Eight Signs Your Computer Has Been Hacked

Greg Wilson, Head of Information Security
May 17, 2018

While the latest advancements in technology have made life more convenient, they’ve also led to an increase in the abilities of hackers to compromise others’ computers, creating the nuisance and burden of financial and identity thefts.

Even with anti-virus software widely available, there are still possibilities that you may find yourself as the victim of a computer hack. There is an abundance of hacker software that is difficult to detect once it’s in your system that is often not identified by the anti-virus software you have in place. Once the hacking has already occurred, though, there are recognizable signs that your computer is infected.

Sign 1. Your Login Is Not Working

If you are unable to log in to your computer with your normal username and password, this could be the first sign that your computer security may have been compromised by a hacker. The aim of this tactic is to force you to have to change your password, thus allowing the hacker to capture the new password you are entering.

Sign 2. Your Computer Is Running More Slowly

While many of us often complain that our computers are not up to our standards of how quickly they should be operating — thanks to our constant need for fast-paced everything in life — there could be a real problem if your computer is taking a significantly longer time than usual. This might be the result of a malicious code on your computer causing all of its processes to slow down. A slow computer does not always mean you have been hacked but it is certainly something that needs to be investigated if the issue persists.

Sign 3. The Popups Just Keep Coming

If you suddenly begin receiving a tremendous amount of unwanted popups on your computer, this could be a further indication that your system has been breached by a hacker. These popups include those that claim to be computer warnings with additional anti-virus programs to download or provide numbers to call about your computer being infected with a virus or malware. These popups are typically generated by the hackers themselves in hopes that you will trust the urgency and provide your personal information and credit card number to purchase the “necessary application” that will remove whatever has infected your computer.

Sign 4. You Are Asked to Enter Your Information to Check If You’ve Been Breached

Always be very cognizant when you are asked to enter your personal information — including usernames, passwords and any type of credit card information — in any messages you receive. If you are prompted with a message requesting that you enter your information in order to see if your system has been hacked, DO NOT provide this information, as you have likely already been hacked, and providing further information will only worsen this problem.

Sign 5. You Suddenly Have Unwanted Browser Toolbars

A very common sign that a hacker has tapped into your system is browser toolbars appearing when you did not install them. They also may reappear after you have removed them, providing extra indication that hacking has occurred. Always review your installed and active toolbars and remove those you did not opt to install.


Sign 6. Your Internet Searches Are Redirected

While browsing the Internet, if you are taken to other sites that you did not choose to go to, you might be the victim of a hacker. Malware programs are designed to redirect your searches and the links you click to take you to unwanted websites. If you notice this occurring, check to make sure you don’t have unwanted toolbars installed, as mentioned above, as these toolbars can be a cause of the redirection and an indication that your computer has been hacked.

Sign 7. Additional Programs Have Been Installed on Your Computer

Many malware programs install themselves in the same means as authentic programs and suddenly become part of your computer without you knowing it. However, these programs that you did not install yourself could be indications that you have been hacked.

Sign 8. Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware Will Not Update

If you are unable to update your anti-virus/anti-malware software or apply Microsoft updates, this is a definitive sign that your computer has been breached. The hacker is likely trying to ensure you are unable to remove the virus/malware from your computer; thus, you may be prevented from installing new anti-virus/anti-malware programs and updating existing ones. You should assume your computer has been breached and take immediate action to correct the problem. This computer should not be used to conduct any sensitive transactions, such as banking or other financial transactions, until you have completely remediated the breach.

If you suspect that your system may have been breached, there are certain actions you can take, such as:

  • Contacting the appropriate institutions if your personal or financial information has been compromised.
  • Update your anti-virus/anti-malware and operating system to the latest release and scan your computer.
  • Reset your passwords to make them more complex and change your security questions and responses.

Always be aware of what you are clicking and the information you are providing when you are online, and be suspect of anything that seems unusual — if it appears suspicious, it probably is not safe.

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