Many people think cybercriminals are always focused on businesses, but this isn’t the case. Hackers around the globe are constantly looking for ways to make money and cause havoc, and come up with ever-inventive ways to do so, including preying on individuals.
As such, we must all be proactive to keep our devices safe. To do this, you can take steps such as install quality antivirus security, use strong passwords, update software often, and be careful about the links you click on and the emails you open.
However, unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, there could come a time when you get hacked. If this occurs, you want to spot the issue ASAP and take steps to address the break-in before the cybercriminal can do much damage. It’s necessary, therefore, to know the common signs that something is amiss. Here’s how to tell if your computer has been hacked.
You’re Using More Data than Normal
One of the first signs of an attack is if your data usage rises dramatically. If you suddenly seem to be going through much more data in a month than you typically would, this could be because hackers have implanted malware on your computer. This malware could be “doing its thing” in the background, eating up bandwidth as it goes.
Before you panic, make sure you haven’t just changed your usage patterns, such as through being online more for the period or allowing more people to use your internet. If you haven’t, though, it’s quite likely your device is infected.
A Slow System or Frequent Crashes
Another common sign of a hack is if you notice your computer has really slowed down in recent times or crashes frequently. Again, keep in mind that there could be other reasons for this, such as having too many tabs open on your internet browser, running lots of big programs at once, or having an old computer that is past its best.
If none of these factors are at play, though, you could have been hacked. If a hacker has infected your computer with a worm, virus, Trojan, etc., this malicious software may be running in the background surreptitiously and eating up lots of resources.
The likelihood is high that you’re facing a digital break-in if you’re dealing with a raft of unusual activity on your computer or online accounts. For example, look out for strange occurrences like:
- New, unwanted browser toolbars that you didn’t download
- Your device restarts itself without you choosing the action or any other logical factor being at play (such as automatic software updates)
- Weird, unnecessary pop-up messages
- Your webcam light turning on for no reason
- Passwords on your accounts or device changing without your approval
- You’re not able to shut down or restart your computer when you want to
- You’re suddenly locked out of your own equipment and/or receive a ransom message asking you to pay money to receive access again or prevent your information from being deleted or shared publicly
All of these strange situations are prime signs that a cybercriminal has hacked your computer.
Your Email Account is Spamming People or Other External Issues Pop Up
Sometimes, though, you won’t actually notice any issues yourself. You may think everything is fine, but then start getting alerts from your friends, family members, colleagues, or other contacts that spam is coming from your email account without your consent.
This often happens to people when a hacker has been able to get some malware onto their computer. This might have occurred when the user clicked on an infected linked or opened a bad email attachment. It can also arise when a hacker breaks directly into a system.
Plus, you might become aware of an issue if an online shop or other business contacts you about an order or purchase on your card or account that you didn’t authorize. Similarly, you might find out your computer has been hacked if you see movies or television shows have been added to your Netflix or similar account without you having highlighted them yourself. The same kind of thing can happen with songs added to your Spotify list that you never searched for.
By being aware of some of the most common signs of computer hacking, you know what to pay attention to. This, in turn, means that you know when you need to take action ASAP to boot cybercriminals out of your systems and protect your online (and potentially offline) life.