Written by Deepan Ghimiray
Published on January 2, 2022

How to tell if you’ve been hacked

Sometimes it’s easy to tell if you’ve been hacked, but sophisticated attacks can be difficult to detect. Knowing what hacking is or the obvious signs doesn’t mean you’ll recognize it when it’s happening. A hacked computer can go undetected for a while, so it’s best to catch any unusual activity early.

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    Here are the clearest signs that you’ve been hacked:

    Understanding how these signs affect your device is crucial for fighting back against hackers. Let’s look at each of these signs in more detail, to get a clearer picture of the possible damage and to help you better protect your computer and your data.

    icon_01Unauthorized software installation

    Malicious software such as worms and Trojans can install themselves like legitimate programs. This unwanted software may even be installed legally through other programs — it should be stated in the license agreements. Sometimes you can opt out of these additional installations, but other times you can’t. Figure out if the app is risky and if you truly need it.

    Getting rid of bloatware and deleting PUPs (potentially unwanted programs) can speed up your device and potentially keep you safe.

    icon_02Messages from fake antivirus software

    Alerts from an antivirus program you don’t have installed are a common tactic of scareware. This type of malware will claim that your device is infected and urge you to take immediate action. Though scareware can infect your device, most scareware operates via browser pop-ups. To get rid of it, reset your browser and block pop-ups.

    icon_03Your data has been leaked

    Data leaks often feature in high-profile stories about influential people and companies being hacked by the most dangerous hackers today. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you — especially if an organization with your data on file gets breached. Data leaks can result in credit card fraud, identity theft, and the sale of your information on the dark web.

    It’s vital to keep your data secure. Learn how to minimize damage from data breaches, and look out for signs your phone has been hacked.

    icon_04Unknown browser toolbars

    Unknown toolbars in your browser can indicate the presence of a form of malware known as browser hijackers. These fake toolbars are usually installed by free programs, and it’s relatively easy to remove browser hijackers. If the toolbar isn’t from a legitimate vendor, get rid of it.

    icon_05Unusual network traffic patterns

    Detecting strange network traffic patterns has stopped many networks from being hacked. Understanding legitimate network traffic patterns can stop hackers before they do serious damage. Network traffic patterns are complex, but commercial solutions, like sniffer software, can keep track of your internet traffic.

    The best tool against hackers is prevention. But detecting the signs of a potential data breach isn’t easy. AVG AntiVirus FREE stops viruses, spyware, and malware with six powerful layers of protection. And with real-time updates from the world’s largest virus database, you’ll be protected against the latest threats before they strike.

    Stop the damage before it’s done with AVG AntiVirus FREE.

    How to check if your email has been hacked

    Since many of your emails contain private information about you and your contacts, keeping your email account secure is crucial for deterring hackers. Hackers can use your email content for everything from email scams to identity theft.

    Although you can defend yourself and your contacts with proven email security tips, there are many ways your email account can be hacked. Always look out for the signs of a potential email breach.

    Here’s how to check if your email has been hacked:

    • Your account is sending messages without your knowledge: It’s likely that an outside party has your login credentials.

    • You’re being asked to confirm an unknown password change: Someone might be attempting to take over your account.

    • You’re alerted to a login attempt from an unfamiliar IP address: Although mobile devices commonly use many IP addresses, be aware of geolocation changes, such as login attempts from other countries.

    A hacking alert from Gmail.A hacking alert from Google.

    What to do if you’ve been hacked

    If your device has been hacked, act quickly to reduce the potential damage. Recovering control of your devices and accounts from hackers is necessary for keeping you and others safe. Data leaks and compromised accounts can also affect others in your personal and professional network.

    Here’s what to do if you’ve been hacked:

    Update your antivirus software and scan

    A hacked device is a target for all kinds of malware and other threats. Antivirus software is your first line of defense against hackers trying to access your devices. Update your antivirus software so it can detect the most recent threats. From there, run a scan for any infections on your device.

    If you’re looking for strong, secure, and streamlined antivirus software to fight off hackers, get AVG AntiVirus FREE. Enjoy comprehensive malware protection that stops threats in their tracks, and an email shield to block dangerous email attachments.

    AVG AntiVirus FREE blocks hacks and other threats.

    Plus, AVG AntiVirus FREE will automatically update in real time via the world’s largest virus database — so you’ll always be ahead of the latest threats. Download AVG AntiVirus FREE and start protecting yourself against hackers today.

    Change all your passwords

    Hackers use many techniques to crack your passwords. If you’ve been hacked, or if any of your passwords were leaked, change all your passwords to protect yourself from further damage. Create long and hard-to-guess passwords to keep hackers out, and don’t recycle them for different accounts.

    But setting up these unique and hard-to-crack passwords for all your accounts can get tedious, and you may struggle to remember them all. That’s why you should use a password manager. The best password managers create super-strong passwords for all your accounts and store them securely, so you don’t have to.

    Enable two-factor authentication

    Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a second line of defense, in addition to your password. It’s another login step — such as a fingerprint scan or authentication code — in case anyone steals your password.

    If you’ve been hacked, it could happen again, since hackers prey on weak security features. Enabling 2FA will make it much more difficult for hackers — for more information, check out our full guide to two-factor authentication.

    Reclaim your online accounts

    From stealing valuable information to sending malicious or embarrassing content to your network, compromised accounts can lead to a variety of problems. Additionally, hackers might lock you out of your own accounts.

    Major online services like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook offer tools to help verify real account users. If these tools aren’t available for some online services, familiarize yourself with their policies and procedures for recovering accounts, then proceed from there.

    Perform a full restore

    If you’re concerned about how to get rid of hacking traces entirely, a full restore is one of your best tools. Just remember that because you will be wiping your device completely, you need to back up all your important files to an external disk or clone your hard drive so that you’ll still have them after the full system restore.

    Spread the word

    Hacking can put all your online connections — friends, family, professional contacts — in danger. After compromising your devices, hackers can infect your contacts. If you’ve been hacked, reach out to your network and inform them so they can take steps to protect themselves — and their networks. Advise them to look out for any suspicious or unusual activity.

    If you get hacked, warn your contacts to stop the spread of malware.If you get hacked, warn your contacts to stop the spread of malware.

    How to stop being hacked

    The best security method against getting hacked is prevention. AVG BreachGuard will scan and monitor your accounts around the clock for leaks or suspicious activity. In the event you are hacked, AVG BreachGuard will walk you through the process of recovering your accounts.

    Here are some other ways to stop hackers:

    • Never leave your devices unattended in public. Leaving your phone or laptop lying around can easily lead to a breach in security, if not outright theft. Considering the value of your devices — and the information they contain — you should protect them like you would your wallet.

    • Back up all your files. Even if you practice good online hygiene, you may get hacked anyway. But if it ever happens to you, be prepared with a backup of all your files via USB, external hard drive, and/or cloud storage. This way, if you ever have to perform a full system restore, your important files will be safe.

    • Don't overshare on social media. Hackers are always on the lookout for people who overshare personal information on social media. Always assess the contents of your posts to make sure nothing can be used against you and your network.

    • Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Everyone loves the sound of free internet, but unfortunately public Wi-Fi is very risky. Just like hacking into a router, unsecured wireless networks are notoriously easy to hack. When you log into that airport Wi-Fi to check your email, you could be making yourself vulnerable to a variety of attacks.

    Protect yourself against hackers with AVG Antivirus

    These days, even your car can be hacked — hackers have so many ways of compromising your security. The fallout of hacking can be devastating, but don’t let them spoil your online experience. AVG AntiVirus FREE will help you sleep easy with powerful, easy-to-use features that bring hackers to a halt.

    AVG AntiVirus FREE has a built-in email shield, real-time updates, phishing protection, and world-class malware security for multiple lines of defense against hackers. The firewall adds an extra layer of advanced protection that zaps hackers before they do any serious damage. For a powerful and comprehensive tool against hacking, download AVG AntiVirus FREE today.

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    Deepan Ghimiray