Unfortunately, the answer to the question “have I been hacked?” is no. or “was I hacked?” can refer to various aspects of your digital life. Cybercriminals, for example, can hack or otherwise compromise your machine, email, or social media accounts in a variety of ways.
With this in mind, you’re probably worried about how the hacker (or hackers) got in, what they have access to, and what kind of terror they can inflict as a result of that access. Yes, looking for signs that you’ve been hacked will keep you awake at night. There is, however, some good news (finally, right?): there are methods for detecting when and how a hacker strikes.
We’ll go through 10 signs that you’ve been hacked in this post, as well as what you can do afterward to help keep it from happening again. We’ve even got you protected if you’re here because “I’ve been hacked and don’t know what to do now.”
How to Know If You’ve Been Hacked: 10 Signs You’ve Been Hacked
Hackers can gain access to almost any digital device. In 2018, over 2.5 billion user accounts were hacked (and that’s just the total amount of accounts compromised in the top 15 hacks of the year). I know, it’s terrifying! Since some cybercriminals do it for the glory/recognition, you might be able to tell right away whether you’ve been hacked. However, you may have no idea you’ve been compromised in certain situations — and that’s on purpose.
Users often experience problems with their personal computer/laptop, social media accounts, and email. And if one of these things is hacked or compromised, all three are likely to be compromised.
Your screen, email, and social media accounts are all extensions of yourself. With 79 percent of smartphone users making an online purchase using their mobile device, it’s also a gateway to your finances. That’s why it’s important to recognise the signs that one of these things has been compromised, or how to tell if you’ve been hacked…
Have I Been Hacked? Evidence of Compromise on Social Media
If anyone had access to your social media accounts, they may cause havoc in a variety of ways. We don’t need to go through a slew of social media fraud figures to show you how far back it can go. After all, they could smear your name, defraud your friends and colleagues, or keep your accounts hostage.
I know, it’s terrifying. It’s crucial to know what to look for if you’ve been hacked — or suspect you’ve been hacked. Here are some common indicators that you’ve been hacked:
1. A Friend Receives a Message from You That You Didn’t Send
If you discover messages you didn’t write or send, or if a friend mentions receiving a direct message you didn’t send, it’s highly likely that a hacker has gained access to your social media account. This is particularly worrying if the sender of the messages is requesting anything, such as access to your friend’s account.
2. Messages or Tweets Appear That You Didn’t Post
Another indication that you’ve been hacked is if you look at your wall or feed and see posts that you didn’t make. There would almost certainly be spammy messages, such as product ads or links to unfamiliar websites.
3. The Accounts/Users You Follow Spike
This is a less obvious warning sign. If you find yourself unexpectedly following a slew of new users or profiles, this may be an indication that your social media account has been hacked. This will almost certainly be carried out by a hacker who sells followers.
If you’re following accounts you don’t recall following, DM them to make sure it’s not an old account you used to follow that has simply changed their name and concept.
4. You Receive an Alert of an Unrecognizable Login or You Cannot Log In Yourself
If you’ve been locked out of your account, it’s possible that it’s been hacked. If you get an email warning that says something like “We found a login from an unrecognised computer,” you should be concerned.
If you get a message like this, try to remember if you signed in on a different account. In most social media sites, you can even see where you last logged in. If you see a password for a strange place, it’s very possible that the account has been hacked.
Was I Hacked? Evidence of Compromise on Email
Your email address is frequently the hub of all of your other online accounts. You use it for a variety of things, including password resets and two-factor or multi-factor authentication (2FA or MFA). After all, if cybercriminals can get into your email account, they can also get into any other accounts that are connected to it! This is why it’s important to be aware of the most popular indicators that your email has been hacked.
If you believe your email has been hacked, it may have been exposed as part of a previous data breach. The Yahoo data breach, which exposed the personal information of 500 million people, is one of the most well-known data breaches. Haveibeenpwned.com is a fantastic resource for finding out whether your email was compromised in a previous data breach. Simply type your email address into the search bar, and it will inform you whether or not that email was involved in a data breach, as well as the specifics of the case.
5. You Find Emails You Didn’t Send
If you learn about it from a friend or coworker, or you find weird emails in your outbox on your own, the outcome is likely to be the same. Someone has gained access to your account and is spamming or phishing your email list. These emails may be sent from your email address and include the following:
It could be done for some sick kind of gratification and to get your account blocked, or it could be done to spread malware and infect more people.
Alternatively, if it’s your professional email, they may be attempting to defraud your company or employer by using your good name.
6. You’re Locked Out of Your Email or Receive a New Unrecognized Device Alert
If you can’t log into your inbox, it’s a good bet that your account has been hacked. The same is true if you receive notification that a new device has signed into your account. The IP address of the last few logins is usually available from most email service providers. If you have access, double-check the location of the last login. If it comes from an unknown source, it’s possible that your email has been hacked.
Have I Been Hacked on My Computer?
Our personal computers/laptops are something we all adore. There are all of our memories, innovative ideas, passwords, and applications saved there. The last thing anybody needs is for a stranger to appear in their home. Here are some indicators that your computer has been hacked.
7. Everything Mentioned Above
If you see the signs mentioned above in your social media or email, it’s possible that your machine has been hacked. If anyone gains access to your computer, they will have easy access to all of your saved logins, including those for social media and email.
8. Your Computer Is Suddenly Slow or Crashing
If your machine was previously in good working order but is now extremely slow or often crashes, it is possible that you have downloaded malware. It’s possible you got it from a phishing website or email, a free software programme, a file-sharing programme, or another source.
Regardless of how malware enters your device, removing it can be a difficult task (more on that in a bit). To see if the programme can find something to quarantine, run complete antivirus and anti-malware scans.
9. You’re Locked Out
If you’re locked out of your machine, much like your email or social media, it’s possible that a hacker has taken control of your computer and changed your password.
This may have serious ramifications. It’s possible that you’ve been locked out of your device due to ransomware. Ransomware is a form of malicious software that encrypts your files or prevents you from accessing your computer. The hacker would then keep your data or access for ransom in order to extract payment.
10. You Notice Unusual Actions or Setting Changes
It’s a good indication that your computer has been hacked or compromised if you notice anything unusual on it, such as changed settings or new programmes being installed. Modifications may include the following:
- Changes to the default home pages of your browsers,
- In your tab, there are new widgets.
- On your laptop, there are new applications or services.
- Programs that open and connect to the internet automatically,
- And pretty much everything else that stands out as novel or unique.
Another red flag is whether your antivirus or antimalware software is turned off or difficult to activate.
What to Do After You Find Signs That You’ve Been Hacked
So, you’ve discovered evidence that you’ve been hacked, and you’re probably wondering what to do next. Here are a few ways to lessen the effect of a compromised account or computer.
Secure Your Social Media & Email Accounts
Change Your Password
If you have access to an account that you suspect has been hacked or compromised, change your password immediately! At the very least, you’ll be able to keep the hacker out. DO NOT REUSE OLD PASSWORDS OR USE PASSWORDS THAT ARE Identical TO PASSWORDS ON OTHER ACCOUNTS. A good rule of thumb is to use special characters, numbers, lower case letters, and capital letters to construct a password that is at least 15 characters long.
To be secure, you should change the passwords to all of your accounts, including social media accounts, other addresses, your computer login, and any other accounts that may be linked.
Contact the Provider/Servicer/Host
This is particularly useful if you are unable to access your email or social media accounts. Fortunately, unique sites have a wealth of tools tailored to that situation. I’ve compiled a list of tools for you on how to disclose or restore your account on various social media platforms:
Clean and Secure Your Home Computer/Laptop
Completely Disconnect Your Computer
If your machine is linked to the internet in some way, the hacker can be able to gain access to your computer. It’s important to unplug your machine from all power sources. Since you don’t know how the hacker got hold of your device, I suggest disconnecting it from:
- All Wi-Fi access
- Ethernet cables
- Your router
- Your power outlet
Be Proactive and Contact Your Bank
When your personal computer is hacked, you have no idea how much harm has been done. It is important to be proactive. To do so, contact your bank and other payment processors (PayPal) ahead of time to avoid any hacker attempts. You may also contact your boss or close friends/family if they suspect or have suspected suspicious activity coming from your email or another means of communication.
Clean Your Hard Drive
There are a few options for accomplishing this. The best method is to wipe your hard drive clean (restore it to factory settings). Many data destruction software programmes are available that can help you with this. These are simple to use and typically require you to instal the software from an external source, such as inserting a disc or USB drive into your device. Of course, you’ll want to double-check that you have a current backup of your files and other records.
If you don’t want to restore your hard drive and just want to retrieve your files, there is a way to do so. Start by disconnecting your infected computer’s hard drives and connecting them to a second computer. Simply place the hard drive in a hard drive enclosure and attach it to your second computer via USB.
Run an antivirus and antimalware software once you’ve linked. You should back up the data you want to retain until all infections have been detected and removed (photos, documents and so on). To be absolutely secure, you can also wipe your hard drives clean using the aforementioned data destruction programmes.
NOTE: You run the risk of infecting your other machine if you don’t wipe your hard drives and try to clean them with a second device. I recommend absolutely wiping the hard drives and not attempting to clean them. In an emergency, you can also call a data recovery specialist.
Now That You Can Say “I’ve Been Hacked,” Let’s Rebuild Your Setup to Avoid Another Incident
It’s time to get your machine back up and running after you’ve reinserted your clean hard drives. Reinstalling your operating system and drivers is the first step. Be sure to layer your device with some security before reinstalling your Internet drivers. On your computer, instal an antivirus/antimalware software. An external computer, such as a USB, may be used to mount this.
The next move is to update your passwords for all of your accounts, or build new ones if you think your email and social media accounts have been compromised. I know it’s becoming a pain, but it’s better to be safe than sorry (again). New passwords should be at least 15 characters long and include special characters, numbers, lower case letters, and capital letters, as previously stated.
In the future, make sure to change both your passwords and your antivirus/anti-malware programmes on a regular basis.
More Advice on How to Stay Safe in the Future
There are a few other tricks that will help you avoid being hacked again, in addition to antivirus/antimalware and long, new passwords.
Just interact with HTTPS-protected websites. The padlock icon next to your URL will let you know if they are.
Even better, by clicking on the icon, you can see whether the website is encrypted with an EV or OV SSL certificate and verify their organisational information. Learn about the SSL validation process and how it works by reading this blog.
- Don’t click on links or attachments in emails or text messages that you don’t recognise.
- Accepting friend requests or following requests from people you don’t know is a bad idea (unless you’re in a professional environment where you can verify the user, like LinkedIn).
- Two-factor authentication can be used. Combining a password with a code sent to your phone through text is an example of this. Potential hackers will face more challenges as a result of this.
- Don’t use shared or public computers to log into sensitive accounts.
- Where possible, avoid using public Wi-Fi.
- Maintain the devices and hardware by keeping them up to date and patched. A tool that can search for bugs and fix them for you is a great investment if you own a website.
Last but not least, how do you know if you’ve been hacked? (& How to Respond)
Our journey has come to a close. If you’re wondering, “Have I been hacked?” I hope you now know what signs to look for. and “Have I been hacked?”
As well as some pointers on how to minimise the problem as much as possible after the fact. Best of luck, and don’t forget to:
Keep an eye out for signs that your account has been compromised, act quickly to report, restore, and protect your account, and follow the best practises mentioned above!