9 Top Signs that Show You Have Been Hacked and How to Deal with Them

  • 23/Dec/2021
  • 09:44 am


You’re not a high-profile person so you can’t be hacked, right? Wrong!

The rise of cybercrimes around the world has left few persons to spare. Anyone and everyone may fall victim. Sure, you likely won’t face very sophisticated attacks as a non-high-profile individual. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be facing any attacks.

Cybercriminals may target you for any number of reasons. Perhaps they want to access your company network and steal secrets or money. Or they want to get into your bank accounts or defraud your friends and family in your name. Maybe it’s even more simple – an act of revenge.

Indeed, identity theft is on the increase today. Center for Victim Research reports that about 10% of US citizens are victims of identity theft each year. And it is widely believed that cybercriminals are employing newer, stealthier systems than ever before to reach their targets.

With everyone well and truly a target of these vicious criminals, it’s more important today than ever before that you watch out for signs that you’re being hacked. Understanding the possible threat you may face is key to spotting it early and stopping the damage on time.

How Do You Know You’ve Been Hacked?

As many have come to learn, discovering you’ve been hacked can be complicated. While there are very obvious signs of a hack, the most obvious of signs only come forward when the damage has been done. This is the time when something has visibly changed.

But you needn’t wait that long to discover a hack. There are a few more subtle signs that all inform you that a threat is underway. Consider a number of them:

1 Unusual login notifications

Most social media platforms today are built to identify threat patterns. The most obvious of these threat patterns are login attempts from unknown devices or locations. When this happens, they system automatically alerts you. Should you receive any such notifications without attempting to login yourself, take them seriously and act immediately.

What should you do?
In most cases, when you receive such notifications, the assailant has been unsuccessful. Immediately sweep through your PC for malware. Remove any found and restart your PC. If none is found, quickly change your passwords to be on the safe side.

2 You receive a ransomware message

Surely, you remember the recent WannaCry attacks that swept across many Windows PC. Like the first on this list, this is a brutally obvious sign. A ransomware attack takes over your screen, telling you all of your data is now encrypted and requesting a ransom to unlock it. Should you fail to pay within the stipulated time, all of your data will be wiped out. About 50% of victims end up paying the ransom, underlying its success so far.

What should you do?
Mostly, pay up or lose your files. To mitigate any potential damages, though, backup all of your files today. Also ensure this backup isn’t accessible to any who enter your PC. With a tested backup in place, data loss during a ransomware attack can be managed.

3 Unusual browser behavior

This one may be slightly more difficult to spot, particularly if you’re big on using your browser. Browser signals typically involve random browser popups from websites that generally don’t behave that way. You may also notice newly added toolbars on your browser which you don’t recognize.

What should you do?
If you find any toolbars you neither installed nor need, immediately remove them. If you can’t find them to remove, reset your browser to default settings. For browser redirects, test other browsers and websites for similar issues and check your PC for malware.

4 Fake antivirus alerts

These are no longer as popular as they used to be, but they remain a valid signal of a threat. This presents itself as a popup from an antivirus – usually an outdated one, one you never installed, or a supposed online antivirus – purporting to alert you to threats on your PC. The popup will contain links that direct you to legit-looking websites where you can “update” or “purchase” an antivirus to clear your PC. Once you enter your credit card, the deed is done.

What should you do?
For starters, don’t click on any links. You’d likely be able to exit the message by closing the popup window, browser tab, or entire browser. If the popup appears directly on your PC, do well to scan for virus and restart the PC.

5 Mouse moving randomly

Your mouse may occasionally make random movements. Perhaps it just seems to fly all the way across the screen before you’re able to regain control. This is hardly the sign of a hack, and is most likely a simple hardware glitch. But what if the mouse is systematically moving and opening one software or other without your control? This is a serious sign that someone somewhere is in control of your PC. Indeed, the only difference between this and a ransomware-style attack is the lack of request for a ransom.

What should you do?
You may take a minute or two to try to understand their targets. Shut down the PC. Disconnect it from your home network. Change all your important passwords on a different device. And call in the experts for a full review of the situation.

6 Friends receiving messages you didn’t send

One of the weirdest, but also fairly popular, signs of a social media account take-over. Sometimes, this is as innocuous as your friend who already you added to their account receiving another friend request from an account that looks like yours. At other times, they may even receive messages from “you” on your account, eventually forcing them to part way with some cash because “you’re in an emergency”.

What should you do?
As soon as you notice your account has been taken over, immediately notify your contacts not to have any dealings with the hackers. Change all of your passwords and force a log out from every connected device. If it’s a lookalike account, use the available tools for the platform to report the account.

7 Unapproved software installations

Earlier versions of Windows made it a little easy for certain apps to sneak into your app list without your express approval. Today, that’s no longer the case, but viruses and malware continue to find clever ways to get in. This could be by disguising themselves as legitimate apps, or by directly modifying legitimate apps and following them in. You may even grant these hidden apps permission to come in while installing another legitimate app. Once in, though, they begin gradually wreaking their havoc.

What should you do?
Apps like Autoruns let you check which apps are installed on your PC and selectively disable them. They also show you currently running apps and those that auto-run upon startup. If the app is suspicious, run an online check to confirm if its malware before removing it.

8 Missing funds on your account

Imagine the sinking feeling when you open your account and notice a large chunk of your money is out. Clearly, your bank account has been compromised. This doesn’t necessarily mean your bank has been hacked. For the most part, it begins with you putting in your credit card details in a legit-looking site, perhaps in response to a phishing mail from “your” bank or broker.

What should you do?
First, check your transaction history to find out where the money went. Put a call through to your financial institution to cancel the transaction. Change all compromised pins or passwords. And if your credit card was affected, request a new one.

9 Disabled antivirus and task manager

Perhaps the closest thing to a ransomware attack without a ransom request, this is a huge sign of a compromised PC. The hackers get in, and silently disable your antivirus so it doesn’t detect their activities. They also typically disable apps like your Task Manager or Registry Editor, ensuring you can’t disable the erring apps through them.

What should you do?
Try running the non-system app Microsoft Autoruns to root out the malicious app. If that’s unsuccessful, research how to uninstall the app in Safe Mode. Shut down your PC and get to work.

How Can You Prevent a Hack?

Being attentive to the signs indicating a possible hack is a great way of detecting and nipping out attacks early. You need to know the signs of danger, and identify them before it is too late. However, a proactive approach to threat detection is just as important as a reactive one.

Consider 5 important tips:

  • Improve your online hygiene: Avoid placing intimately personal information on your social media account. On the one hand, this limits your damage if your account is compromised. On the other, it limits the possibility of a hack through social engineering.
  • Use stronger passwords: An important way to limit the possibility of an attack is to make your passwords more difficult to guess. Use longer passwords that combine numbers, symbols and letters. Update these passwords regularly.
  • Use a VPN: Virtual Private Networks encrypt your identity, activities and communications when online. This helps keep your personal data beyond the reach of hackers who closely watch your online activity by making you invisible online.
  • Use antivirus and anti-spam software: You really can’t be too careful. These tools help identify malware and phishing mails, respectively. Set them to scan every 24 hours so you’re always alerted of any virus that may have slipped your notice.
  • Monitor your credit: Hackers may attempt minor intrusions and inquiries before making full-blown attacks. Watch your credit closely for any sign of suspicious inquiries, transactions, or accounts in your name.


Cybercriminals are advancing in their attacks. With every new day, more sophisticated methods of intrusion are being developed. But you can stay ahead of the curve by taking a few proactive steps, and keeping an eye out for suspicious activities.

When dealing with an attack, information is key. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of information today, with guides such as this one on how to safeguard your identity or this one on how to deal with a hacked social media account.

Stay alert. Stay ahead.