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How to Tell If Someone is Hacking Your Computer: 12 Signs to Uncover Hackers

How to Tell If Someone is Hacking Your Computer

Cyber-attacks are a common occurrence nowadays, and the abuse of personal data happens far more often than we realize. Take a look at this article. You’ll be amazed by the number of breaches and leaks in March 2018 – over 20 million! Or think about the most recent Facebook findings and how much information it collects without your knowledge and what hackers might do with it.

In light of these discoveries, you are right to be worried about the security of your computer and the sensitive information it contains. A hacker, who has access to your device, can do almost anything – delete your files, install malicious applications to keep tabs on you, hack your webcam and spy on you while you’re working, or steal your hard earned money.

The question is how to tell if someone is hacking your computer, right? So, today we’re going to talk about how hackers can breach your computer and what the most common signs are. Keep on reading to find out if you’re in danger and what you must do to protect your data.

How can a hacker get access to a computer/laptop?

Let’s start by explaining how hackers can breach your computer so that you can be better prepared and avoid online dangers:

#1 Emails, containing malicious software.

That’s the most common way to infiltrate computers, because users sometimes click automatically on links in emails without giving a second thought. The rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t open any attachments because hackers can conceal its true nature.

It might look like you’re opening a text file, but in fact, it’s an executive one (.exe), which infects the computer with viruses or installs software so that the hacker can create a backdoor and access your information.

#2 Phishing emails

I often received emails from “banks” that warn me that I have to verify my account or it will be closed. Never mind that I’m not a client of the said banks. This strategy is employed by hackers to steal your password and username so that they can log with your details into the account.

If you click on the links in these emails, they will take you to a fake site that looks very much like the real one. However, if you look at the URL address, you’ll quickly find out that it’s different from the actual website address. Remember, your banks/ social media accounts/ payment services always address the email personality to you with the name you’ve registered.

#3 Vulnerabilities in the software

Your operation system might have vulnerabilities which hackers can exploit. Developers try to come up with a solution as soon as they discover one, but hackers are usually faster. A weakness in the OS can allow hackers to install backdoors, encrypt your files, or steal information. That’s why you should always keep your software up to date.

#4 Public Wi-Fi

As people say, there is no such thing as free lunch. Public Wi-Fi is handy for hackers because once you’re connected, what you’re doing is visible to everyone. It’s easy for them to find a way into your computer or scrap any passwords you’ve used.

#5 Injecting malware into data transmissions

If your computer is part of a network, hackers might exploit that by inserting malicious packets into the real data you’re transferring. In this way, they can identify weak spots and open ports into your firewall and use them to breach the system.

#6 Infected ads

Ads are so common on the Internet that we barely give them a thought. The truth is that sometimes these ads can be infected with malware, even if we are talking about a legitimate, trustworthy site. Once you click on the ads or just visit the target website, you download the malicious software without knowing, which helps hackers get into your system.

#7 Free software

Downloading free software from the Internet is not a good idea if it’s not from a trusted source. Hackers might have injected malware into the program so that it will install a backdoor on your device. It’s also advisable that you stay away from suspicious free antivirus programs or free VPNs.

What do you need to protect your computer from hackers?

There are a couple of things you’ll need to ensure the security of your computer in case your suspicions of a hack are confirmed:

  • Basic computer skills
  • Trusted antivirus program
  • Strong passwords
  • A copy of your most important files
  • Professional help

However, sometimes it’s not that easy to get rid of hackers and the damage they’ve done to your system. If the breach has compromised the whole system a reinstallation of the OS might be required as is the case with ransomware. Contact professional help if you don’t know how to install OS or you’re unable to remove the compromised files.

12 Signs How to Tell if Someone is Hacking Your Computer...

Big Brother is Watching You

Credit: silent-pocket.com

#1 Antivirus program is turned off

Think about your antivirus as a shield, which protects your laptop from malicious threats, viruses, and dangerous website. Under no circumstance should you ever turn it off because you’ll be vulnerable and an easy target. That’s why when hackers breach your computer, the very first thing they might do is disable your antivirus so that it can’t warn you that something unusual is happening.

But couldn’t I have switched my antivirus off without realizing? That’s unlikely. Try to turn it off, and you’ll immediately get a warning, and you’ll be asked whether you want to disable it. My point is that it’s not something that can happen with one click of the mouse. And if a program wants from you to turn off your antivirus or firewall, it should raise the red flag that something is not right.

So, if you notice that your antivirus is not running, you’re almost 100% hacked. The first thing you should do is to try to get your antivirus working again. If you can’t do it, it means that the infiltration is serious. You can attempt to install a new antivirus or restore your computer’s setting to a point before the breach.

You can also switch your computer in Safe mode and see if you can get things running. However, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s for the best to get a professional to fix your computer, especially if you have important files which you have not backed up.

In rare cases, your antivirus might turn off if you have installed another one and they are running at the same time.

#2 Fake antivirus messages 

Antivirus programs sometimes detect files as malicious even though they aren’t. Usually, we’re talking about “cracks” you’ve might be using to unlock the full features of games or programs. However, if you start to get more and more warnings that you have files infected with malware, they might be fake.

Malicious software installed on your computer might be sending these fake warnings. Often the fake scan with tons of malware detected prompts you to go to a site and buy a product so that you can quickly “resolve” the issues. The aim is to gather your billing information and credit card number so that they can

First, boot your computer in Safe Mode with no network and look for any newly installed software. Try to uninstall it if possible. If you can’t, you might use system restore and do a full antivirus scan to remove any trace of the malicious program. In case nothing is working, you should power off your computer immediately and get it to a professional.

#3 Wrong passwords 

I can’t log into my account. My password and username are correct. What’s the matter? The answer is simple. You’ve been hacked, and there’s no doubt about it. Once hackers gain control over an account, they will change the password to prevent you from logging in, and they will start sending messages to your friends with malicious links.

The good news is that most services use two-factor identification so that you can restore access to your accounts. Follow the provided instruction to get a new password but do it form a device you know is clean. Do the same for all affected accounts and the change the password for the ones you still have access to as soon as possible.

Also, take a look at the settings to make sure that the hacker hasn’t changed something important such as shipping address. Then warn your friends that you’ve been hacked and that they shouldn’t open any emails or Facebook messages send by you. You may also advise them to change their passwords just in case.

The bad news is that it might be hard to get your account back if the hacker has changed the recovery information (email, phone, etc.). If we are talking about a bank account, contact your bank immediately to receive instructions. Otherwise, you might contact support and wait for further details. Unfortunately, this might be a lengthy process and an unsuccessful one.

#4 Friends you didn’t add 

Take a look at your social media account. Do you see unfamiliar people among your friends? Then hackers might have access to your accounts. Your first step is to remove the people you don’t know from your list, then change your password. Alert your friends not to open or click on any links received by you.

Be careful with friends on Facebook. People often add strangers to play games together, but it’s risky if you’re not vigilant.

#5 New icons

When you open your browser and discover new icons that have suddenly appeared on the dashboard, you have all the reasons to be worried. Malicious software might have installed them and changed your usual search engine. Don’t click on the new icons. In case you’re wondering wheater they are part of the updated version of your browser, you might Google them.

If you find them to be malicious, try to remove them as soon as possible and run a full scan of your system to make sure that there are no more surprises.

#6 Strange cursor behavior 

Have you noticed that your cursor is moving on its own? Then a hacker might be accessing your computer remotely. But don’t immediately panic if you see your cursor moving. It might be a problem with the mouse.

Look at the cursor. Is it moving deliberately as if someone is controlling it? Then someone might have breached your computer and installed a remote access program which would allow him to do almost anything. If the cursor is highlighting files, he might be going through your stuff as we speak.

Usually, experienced hackers don’t announce their presence so obviously, because the point is for the victim to remain unaware as long as possible, but you’d better be on your guard. When you notice something suspicious, and you think you might be dealing with a hacker, turn off your computer and disconnect it from the router. Then call the service shop.

#7 Peripheral devices don’t work properly 

The presence of a virus or a hacker affects not only your computer but all devices connected to it. So, if your printer suddenly doesn’t print files or you can’t open your USB device, something might be amiss. Run a full scan of your system and look for any new software that you haven’t installed.

If you can’t find a problem, the issue might be with the peripheral device or the hacker has covered his traces well.

#8 Website redirection 

You type an address into the bar, but you get constantly redirected to another website. What’s happening, you ask? Well, I have some bad news. It’s a virus. Have you visited some suspicious sites recently? Or click on ads? Then you might have downloaded something malicious on your computer.

If you’re infected, you’ll probably see a lot of pop-up windows offering you the chance to win an iPhone or a green card. Run a full scan of your system. If the antivirus doesn’t detect anything or it can’t remove or quarantine the infected files, call a specialist.

#9 Your files are gone 

It’s pretty obvious that you’re in trouble if you turn on your computer and discover that your files nowhere to be found. It’s pointless to wonder how to tell if someone is hacking your computer. He has already done it.

Fortunately, it’s possible to restore some of your files with the right tools. However, your priority should be getting rid of the threat responsible for this unfortunate situation. It’s unlike that you’ll be able to deal with an attack of this magnitude by yourself. So take your device to a service shop where they would tell you what could be salvaged.

#10 Your photos are online 

We’ve all heard about celebrities whose pictures ended on the Net. You might think that it can’t happen to you, but it can, even if you’re not a rock star. Hackers might steal your photos and blackmail you. They might photoshop them or use them in fake profiles.

Pictures are not the only target. Hackers might steal any sensitive information they find in your folders. And once something is online, you can’t take it back. It stays online forever. So, don’t keep your secrets on your laptop.

As soon as you identify that there is information about you online that you didn't provide, you must take action. First, block any credit card you’ve used to purchases goods. Then call a professional to come and assess the situation.

#11 Webcam is blinking

Some applications need access to your webcam to function. However, if the light is blinking and there is not a logical reason we might have a peeping tom on the other side. Hackers use remote administration tools to hijack a computer, including the camera. You might install such tools when you open infected emails/message or install a program infected with a Trojan.

Restart your computer to rule out a glitch. If the camera is still on, disconnect the computer from the Internet immediately. Then find the nearest service shop.

#12 Slow performance 

Is your computer working slower than usual? Then you’ve might installed a program which is eating up a large portion of its processing power. The easiest way to find out is to launch the task manager. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del and open the manager. See if there is a program using a lot of CPU and which you can’t identify. Then try to shut it off.

Of course, slow performance might be due to a glitch in the system and a restart is all you need. Or your computer is too old, and you’re up for an upgrade.

Tips for protecting your computer

It’s best never to wonder how to tell if someone is hacking your computer. Remember that hackers rely on people’s carelessness to hack and infect a device. Keep these simple tips in mind, and you’ll be fine:

  • Never install software from suspicious sources.
  • Always keep your programs up to date.
  • Never turn off your antivirus or firewall off.
  • Schedule regular scans and update the virus definitions.
  • Don’t open messages/emails from strangers and never any attachments.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi.
  • Use strong passwords.
  • Don’t use one password for all accounts.
  • Stay vigilant.

Don’t think that you know every trick in the book. Hackers get smarter and smarter every day, and it takes seconds to click on something automatically or by mistake. Sometimes the damage is reversible, but others you might not be so lucky. Try to keep up with the latest hacker ruses so that you’ll know what to expect.

What do you think about these signs how to tell if someone is hacking your computer? Has it happened to you? What did you do? Share in the comments.

(Last Updated On: May 14, 2022)
About the author

    Whale Sumo

    Hwang is a self-proclaimed nerd who loves helping people understand complex concepts. He has a passion for crypto and online privacy and enjoys teaching others about the benefits of both. Hwang is an advocate for individual freedom and believes that knowledge is power. When he's not busy sharing his knowledge with the world, Hwang can be found running full marathons or playing video games.

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