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Good hackers rarely get caught. Many will simply break into your system, take the files they want, and then disappear without a hint. But others enjoy damaging your computer when they leave – malware, bizarre advertisements, corrupted files, and even a drained checking account or stolen identification.
Computer systems, smartphones, routers, and all the way down to the harmless webcam are vulnerable to cyber-criminals. So what if they’ve already broken in, yet you don’t even know they’re there? Here are signs to look for to check is you’ve been hacked.
- Your device suddenly slows down
One of the side-effects of malicious software is a slow device. Software gets sluggish, or constantly freezes, or even crashes. If you start noticing some of these symptoms, your device may very well be infected with viruses, trojans or worms.
Malicious software usually runs in the background, secretly eating up your device’s resources while it’s active.
If an application that you don’t recognize is hogging your computer resources, it’s likely a virus.
There are a few ways to see what processes your computer is running. The easiest is to bring up Windows’ built-in Task Manager. Just use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + ESC and go to the Processes tab.
Put simply, the Task Manager lists all of your computer’s current tasks and how much processing power they’re using, measured in Central Processing Units (CPUs). Open up Task Manager and check the CPU and memory columns for each process.
You might find one process is using 100 percent – or close to it – of your CPU. Open up the program associated with the process and see what it’s doing. Restart the task and monitor it, but this program might be the culprit.
These days the most frequent problem is coming from a Crypto-Mining Java Script. You’ll need to completely close out your browser, run a malware scan, then reboot.
- You’re using way more data than usual
Every internet provider has tools that can keep track of your monthly bandwidth consumption. Look at Data Usage Meter or Data Monitor, depending on your provider. Compare the amount of data used from the prior months, and if you notice sudden spikes in your data activity even though you haven’t changed your patterns, then chances are you are infected.
For example, adware infected devices usually perform unsolicited clicks in the background to generate profit for cybercriminals. These stealthy tactics use up bandwidth and the unauthorized data they consume should be fairly easy to spot.
- Videos suddenly buffer and webpages take forever to load
When a streaming video suddenly freezes, and your device appears to be “thinking,” this is called buffering. This annoyance often happens, especially if you play a lot of videos or your Wi-Fi connection is weak. If it’s happening a lot, or videos fail to play at all, you’re wise to suspect neighbors are piggy-backing on your connection.
Then again, malware can also slow down your internet traffic by DNS hijacking. In short, hackers can redirect your internet traffic to unsafe servers instead of the secure servers. This will not only slow down your browsing experience; it’s also a serious security risk. For example, if your router’s DNS settings have been hijacked, each time you visit your online bank’s website, you’ll be redirected to a phishing website instead.
Turn your computer off then on a couple of times. If this doesn’t reset your DNS to your ISP’s default settings, then you can manually change your DNS settings to one more secure. We use OpenDNS.
- Programs and apps start crashing
Now, here is a clear sign that your system has been infected. If your antivirus software and task manager are either crashing or disabled, a nasty virus has likely taken a hold of your critical system files.
You may not be able to click on once-reliable apps. In the worst case scenario, ransomware may prevent you from opening your favorite files.
You can try and fix the problem by booting your gadget in Safe Mode. With Safe Mode, your computer will be running with just the bare essentials. This way, you can safely delete and uninstall any programs and files that you can’t during normal operation.
On Windows, search for System Configuration then open it >> select Boot tab then tick off Safe Boot >>check Minimal (this is enough for most cases) >> click on OK to confirm >> Restart your computer.
- You start seeing pop-up ads
Malware can also add bookmarks that you don’t want, website shortcuts to your home screen that you didn’t create, and spammy messages that entice you to click through. Apart from slowing down your gadget and eating away at your data, these intrusive notifications can also install more malware on your system.
- Your gadget suddenly restarts
Automatic restarts are part of normal computer life. Software updates and new application installs can prompt you to reboot your computer. But your system will warn you when these happen, and you can delay or postpone them.
Yet sudden restarts are a different story. With Windows 10, there’s a free malware detection and extraction program called Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.
Then I would follow up with a scan by Malwarebytes.
- Unexplained online activity
Hackers covet your usernames and passwords. These details, coupled with social engineering tricks, can gain access to your banking accounts, your social media profiles, and your online services.
Keep an eye on your email’s “sent” folder and on your social network posts. If you notice emails and posts that you don’t remember sending or posting, it’s likely that you have been hacked, or someone has your password and is logging into your accounts and posing as you.
Constantly check your accounts for unauthorized activity including movies on your Netflix profile that you don’t remember streaming, mystery purchases that you haven’t made, songs on your music list that you didn’t listen to, and credit card charges that came from nowhere.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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