How do you know if you’ve been hacked? There are several dead giveaways, such as unwanted and unexpected installs, mouse pointers gone rogue, and internet searches that you initiate but that somehow get redirected to sites you have no interest in, and may be extremely offensive or even pornographic.
If you think you’ve been ‘owned,’ here’s how to make sure and what to do about it:
You’ve got Ransomware
This is pretty easy to spot; your computer locks you out of your own accounts and you get an email saying it can all be unlocked by paying a fee — the ransome — usually in some kind of cryptocurrency.
Don’t panic. If you’re data backup is real good, then to recover your data files just contact your file storage service in the cloud, because it’s pretty certain they have your data on backup copies. Cloud tech support can do amazing things in getting your personal data back without having to pay hackers anything.
Fakey antivirus alerts
Never open an email or alert from an unknown account, especially one with a heading that has exclamation marks, misspelled words, and your full name instead of the name your friends, family, and colleagues know you by. Delete any such message immediately.
And if a cookie pops up offering you a suspect antivirus scan you know your computer has already been compromised. In that case power down your computer and then start it up in Safe Mode. This will give you the opportunity to uninstall any unwanted antivirus ware that some enterprising hacker has already installed on your machine and which you will be billed for if you don’t immediately get rid of it.
Unfamiliar browser toolbars
Bogus toolbars always come from vendors you’ve never heard of and that are misspelled or even in a foreign language. Never click on them. Simply dump them immediately the moment you spot them. You should make a habit of checking your regular toolbar icons at least once a week to make sure nothing wonky has snuck in, just waiting for you to click on it by accident or inattention.
Misdirected internet searches
Hackers love to get into your computer so they can redirect your searches. That’s because there are bad companies out there that actually pay hackers for every search they can redirect to their own website. In other words, you may be looking for an inexpensive flight to LA when suddenly you’re looking at some Lusty Ladies porno site, or worse.
To rid yourself of this nuisance just change your search settings to to full SafeSearch on Google and the problem pretty much disappears. But be warned — these kinds of hackers are extremely persistent and once they have gotten into your system they will try half a dozen other scams to get your personal data. So it’s best to shut down and reboot using a different format — if that’s something you don’t feel comfortable doing, either call in a computer expert or take your laptop/desktop into a reputable computer repair shop and have them do it.