How To Know If Your Computer Has Been Hacked

Of the many nightmare scenarios that today’s high-tech world presents us with, ranking right up there at the top of the list is your computer getting hacked. It brings with it a sense of violation and loss of control and privacy that’s generally reserved for incidents like having your home broken into. And like a home break-in, a hacked computer could mean financial losses.

So how do you know if your computer has been hacked? Let’s take a look at some of the most common warning signs. And for those who question the value of finding this out after the fact, remember that hacking is an ongoing violation. You may not have been able to prevent the initial breach, but you can’t rectify the problem if you’re not aware that there is even one in the first place.

computer hacker
Hackers messing with your computer’s security can give you real nightmares

Your Anti-Virus Program Is Acting Up

We begin with the clearest, most direct indication, and that’s an alert from your anti-virus program. The article “My Computer Has Been Hacked, Now What?” calls special attention to an alert that says that the program can’t remove or quarantine affected files. Anytime your anti-virus program sends you an alert or warning; you don’t brush it aside. Take it seriously, and act on it.

Oh, and if you don’t have an anti-virus program in place, then shame on you! Now go get one, right now!

Your Friends Get Bogus Emails From You

Have you ever seen one of these? It looks like it’s coming from a trusted friend of yours; it has the right username and everything. And yet, they never sent it to you! If people are getting emails from you that you didn’t send, then there’s a big problem.

Incidentally, the same holds true for social media posts that you didn’t make. If your friends on Facebook or Twitter are complaining about some irrational or insulting posts that you are ostensibly making, then there’s trouble!

house mouse
It’s okay if THIS mouse moves on its own…

Your Mouse Moves On Its Own

If your cursor is moving deliberately between programs and looking as if it’s trying to start up an application or access a file, then you’re hacked. Sometimes a mouse cursor will drift a little in one direction or another, but it’s the calculated motions indicative of a pre-meditated activity that should cause alarm bells to ring.

Fake Antivirus Warnings

These messages tell you that your system has been compromised (gee, you think?), but they “helpfully” supply you with a link to a fake anti-virus site that asks for your financial information and other details. But the sad thing, yes, your system has indeed been compromised: by the malicious program that sent you that virus warning in the first place. Talk about hiding in plain sight!

Mysterious New Toolbars

Check your browser and see if there are any toolbars there that you don’t recall seeing before. The only toolbars you should find on your browser are ones that you specifically allowed, or came as a default with the application. These fake toolbars spell trouble.

Many Pop-Ups

Last but not least, there’s the problem of numerous pop-ups manifesting themselves randomly, with no rhyme or reason. Frequent pop-ups that seem to make no sense are a surefire indicator that you’ve been hacked. On top of that, they are extremely aggravating!

What’s To Be Done When You’re Hacked?

Practice smart and safe computing. For example, your system should be protected by a good firewall and antivirus package; that’s your first line of defense. Consider installing a reliable anti-malware program; there are some good ones out there.

Just remember that every account you have on websites, social media, and email servers is a chance for a security breach. Use strong passwords, run frequent anti-virus scans, and only download content from trusted sites. If you have a WordPress website, check out “10 Steps To A Secure WordPress Website.”

With just a little forethought, planning, and caution, you can reduce the risk of getting hacked, and increase your peace of mind and enjoyment.

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Born and raised in the Boston area, I was rocketed to New Hampshire, where under the Granite State's yellow sun and lack of income tax, I have gained the powers of super-sarcasm, brilliant creativity, and slightly disturbing sense of humor.

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