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.