Written by: John Walp, Vice President of Cyber Services
Every day, we read a headline about a computer hacking or hear a personal story about a friend, family member, or colleague getting hacked. The signs of your computer or identity being hacked are often apparent, such as a menacing pop-up screen notifying you that all your critical files have been encrypted and a ransom is demanded to unencrypt them. Other times, though, the signs are subtle and not easily recognizable to the average user.
One of the easiest ways to recognize a hack or identity theft is to routinely check your credit report because one of the primary motives of cyber criminals is financial. Ensuring there aren’t unauthorized accounts opened in your name is a good first step in protecting your online safety.
As more and more business is done on personal computers and mobile devices, the opportunities for cyber criminals to gain access to your personal or business information has grown exponentially. Recognizing the signs your computer may be hacked is important as timely action can save time and money when it comes to recovering from a traumatic event like the loss of critical business files, customer information, family photos, or your identity.
Here are some tell-tale signs your computer may be hacked and your identity may be stolen:
- Your computer is acting “unusual.” While this could be a sign of an aging or a broken system, if your computer exhibits the following issues it could be a sign you’ve been hacked:
- Standard programs you always use no longer work and files won’t open.
- Important document files cannot be found or have been deleted.
- New programs have been installed.
- Passwords to access local programs no longer work or have been changed without your knowledge. (See why it's important to have unique, secure passwords)
- Your browser is misbehaving. A common technique for hackers is to take over the web browser of the victim in order to perform various types of fraud. While browsing the web, if you notice any of the following it could mean trouble:
- Passwords to online shopping, email, or banking sites no longer work.
- Pop-up screens with advertising redirect you to an unrelated website.
- Extra web browser windows open and connect to questionable websites.
- Search engine queries are redirected and a browser tool bar or plug-in may have been installed.
- Your anti-virus protection has been overridden. Hackers are sometimes able to take over a victim’s computer by disabling anti-virus software and other computer security controls. Be on the lookout for the following:
- People in your contact list receive fake email from you in the form of a link to a malicious website or ad for a useless product.
- Your anti-virus software is disabled or will not update properly.
- Pop-up windows claiming your computer “is infected” suddenly appear and instruct you to click on a link to “clean” your system.
- A new anti-virus program appears to be installed on your system and your computer system performance is poor and may become unresponsive.
- Your money matters are amiss. If you’ve been hacked, it’s very likely your identity has been stolen. Cyber criminals will use the information they’ve gathered on a victim to inflict sometimes massive financial harm. Here are some signs hacking has resulted in stolen identity:
- Unauthorized or unknown charges appear on your credit cards.
- Funds are withdrawn from your bank accounts without your authorization.
- New credit card or bank accounts are opened in your name.
- An unauthorized change of address is processed through your bank, redirecting your statements to the cyber criminals.
We have a long history of effectively helping customers recover from these styles of cyber crime. If you have been the victim of a hacking, contact us today.