Staying Safe Online – Part 3

In the previous article, we detailed some safety precautions and guidelines for staying safe online but just like it true that nothing is private online it is also true that you cannot fully rely on anti-virus software for protection simply because they are prone to human error and because cybercriminals can often outsmart them by creating completely new attacks that have not been catered for in the existing protective software. So, you may still fall prey of the dangers we learned about in the article about dangers of our online activity.

For techies like myself, it may be easy to spot a hack in a fairly short period of time but how do you know if any of your accounts have been hacked or are at a greater risk of being hacked? Following are some signs you can look out for if you suspect that you have been hacked.

Signs that you have been hacked

1. You get a ransomware message

A sudden screen take-over telling you that all your data is encrypted (coded) and asking for a payment to unlock it. Small and large businesses, hospitals, police stations and cities are brought to a halt by ransomware, with 50% of them paying the ransom. However, paying the ransom does not result in working systems 40% of the time.

2. You get a fake antivirus message

A pop-up message pretending to be an antivirus scanning product and reports to have found a lot of infections on your computer. This can happen if your system is already compromised but is not always the case.

3. You have unwanted browser toolbars

Having multiple new toolbars with names that make them seem like useful toolbars, is a common sign of exploitation.

4. Your internet searches are redirected

Hackers get paid for getting your clicks to appear on someone else’s website, they make their living by taking your browser somewhere you don’t want to go. These redirects are now well engineered and are hidden from users through additional proxies, so one needs to be extra alert to pick this up.

5. You see frequent, random popups

Like a constant knock on your door that has a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, this is popular sign is one of the more annoying ones. When you are seeing random browser popups from websites that don’t usually have them, your system has been compromised.

6. Your friends and family receive social media invitations from you that you didn’t send

Commonly, once a hacker has broken into your social media account, they will create a new account with the same appearance (at face value) as your original account and start sending invites to people that you are already connected to on that social media platform. If not that, they will start contacting your friends and start making requests in your name that you normally wouldn’t make but they have a way of making them believable. You will know about this if one of your friends is alarmed and notifies you of this activity.

7. An online password is not working

If you are sure that you are typing in your password correctly and it’s not working, chances are you have been hacked. This usually happens after you (the victim) responded to a phishing email that claimed to be from your service provider.

8. You get unexpected software installations

Unwanted and unexpected software installations taking place on your computer are a signal that it has been broken into. These applications will install themselves legally like legitimate programs, through other programs, so read your license agreements on any software that you intentionally install.

9. Your mouse moves between programs and makes selections on its own

It is common for mouse pointers to move randomly, due to hardware problems. However, you’ve definitely been hacked if your mouse pointer moves itself while making selections that work (or respond appropriately to the click).

10. Anti-Malware, Task Manager or Registry Editor is disabled

If you notice that your antivirus is disabled and you are not the one who did it, your computer has been compromised, especially if your Task Manager or Registry Editor won’t start, or they start and disappear within seconds before you can do anything.

11. You notice account transactions that you did not authorize

Money transfers and transactions are reported on your account, but you do not recognise them as transfers or transactions you made. Some of the transactions may be unnoticeably and some may be for large amounts that you wouldn’t normally spend and often the transfers are of large amounts to foreign exchange or bank.

12. Confidential data has been leaked

Often big organisations (such as banks, hospitals, and such like) that we associate our persona l information with are targeted by cybercriminals and you will hear of data breaches where large sets of data have been stolen and exposed to the public or malicious beings. You will often hear about this in the media. Because in this case there are thousands of accounts involved you may get off lucky such that your accounts will not be reached before the breach has been fully investigated and the organisations taken necessary action to protect you.

These are the signs to stay on the look out for and as soon as you notice them take necessary action to either prevent granting permission to a hacker or to recover from a compromise. We will discuss what to do in the case of having experienced having an account or your system hacked.