Have you ever wondered how to know if you’ve been hacked? Some imagine hacks as red screens that prevent us from doing anything. That’s not always the case. Hackers don’t want to make it obvious they’ve infected our devices. That way, they’re sure we won’t react in time to stop them. To make sure you’re prepared for any hacking attempts, this article will show you what signs to look out for.
6 warning signs you’ve been hacked
First of all, what is hacking? Hacking is an act of seizing or destroying unauthorized data from a system or computer. Such data could include email addresses, passwords, credit card details, and other personally identifiable information.
As technology advances, so do hacking attempts. Let’s go through some common warning signs indicating that your data has been tampered with so you can recognize them easier.
Here are the six signs that will help you spot a cyberattack.
- Your device suddenly slows down for no reason.
- Your contacts are receiving unusual text messages from you.
- You’re getting bombarded by ads after installing new software.
- You’re getting notifications about log-in attempts.
- Your device is installing software you didn’t authorize.
- Your internet searches are redirected.
1. Your device suddenly slows down for no reason.
You might be a victim of cybercrime if your computer has become slow all of a sudden. Your apps take longer to start, your device takes forever to boot up, and you haven’t done anything differently. So who has?
2. Your contacts are receiving unusual text messages from you.
If someone tells you they keep getting strange messages from you – it’s a red flag. Hackers can use apps on your device to send messages to your contacts. Usually, the messages contain links to malicious websites that infect your device with viruses. This way, hackers use the fact that your friends trust you to increase the chances that people will open their links.
3. You’re getting bombarded by ads after installing new software.
Recognizing infected software can be a bit tricky as hackers will try their hardest to make it look legitimate. So you have to look for external signs. If you get bombarded with ads and strange apps after installing a free game or software, chances are that you’ve been hacked.
4. You’re getting notifications about log-in attempts.
If you get notifications about suspicious log-in attempts, it’s a clear indication that someone’s trying to access your personal information. Although an attempt doesn’t always mean the hacker was successful, it’s still a sign to worry about. If you act fast, you could force a hacker out before they have the chance to do any damage. So take these notifications seriously – change your passwords immediately.
5. Your device is installing software you didn’t authorize.
If your device is installing software you didn’t authorize, that is also an indication of a hack. Noticed a new logo on your desktop or a new app taking up space in your phone? Be vigilant. If you don’t recognize it, you shouldn’t have it.
6. Your internet searches are redirected.
There’s a high chance your search engine is infected by malware if you’re experiencing weird behavior from it. For example, you get redirected to pages you weren’t looking for or your search engine suddenly looks different. To fix this, completely reset your browser settings.
4 ways hackers can compromise your accounts and devices
There are quite a few different ways hackers can mess with your accounts or devices. Here’s what to look out for.
1. Phone hacking
Have you ever thought about how much personal information you keep on your phone? Having your data at your fingertips is convenient and all, but not just for you. It’s convenient for hackers too.
Example of phone hacking:
Fake WAP (Wireless Access Point): A cyberattack when a hacker creates a fake Wi-Fi spot and disguises it as a real public one (e.g., “Starbucks”). When you connect to that Wi-Fi with your phone, hackers can modify internet connections and compel you to download infected software onto your device.
Signs your phone might be hacked:
- Unusual data usage
- Phone randomly reboots.
2. Computer hacking
Computer hacking can be quite dangerous as it takes many different forms that aren’t always apparent. If you want to make life harder for hackers, you need to learn to recognize the signs.
Example of computer hacking:
Malware is any malicious software that tries to infect your device. It could sneak onto your device when you visit infected sites or download free software from unknown sources. Hackers can then use this malware to control your computer through remote access.
Signs your computer might be hacked:
- Weird pop-ups you can’t get rid of
- Computer slowing down for no apparent reason.
3. Email hacking
Your credentials may have been compromised during a data breach of a website you’ve used once. That makes it incredibly easy for hackers to access your email or Google account. But even if your credentials haven’t been leaked, hackers find ways to get in.
Example of email hacking:
Phishing: An attack that tries to lure your credentials without changing anything on your device. Hackers send out fake emails or texts claiming you need to log back in to your online accounts. They then attach fake, doctored websites and steal the credentials you used. If you use the same password everywhere, they can then log in to your email.
Signs your email account might be hacked:
- Unusual activity on your account
- Log-in attempts that were not you.
Bonus tip: Surfshark has a feature called Surfshark Alert that allows you to check and monitor whether your email was breached. You can enable it by logging into your Surfshark account on surfshark.com.
4. Social media hacking
You’ve probably seen celebrities tweet strange links after being hacked. Not only are their accounts compromised, but hackers will then use those accounts to try and infect even more people. And they don’t just target celebrities. Anyone can get hacked by clicking on inconspicuous links on social media.
Example of social media hacking:
Signs to look out for:
- Posts on your accounts you didn’t make
- Weird messages sent to your friends and followers.
So, I’ve been hacked – what’s next?
Not every hacker attack is created equal. Depending on the severity of the attack, your actions will be different. Here are some tips that will help you take back control of your digital security:
- Change your passwords immediately. Make them unique too. Many people use the same password for everything which makes it easy for hackers to gain access to other online accounts that have not suffered a breach. Consider using a password manager. That way you won’t have to remember tons of complicated passwords yourself.
- Get in touch with the company that your account is created on, e.g., Facebook. Every company has its own policy on such cases. You can find the account recovery process for different companies by doing a simple Google search. The steps you need to take will differ depending on your situation.
- Reinstall your operating system. Wiping your device clean and setting it up again is critical if you want to get rid of unauthorized programs and malware.
- Keep a close eye on your banking account. Make sure to look out for fraudulent purchases made on your behalf, and, depending on the severity of the attack, freeze your account until you’ve handled the situation.
How to avoid hacking & take back control
Hackers can penetrate your network from security loopholes in your smart light bulbs or other IoT devices. To stay safe, it’s crucial to take hacking prevention seriously.
- Use two-factor authentication. 2FA introduces additional steps in the log-in process, making it harder for potential attackers to guess your passwords and take over your accounts.
- Scan your device for viruses regularly. If you don’t use antivirus software, you definitely should. It’s a great prevention tool that works in the background and lets you know when something seems off.
- Keep your OS and software up-to-date. You should keep your software up-to-date not just because developers added new emojis but also because of security features and patches.
- Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Make sure you don’t go checking your bank account balance or work emails on unprotected networks. Use mobile data or turn on a VPN if you can’t avoid using public Wi-Fi to access personal information.
- Use a VPN. Remember that hackers are often after your IP address, and a VPN service both hides it and encrypts your internet traffic. This makes it harder for hackers to gain access to your sensitive information and devices.
Don’t fall prey to hackers
You can usually tell that you’ve been hacked by sudden and weird changes on your device, browser, email, social media account, or bank account.
Those signals could include: getting weird pop-ups, your contacts getting messages from you that you didn’t send, your device installing software you didn’t authorize, getting notifications about suspicious log-in attempts, redirected internet searches, your email appearing in a data breach.
No one can guarantee you 100% internet safety, but proper cyber hygiene (creating strong, unique passwords, installing antivirus software, monitoring your emails, using a VPN) can go a long way.