Most hackers don’t exactly leave a calling card. For obvious reasons, it is in their best interest if you have no idea that anything is wrong with your system. Malware is designed to be as subtle as possible, so it can do the most damage without detection. In fact, it is possible that your cell phone, computer, or tablet has already been infected with malware without you knowing. Even the best preventative measures can fail, so it is crucial for you to know the sure-fire signs that you have been hacked.
Your Device Suddenly Slows Down
One of the most noticeable side effects of malware is device speed. If you suddenly notice that your gadget is always freezing, crashes, or takes much longer than usual to open apps, there is a good chance it is infected with something. Viruses, malware, and trojans all run in the background, using up your device’s memory.
Toolbars and Extensions Are Installed Without Knowledge
Be exceptionally cautious if you notice extensions or toolbars added to your browser without your knowledge; they are almost certainly a sign that your device is no longer secure. Toolbars and extensions installed by hackers can range from annoying (think redirecting you to spam pages or making it impossible to check Facebook without being inundated with pop-ups) to harmful. In some cases, they can link you to harmful sites, automatically downloading malicious software or even logging your passwords and other data.
Fake Protection and Security Alerts
Hackers may also exploit any outdated security software you have on your computer. Since so many of us are guilty of not updating out anti-virus software frequently enough, this gives them an easy in. Once they exploit these programs, they can then send out fake warning messages from your antivirus program. The reason? To get you to click on the link posted in those fake messages. These links typically point to seemingly legitimate websites offering you increased antivirus protection. If you then purchase the software, you give the hacker unfettered access to your entire system. Users who ignore those messages may find that they appear with increasing frequency unless you get rid of the malicious software.
Messages or Posts You Didn’t Create
Another way to tell if you have been hacked is to take a look at your social media posts and message history. We have all seen an uncharacteristic post from a friend advertising sunglasses or received a message containing a weird link. These messages are from hackers, and their goal is to get your friends and family to click links or visit sites where malicious software can automatically infect their devices as well.
Your Date Use Increases
Data usage that suddenly spikes with no reasonable explanation is another sign that you have been hacked. Malware tends to operate in the background, performing unwanted tasks and eating up your data or bandwidth. All internet providers give you the ability to track your data usage, so take advantage of these tools to compare historic records to current use. You can find this information out by looking at your data usage meter or your data monitor. If you use a wireless device, you can check your WiFi and data usage by going to your settings menu and navigating to the data tab.
What Should You Do If You Are Hacked?
If you are a hacking victim, there are steps you can take to reclaim your device. First, run a reputable antivirus program like Bitdefender or Norton. Follow all recommendations to get rid of any unknown or unwanted software. Going forward, make sure that your passwords are secure and varied, that you only enter private information on secure sites, and that you use a VPN to secure your connection.
The presence of one or more of these signs is not definitive proof that your information has been compromised, but it does mean that you should take action immediately. Scan your device using a reputable anti-virus program and follow all recommended actions to clear your device and keep it secure.