Why Do Hackers Attack Your Computer?
If you own a computer, you have probably heard about the threat that hackers pose to your system. Hackers are always seeking to gain access to your computer. Once they get in, they can wreak some serious havoc on your data, finances, private online accounts, reputation and more. But why would they want to do that?
Hackers most often hack your computer so they can steal your information. They might use it to access your bank accounts and use your money to their advantage. Once they wring out your info for all its worth, they can assume your identity to trick other victims into giving them access to their own systems as well. It’s a vicious cycle.
7 Signs Your Computer Has Been Hacked
There is no need to sit around every day, worrying if your computer has been hacked. If a hacker has gained access to your device, you will probably see some signs. Watch out for these tell-tale indications that a criminal has taken over your computer.
When you sign into your computer from a new location, you probably receive an email containing information about the new sign-in. Keep an eye on those emails. If you receive one alerting you to a recent login from a location you haven’t visited lately, that could be a sign that someone else is logging in from a different place.
Fake Antivirus Software Pop-ups
When surfing the web on your computer, you have probably come across those pop-up windows that act as advertisements or software update reminders. Sometimes, a hacker will program fake antivirus software pop-ups to appear on your screen, prompting you to click on them to download the latest “update” to avoid an urgent security emergency. In reality, this “update” will download malware that the hacker uses to gain further control over your computer—and you. The hacker may even demand a ransom from you to restore your computer to its pre-virus status.
Homepage Redirection and Browser Toolbar Changes
If a hacker is in your computer, they can modify your web browser settings to redirect you to malicious websites. For example, the hacker may have created a fake homepage that resembles your original homepage so that you don’t suspect anything.
Once you search for a site in your search bar, the hacker’s browser takes you to a site that generates income for the hacker if you click on anything. You may notice some new shortcuts in your toolbar. This is another sign that a hacker has been tinkering with your homepage.
Mass Emails Appearing in Your “Sent” Folder
Check your “Sent” folder in your email account regularly. Are there any group emails that appear as if you sent them—but you don’t recall sending them? If so, that is probably a hacker’s work. Hackers love to pose as you and send out mass emails to your contacts. These emails contain malicious links for your friends to click on, which can make them victims of the hackers as well.
High Temperature and Battery Use
Is your computer running hot? If you have a laptop, have you noticed that the battery seems to drain faster than it used to? Both of these can be signs that a hacker has installed malicious software or modifications that are devouring your computer’s energy.
Webcam Randomly Turning On
Hackers may have tricked you into downloading some malware that infected your webcam. Does your webcam have an indicator light next to it that turns on at random times? That is a sign that a hacker has taken over. You can also learn about your webcam usage by looking in your stored recordings folder, or by checking your webcam security settings.
Unknown Programs Launching
You may be relaxing during some computer time, when suddenly an unfamiliar program begins running. Hackers can remotely launch their malicious programs on your computer any time they want once they have gained access. If you notice an unknown program using up your computer’s energy or running in the background when you didn’t tell it to, chances are that a hacker downloaded it.
Types of Hacking Attacks
So we know hackers can access your computer and wreak all sorts of havoc. But how do they get in there in the first place? Unfortunately, hackers have quite a few options at their disposal when they want to invade someone’s privacy.
Malware is the general term for any software that a hacker designs to infect or take over your digital devices. Using malicious links in an email, fake Internet search results, or other tactics, hackers fool you into clicking something that downloads malware onto your computer.
This is a specific type of malware designed to look harmless. Remember the poetic event in which the Greeks left a huge wooden horse as a gift for the Trojans—but the Greek soldiers were hidden inside, able to attack as soon as the unsuspecting Greeks brought the horse inside their gates. A Trojan attack on your computer does the same thing by looking like a harmless link or a good deal on a fake advertisement. But once you click on it, the malware downloads into your computer.
Keylogging is a sneaky maneuver in which a hacker’s malware records your keyboard inputs. When you type your passwords, the keylogging program records it and the hacker can use that information to log into your accounts later.
Viruses are another type of malware that a hacker can download onto your computer. A hacker can trick or force their way into your computer and install the virus, making your computer work slowly and give up important information. The virus can even steal your autofill data, like your passwords and usernames.
Denial of Service
A hacker can overload your computer system with excess service requests in an attack called Denial of Service (DoS). This effectively floods your computer so that you can no longer use it. It’s especially hard to fix because the hacker is using many different sources to overwhelm your system, meaning you can’t pinpoint an exact source to fight at one time.
A hacker can use this sneaky ploy when you think you are communicating with someone specific. For example, if you believe you are emailing your friend, the hacker poses as the “man in the middle” to intercept your messages back and forth. They can steal data from you and your contact, as well as learn how to gain further access to your devices.
This is a very common hacking tactic. The hacker will send you a fake email pretending to be from a reputable source, such a retailer you shop at or a business you frequent. Even if it appears to be a company you haven’t visited before, you may still be tricked because the hacker can make the email look legitimate. But this fake email contains links to scam you out of your hard-earned money and data.
How to Recover from a Hack
Once a hacker has gained access to your computer, you may feel at a loss. After all, it seems like your computer doesn’t even belong to you anymore. How are you supposed to regain control? But there is light at the end of this tunnel. You have several steps you can take to recover your data, your privacy, and your sense of self if a hacker has taken over your computer.
Reset Your Passwords
This is the first line of defense if you think a hacker may be in your system. Double-check that each new password is unique and complex, including letters, numbers and symbols. If possible, enable two-factor authentication so that every login attempt requires a password, a username, and a texted or emailed code for you to enter.
Consider Fully Resetting Your Computer
A full reset of your computer can clean out your system of bugs and malware. Fortunately, your computer may be able to retain your personal data during a factory reset. Just in case, make sure you have backed up your most valuable storage items if you can ensure they are not tainted by the hacker.
Let Contacts Know You’ve Been Hacked
Send texts, emails, and phone calls to all your contacts. Tell them your computer was hacked so that they know not to open emails and links sent by “you” for a while. Once you know your computer is clean, you can inform your friends and family that they are safe once again.
How to Prevent Future Hacks
The best way to fight hackers is to prevent hacks in the first place! Here are a few strong defenses you can utilize to help keep your computer safe.
Install Anti-Virus Software
Anti-virus software prevents viruses and other malware from entering your computer system. If malware does creep in through the cracks, your anti-virus software can be effective in fighting and removing it from your computer before serious damage is done.
Don’t Open Suspicious Emails or Links
We’ve mentioned suspicious emails several times in this article, but it bears repeating: Look twice at any email you receive in your inbox. Fake emails often contain deals that seem too good to be true; urgent messages that you must act upon immediately to resolve a “problem;” or links to websites with URLs that don’t match the email content. If you have seconds thoughts about an email, don’t click anything.
Don’t Install Suspicious Programs
Some pop-up windows will prompt you to download the latest “updates” or a fun program or game. Don’t click “Agree” or “OK” on these windows, since they can easily begin downloading malware onto your computer. If you want to install a certain program, go straight to the reliable source that sells this program.
Protect Your Information with IDShield
Protecting your computer all by yourself can be overwhelming. And once a hacker has gotten into your computer, you may not know what to do next. That’s why IDShield is here to help.
We monitor your personal information across many different platforms, including bank accounts, social media channels, major credit bureaus, dark web and more. If we notice any suspicious activity, we alert you immediately and provide next steps to help you manage your information.
Cybersecurity is a critical part of our services. Stay safe with our world-class VPN, malware protection, and parental controls to maintain privacy online. We also offer password protection so you can keep all your unique, complex login information secure.
In case identity theft does occur, we offer the full-service identity restoration you deserve. You have Licensed Private Investigators on your side who are willing to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to restore your identity to its pre-theft status. We are on your side every step of the way.
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Find out more about how IDShield can help keep you safe and secure.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. IDShield plans are available at individual or family rates. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal or tax advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.