Have you been hacked? Watch for 5 symptoms

If you’ve ever been affected by a malicious attack, you know how much of a pain it is to get your computer back to normal. Antivirus software has advanced over time, but so have hackers’ tactics. These symptoms can be signs that your machine has been compromised.

Fake antivirus messages and random pop-ups

The purpose of this type of message or pop-up is to get you to click on it, which links you to a fake “antivirus” website requesting credit card or billing information. It is the simplest way for hackers to dupe users into handing over financial information unknowingly.

Unwanted browser toolbars

A common sign of infiltration, unwanted toolbars can suddenly appear at the top of your Internet browser and mimic existing applications. This can open the floodgates for pop-ups, redirected web pages, and other malicious activity.

Phony outgoing emails

This tactic was more common a decade or so ago, when address-hunting viruses were attached to malicious email messages. Today, hackers tend to steal email addresses off of social media sites, which means they have access to an incomplete list of contacts. If only a few of your contacts receive spam emails, then your machine is probably OK. If your entire address book receives an infected email, then it’s likely time to take your computer to a professional.

Passwords mysteriously change

Fake service emails are popular for hackers who wish to gain access to your online accounts. If you receive an unexpected “change password” email from any site, be sure to call and confirm that it is legitimate, as this could be a deceptive email intended to steal your information. Once a hacker acquires this data, it can be virtually impossible to regain access.

Suspicious mouse cursor movement

Cursors can sometimes move randomly because of hard-drive errors or glitches, but this can also be the work of a cybercriminal. If the movement is short and random, there is no need to panic. However, if you notice your cursor moving logically or opening specific programs, then someone else is controlling it. If this occurs, disconnect from the Internet or shut down your computer immediately to prevent access to your personal data.

The bottom line is that no program or software exists that can entirely prevent hacks and/or virus infections. Keep an eye out for these computer symptoms and be sure to back up your important files in case your computer becomes compromised.

Hans Broman, a sales and marketing strategist at iPoint in Fort Collins, can be reached at hbroman@ipoint-tech.com.

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