9 early signs to know that you are hacked. 

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9 early signs to know that you are hacked.

Imagine it is a sunny day you are at work and have just made your first cup of hot beverage.   

You log into your computer to be shocked by an alert saying that your computer might be infected with a (insert a scary-sounding name) malware.  

You go into a state of panic, figuring out what to do next while your system shuts down.  

Modern attacks: How do they differ from past attacks? 

It might be a case in the past when a system got infected with malicious software. However, modern-day attackers have evolved their techniques to stay undetected while stealing all the sensitive data from your system. 

The most sophisticated of attackers spending a chunk of their time studying their targets and remain undetected in the network for a very long time, silently gathering information for their next attack and maintaining their persistence.  

Here are some ways modern attacks differ from past attacks: 

  • They are trickier to detect, so if your system is hacked, your anti-malware might not warn you about the same. 
  • Attackers use sophisticated AI and ML-based attack tools (like Fraud GPT) to increase the complexity of their attack and maintain the persistence in the targeted network 
  • They exploit undiscovered vulnerabilities (zero-day vulnerabilities)  
  • They use compromised accounts to engage in sophisticated social engineering attacks that seem more genuine  

Each attack can be different on its own, so there are no fixed set of signs to determine whether a system is hacked. But there are some early signs that you should be aware of.  

Early signs to know that your system might be infected? 

1. Warning signs from your anti-virus or anti-malware software.

One of the easiest to detect signs that your system is compromised is when your anti-malware or anti-virus software alerts you with a warning saying that your system is infected.  

Before engaging in immediate action, see if the notification is genuine and not a fake notification. Attackers often disguise malicious software as anti-virus software, where targeted users may also get prompted to seek support from Microsoft where the tech support asks you to install malicious software that gives them access to the victim’s system.

2. Your web browser has toolbars and extensions that you didn’t install 

Another common sign is when your internet browser has many toolbars and extensions you didn’t install or are from a vendor you don’t know about. They can be malicious software disguised as toolbars, clicking which may redirect you to a malicious site or give attackers access to your system. Unpatched software often is an invitation to cyber-attacks. Therefore, it is essential to keep all your software updated periodically. 

3. Random pop-up messages 

Your system gets random pop-up messages prompting you to click. Once you click, it redirects you to a malicious site or gives attackers access to your system. Random pop-ups are a warning sign that your computer might be hacked. End all the web-connected applications and run a malware and virus check on your computer using anti-virus and anti-malware software.   

4. Strange online account activity 

When you become targeted by an attacker:   

  • you will notice that your account is no longer accessible to you,  
  • your password no longer works for your account & 
  • your social media followers and friends get messages you didn’t send.  
  • You will get notifications on your email address regarding changes in account credentials. 

Beware, it can be a phishing email.  

Check whether the email is from a source that is genuine and apply some best practices to detect phishing emails

5. Unusual webcam activity 

You will notice an unusual change in system performance. It will frequently crash, with smoothly performing functions lagging. It is rare for the system to behave in such manner if it is new. Perform a thorough security check of your system in such case.  

6. Unusual change in system performance  

When your system is hacked, you will notice an unusual change in its performance. It will frequently crash, with otherwise easily performing functions lagging. It may be common when your system is old but if your system is new then it is highly possible that it might be hacked. Perform a thorough security check of your system.  

7. New programs that you didn’t install in your computer app list 

Another way to check whether your system got compromised is by checking the list of all the installed software and programs on your computer. If there is any software in the list not installed by you or your organization, there can be a high possibility that your system is compromised.   

8. You get a ransomware message 

It is the most visible sign to spot.  You get a ransomware message on your computer screen, suddenly find all your files encrypted with a ransomware note, or the attacker has asked you to visit a ransom site. Since ransomware-as-a-service has become quite popular, there is a sudden rise in ransomware attacks, targeting not just large businesses but also small and medium businesses and even individuals. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is essential to take the assistance of experts, who can guide you with the steps to control damage and recover.   

9. Your mouse pointer automatically clicks and selects files

When a mouse pointer starts automatically moving, you might think it is due to hardware malfunctioning. However, if the mouse automatically makes a selection to run specific programs on your computer, your system might be hacked.  It is rare for such things to happen, but attackers can do this to remotely access your system. 

How to proactively secure your system? Some effective tips that you should follow 

Now that you have learned about some common signs of your computer being hacked. Here are some tips that you can follow to keep your computer proactively secure. 

Keep software – app and system updated 

  • Software vendors periodically release security updates with patches for the latest security vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is a must to keep systems and software updated regularly. It also assists in keeping them running smoothly without operational disruptions. 

Take periodical backup 

  • Take a periodical backup of all the sensitive data. It will not only help you control the damage of a cyber attack but also help you recover quickly. 

Use MFA + strong passwords + password manager  

  • To prevent becoming a victim of password attacks, it is essential to periodically change passwords and set strong passwords. Use password managers that assist you in securely storing and managing passwords and set strong passwords.  Another easy way to add a layer of security to your account is to enable Multi-factor authentication and login notification for all your accounts so you get instantly notified of any suspicious activity. 

Take expert assistance

  • It is best to take the assistance of cybersecurity experts better equipped with resources, expertise, and solutions to help you secure your system with industry best practices.  


Get proactive expert-driven security with SharkStriker 

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