7 Signs Your PC Has Been Hacked

The majority of households in the United States today own some type of PC, which is used for a wide range of activities, such as gaming, graphic design, sorting photos and music, paying bills, and simply browsing the Internet. However, a PC also often allows hackers to gain a direct line into your life and wreak havoc on both your PC and in the real world. While you may not think it could happen to you, you should know that millions of PCs become infected with viruses and malware each day.

Many of these viruses are relatively harmless, and may only slow down your computer or annoy you with a multitude of popup ads. However, more malicious code is capable of stealing your usernames and passwords to various websites, which can be detrimental and even lead to identity theft. If you think that your computer may be infected, it is always best to research the signs of an infected PC and then follow up with a complete antivirus scan.

It is always more beneficial to discover a virus or malware sooner rather than later, so be sure and read on to learn about the most common signs that will reveal whether your PC has been hacked or not. If your PC exhibits some or all of these signs, definitely follow up with a complete antivirus scan, preferably using a cloud-based antivirus program such as Immunet or Panda, as this type of application will be updated automatically to protect your PC against the latest threats.

Is Your PC Hacked?—Signs to Watch For

1.  Your Computer is Slow

Given the age of your computer, it may not run as fast as some newer PCs. But if you feel there is a noticeable difference in how quickly it used to run and how it is running now, then you may have malicious code on your PC. Viruses and malware often tend to slow down computer processes. While this doesn’t always necessarily indicate a hacker has invaded your computer, it would be worthwhile to follow up with a complete antivirus scan just to be safe.

2.  An Increase in Popups 

If you aren’t used to getting a lot of popups and all of a sudden start receiving multitudes of them, then there is most likely malicious code on your PC. There are several causes of popup attacks aside from hackers, but which can also indicate that your PC has been hacked, which are described below.

3.  Unwanted browser toolbars

Have you ever installed new software, and received a message during the install process asking if you would like to install a customized browser toolbar? This is normal. But what isn’t normal is when your browser suddenly appears with toolbars that you never asked for. You can usually remove unwanted toolbars pretty easily through your browser preferences, but if your computer has been hacked, they are likely to reappear.

4.  Popups or computer warnings related to viruses 

You may have seen your PC suddenly warning you about viruses, or popups appearing doing the same. These warnings and messages often appear with a sense of urgency, and direct you to download and try an antivirus program immediately to keep your computer protected. But unless you recognize the source as one of your own applications, it is best to avoid responding and then follow up with a complete antivirus scan.

That’s because these warnings and popups are actually coming from malicious code deposited on your computer by hackers. The malware appears to let you know that your computer is very infected, causing you to want to take the necessary steps to remove the viruses. You are directed to a website for an apparent virus scan application, at which point you enter your information and credit card number to purchase the application. But in reality you’ve just given up a large amount of personal information that can really mess with your banking and financial future.

5.  Your passwords have changed without your knowledge 

You might not even realize it until you try to log into a site, but by then it is usually too late and a great headache to attempt to rectify. Hackers have somehow managed to steal your username and password, typically through malware on your PC. Phishing through emails and fake website links are also responsible for your user information being compromised. This can be very bad for you if the hacker has gained access to financial websites such as banks or credit card companies.

6.  You see your mouse moving without you controlling it 

A definite sign that your computer is hacked, and is actually being controlled remotely by the hacker. This doesn’t refer to small random movements due to hardware on your PC, but actually movements between programs or those that start the application. Typically hackers attempt to manipulate your PC during hours that you may not be awake or if it has been sitting idle for a while, but you may still catch them at times. If you see this type of activity, use another PC to change all your passwords immediately, and then follow up with a complete antivirus scan using a cloud-based antivirus program such as Immunet so that you are sure to be ready for the latest malware and viruses.

7.  Internet searches lead to unrelated sites 

Malware is sometimes designed to make you go to sites you wouldn’t necessarily go to. If you find your Internet searches and link clicks are redirecting you to other sites, this could also indicate a hacker has infected your PC.

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Patrick Fiorenza

Thanks for sharing – some good advice for people to keep an eye out to see if their computer has been hacked. One additional best practice is just be sure to always check that you have the latest version of your virus protection service updated, easy way to stay secure from common vulnerabilities.

Mark Hammer

I was recently the recipient of such a plague. Constant “surveys” popping up (all of which pretended to be connected to whatever website I happened to be on at that moment), as well as warnings that this or that was out of date on my machine, instantly followed by screens offering professional tech support, as well as so many pop-up ads in the middle of my browser window that I could not assure my cursor was sitting atop what I intended it to be, when I clicked. I pursued a solution for several weeks, trying at least a half-dozen anti-malware cures, all of which fixed *something*, but none of which got rid of the problem in total.

Two suggestions, however, parted the clouds and let the sun shine in. One involved “resetting” my browser. I am running Firefox 32 or 33 (somewhere in the lower 30’s). When I finally managed to see one of the URLs that kept changing on the screen, I decided to look it up. And what should pop up in a Google search but this page: http://malwaretips.com/blogs/serve-bannersdontwork-com-removal/ That it was the first hit suggests it was the cure to a very common problem. I followed the instructions laid out, and everything has returned to blissful normal.

For Firefox, in simplified form, note the following:
1) There is a three-bar icon in the upper right of your screen. Click on it and a tools menu will pull down.
2) At the bottom of the tools menu is a ? icon for Help. Click on that.
3) Another roll-down menu will appear, with one of the choices being Troubleshooting Information. Click on that.
4) Yet another screen will now appear, in in the upper right of that, you will see a small sub-window that says “Reset Firefox” Click on that and you’re home free. All bookmarks are preserved.

The link I gave above provides instructions for several different browsers, in case you don’t use Firefox.

The second suggestion I followed that proved useful was a free add-on for Firefox called Ghostery. It is an unobtrusive add-on that shows you what services are tracking you, and allows you to block them. I had no idea so many analytics firms were using my data when I go to something as seemingly benign as the Washington Post site. You can find it here: https://www.ghostery.com/en/ and it also comes in different flavours for several different browsers.

I remember the old Bitnet/Arpanet days with fondness, when the only points of contact for one’s communication or data were universities and defense, with nobody trying to steal anything from you. Once there was money to be made, whether honestly or dishonestly, the floodgates opened.