If your device is connected to the internet, it’s vulnerable to hacks. It’s as simple as that. Cybercriminals are always coming up with new tricks to get into your gadgets and you should be aware of that.
Fortunately, there are usually signs that your device has been compromised. When it comes to smartphones, this can include spikes in data usage, battery drainage and changes to your home screen, among other indicators. Tap or click here for information on diagnosing and solving phone hacks.
Like your phone, your computer is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Read on for telltale signs that your computer has been hacked and what you can do about it.
1. Hot and slow
If your computer is running at a snail’s pace suddenly, it could be a sign of malware. Malware slows down a computer because it uses resources such as your CPU and memory.
The harder your computer works, the hotter it gets. You’ll notice that your computer is producing more heat than usual or you’ll hear the fans working overtime to cool things down.
If you’re using a PC, open the Processes tab in Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete. Do you see a program using far too many resources? See any programs you don’t recognize? Stop those processes and run a virus scan (more on that below).
If you’re on a Mac, open Activity Monitor by clicking the magnifying glass on the right side of the menu bar at the top of your screen or pressing Command + Spacebar to open a Spotlight window and searching for “activity monitor.” If you see something using excessive resources, reset it and run a scan.
2. Ransomware message
This is an obvious one. You’ll get an alarming message that your computer has been locked, your files and passwords have been stolen and you won’t get anything back unless you pay. You’ve become a victim of ransomware. Paying the ransom is no guarantee that you’ll get anything back.
We hope you have a backup of all your files. Use a backup company that you can trust, like our sponsor IDrive.
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You can check if your personal information is on the web by visiting the HaveIBeenPwned website. Tap or click here to see how it works.
3. Fake scans
You may get a popup showing a scan locating tons of infections. The scan will probably look unfamiliar to you. That’s because it’s fake. There may be buttons to start the scan if it hasn’t already or one to remove the viruses and malware. The truth is that the scan itself is part of an attack on your system.
Do not click any buttons or links. If you can’t close the popup, restart your computer and run your own legitimate virus scan ASAP.
4. Data usage going up
If you notice a bump in data usage, your computer may be infected. Adware can run in the background and perform endless clicks to generate money for cybercriminals.
Your internet service provider has tools for you to track your monthly data consumption. Log in to your account to check on it. Study the Data Usage Meter or Data Monitor, depending on your provider. Compare the numbers with those from previous months.
If you notice small changes, it’s nothing to be alarmed about. But sudden unexplained spikes are signs that your computer is infected. Run a virus scan.
5. Fake social media invites
If your friends are receiving invitations from you on social media that you didn’t send, then your account has probably been hacked. You may also notice friend requests and messages being sent out without your input.
Report the problem to the social network and inform your friends not to accept any invitations from you. Change your passwords and turn on two-factor authentication.
RELATED: How to know if you’re being stalked or are just paranoid
6. Slow internet and video buffering
If you notice that webpages are loading slowly and videos are taking too long to play, it could indicate DNS hijacking. With this, hackers can redirect your internet traffic to their own unsafe servers. Beyond slowing things down, this could expose your privacy and information.
If you enter an address and end up on a different page, then something is messing with your DNS settings To check your router’s DNS settings, you can use online tools that also offer advanced hijacking protection, like Cloudflare or Quad9.
Tap or click here to learn how to secure your router from hacks.
7. You have new browser toolbars
You may install your own toolbars to make things like online shopping and searching easier, but if you see one you don’t recognize, it can be collecting information on you or even serving as an entry point for a virus.
Remove/uninstall any unfamiliar toolbars and buttons from your browser settings, then run an antivirus scan.
8. Programs and apps crashing
A program can crash due to a bug or improper start, but if you notice this happening often, your computer may be hacked with a virus or malware. The news gets worse if you notice that your antivirus software and task manager are crashing or inaccessible.
Try booting your computer in Safe Mode to diagnose and fix the problem.
On Windows, click the Windows logo key + I. This opens Settings. Choose Update & Security, then Recovery. Under Advanced startup, choose Restart now. After your computer restarts to the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings, then Restart.
After it restarts again, you’ll see a list of options. Choose 4 or press F4 to start in Safe Mode. If you need to use the internet, choose 5 or press F5 for Safe Mode with Networking.
If you’re on a Mac, start or restart your computer and immediately press and hold Shift. Keep holding the key until the Apple logo appears and release it when you see the login screen.
Once in Safe Mode, try running your antivirus program to scan for problems. When you’re finished, restart your computer to exit Safe Mode.
How to prevent being hacked
You can minimize your risk of being hacked by increasing your computer’s defenses. Your first step should be a reliable antivirus solution. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV, an award-winning security suite that gives you continuous protection while blocking malicious websites and helping you clear out junk.
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Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security when logging into an account. It could be a thumbprint, a bit of information only you know, or a code sent to a device only you have access to.
If you want to secure your accounts further, try an authenticator app, which generates one-time passcodes every 30 seconds. Tap or click here for more information on authenticator apps.
Keep all of your devices and software updated. Tap or click here for our report with instructions on updating everything.
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