try to search something but it all just takes you to that weird new site. When you try to visit your usual websites, the address and site don’t look quite the way they should. What’s going on?

This is a common tactic hackers achieve through malware, called browser hijacking. Your browser has been compromised and you can’t trust it anymore. Sometimes the goal is to simply turn your machine into an advertising money mill. Ads will pop up and be clicked on automatically. In this situation, you need to uninstall any software added to the system since the issues started. You should also look for any applications you don’t remember installing and remove them.

Afterwards, you need to use a malware removal tool such as Malwarebytes to clean out the infestation.

Your Device is Acting Strangely

The signs above are pretty overt, but usually a compromise of your device is a little more simple. If your computer is regularly slow and working at full capacity, that could be a sign things aren’t right. Does the battery on your phone run out much more quickly? Does the mouse pointer move by itself or applications open and close without you doing anything? Are some things, such as your antivirus, suddenly disabled?

These and other similar signs point to outside interference, with a hacker gaining control of your system somehow. To prevent hacker from having any further control over your device, disconnect that device from the internet! If someone is actively sending it commands, cutting off that access is the first step. And then, if you can, run anti-malware and antivirus software.

However, the best option is probably to do a factory reset or complete wipe and reinstall of that system.

Your Webcam Lights Up When Not in Use

Have you ever seen photos of people in front of a computer, with a little piece of tape stuck over their webcam? That’s because webcam hacking is surprisingly usual and the last thing you want is to be spied on! If you notice your webcam activity light coming on when you aren’t using it, be very suspicious!

In this situation, just try and run to malware and antivirus software. If you have a webcam that can be switched off or disconnected, you should only have it turned on when using it. If you have a built-in camera, well that sticky tape strategy is not a bad one.

Checking if You’re The Victim of a Data Breach

When big (or small) companies who keep you data get hacked, it could be years before that information is used against you. Generally, the companies don’t even know that It happened until the stolen data is put up for sale. Luckily you can head over to Have I Been Pwned, which maintains a searchable database of all known data breaches.

By simply putting in your email id, you can see if you have been compromised. If you have been a victim, go ahead and change all your passwords.

Hack This!

While there are many shady people out on the net who want to target regular people for personal profit, you don’t have to take it lying down. If you pay attention and practice a good security approach, you can often contain the situation before any serious damage is done!