From the October 2013 hack of Adobe to the Ashley Madison data breach of July and August 2015, hackers have proven that even supposedly secure, corporate servers can be infiltrated and their data stolen. This is certainly worrisome. After all, if these companies can be hacked, then how can we expect our data to remain secure? Worse yet, if we are hacked, how are we to even know?
Realizing that you may be the victim of a hacker can be terrifying. Luckily, there are a few ways to know if you have been hacked and a number of tools to help you stop it from happening again. Some of these are obvious and easily discoverable, while others require a deeper look into the computer’s internal processes or the use of third-party services and software.
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If these helpful tools do lead to the discovery of a hacker toying with your system or stealing your data, do not panic. You can regain control of your computer and your life if you follow these simple tips.
Hackers come in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re professionals with years of experience and maybe even a college degree in computer science or cybersecurity. Others, however, lack the skills of these professional hackers. For this reason, you must be careful to look out for the signs of both the novice and the experienced hacker.
The novice’s attacks are likely to be obvious, while the experienced hack will likely go unseen unless the eye is turned toward internal systems and processes. As a result, you may need to use a number of tools to discover whether or not you have been hacked. These three tools are a good place to start:
A computer bought for personal or business usage from a traditional retailer should not be displaying signs of artificial intelligence. If a computer, however, does seem to have developed a mind of its own, take note. A few easily observable signs that a hacker has entered into your computer include:
If one or more of these symptoms occur, it might be time to look deeper.
These abnormal behaviors, if present, need to be further investigated. This requires looking beyond the surface problems and seeing what is really happening. For example, if your computer is running slowly or there are sudden changes that you didn’t initiate, open Task Manager and note “CPU usage.”
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If you are running relatively few or no programs and you’re still using an inordinate amount of the CPU’s processing power, then look through the running processes to find the source of the problem. This may be something the hacker placed on your computer for his own devious purposes.
You should still, however, continue looking farther. On Windows, the Systems File Checker will scan for corrupted files that could be the mark of a hacker.
There are many others pieces of software beyond what Windows offers that can help you identify a hacker. Adam Tanner for Forbes gives a list of websites that will tell you which of your accounts have been hacked.
As well, anti-virus software and similar products can scan your system and discover whether or not there is something malicious lying about. With these tools, the discovery can often be removed very quickly.
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However, this is not always the case. Just remember that if you do not recognize the name of the software or it producers, always do a quick Google search to see reviews and check whether the software is a piece of spyware, malware, a virus or some other dangerous computer malady. The worst thing you can do when looking to discover whether a hacker has invaded your system is install a piece of software that will let a new hacker in.
If you’ve discovered that a hacker has infiltrated your computer or breached your data in anyway, it is time to take action.
The first step should be to run an antivirus software. Novice hackers will not likely have left anything too deeply entrenched inside your computer, and this might solve the problem immediately. Panda Free Antivirus is a great option if you do not have a service yet.
To deal with more advanced hackers, however, you need to de-authorize and then re-authorize all apps associated with any affected accounts, and if one account has affected, then you should consider all accounts affected, especially if your mail email is hacked, as it is typically connected to many if not all of your other accounts.
Contact Google, Facebook, Twitter or with whomever else you have an account and alert them to the possible infiltration. Typically, the larger computer-based corporations that offer email or social media services will have procedures in place to recover your account. This will likely include answering a series of questions and then being asked to reset your passwords. Always use strong passwords as generated by a password generator.
Of most importance is preventing this from happening again. The use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is just the solution. A VPN sends you through a virtual tunnel to a third-party server so that your IP address, personal information, and location are always encrypted and secure. To discover which VPN is best for you, check out reviews for some of the best options, including Express VPN, IPVanish, and HideMyAss.
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Protecting yourself from hackers is key to remaining safe and secure, not only online, but also in your personal life. Many hackers are searching for personal data in order to steal your identity. The World Wide Web has become truly global and is no longer just a virtual marketplace. It is one that affects our daily lives and which, if used unwisely, can bring harm and dangerous. So be smart, prudent and wise. Learn whether or not you have been hacked in past, and protect yourself today so that you can remain safe in the future.
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There are many tools and software programs available to protect against hackers and malware. What do you use to ensure your security online? Share in the comments below. We’d love to speak with you!
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a blogger for Secure Thoughts, a top-rated online security website. She writes about detecting and preventing cyberattacks via malware, spyware and hackers.
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.