In today's cyber-landscape, hackers work around the clock manipulating malware in order to bypass corporate antivirus software and snag valuable data.
Imagine a typical day at work—you settle into your butt-numbingly uncomfortable chair, open up your inbox, and mentally prepare yourself for the next eight hours ahead. Just as the caffeine from your third cup of coffee begins to flow into your weary veins, hundreds of thieves out for company data surround the building, smashing into every window, furiously banging on every door, and creeping through every possible pipe or air duct the leads into the place. Horrifying, right? Believe it or not, this scenario happens every single day—and is probably happening to your company as we speak…well, virtually at least.
From the safe (albeit uncomfortable) perch behind a computer, it’s easy to assume that companies’ virtual environments mirror the organized humdrum of the physical office. Unfortunately for users, just behind the placid screens boasting cheery meadows and towering sun-drenched mountains, users’ systems often resemble the chaotic, plunderous scenario above.
While antivirus and antimalware programs are somewhat effective, with hackers constantly manipulating previously recognized malware into an unrecognizable program at the drop of a hat, it’s often hard for the overwraught virtual sentries to keep up with the shifting threatscape. Luckily, there are a few tell tale signs that will help you detect lurking hackers within your system so you can hopefully eradicate the problem before too much damage is done.
How to Tell if Your Network has Been Hacked
Luckily, there are a few tell tale signs that will help you detect lurking hackers within your system so you can hopefully eradicate the problem before too much damage is done.
1. Fake Antivirus Messages: The mosquito of the malware world, this pesky, ubiquitous and potentially deadly malware is a surefire way to recognize that your system has been compromised. The worst part? By the time you see the fake antivirus warning it’s already too late—the malicious software has already slithered in through unpatched software in order to exploit your system. The incriminating pop up is there to lure users to a professional-looking website selling fake products guaranteed to rid your computer of its current “viruses”. There, malicious hackers can siphon off your personal financial information. I think you can figure out what happens next...it ain't pretty.
What to do:
Before you go careening into panic mode, first make sure that the pop up isn’t actually your own legitimate antivirus software alerting you of a real virus. Once you’ve figured out that the antivirus message is fake; still don’t go into panic mode—that never helps anyone. Instead, immediately shut down your computer and restart it in "Safe Mode, No Networking" and try to uninstall the software. Oftentimes, it can be uninstalled like a regular program. Try to restore your system to a state previous to the exploitation then follow it up with a complete antivirus scan.
2. Your Passwords Have Changed: If one or more of your online passwords change without warning then you, or the online service connected to your account, have probably been hacked. This usually occurs when a victim falls prey to phishing--authentic-looking counterfeit emails that claim to be from the vendor snag your account information and subsequently steal money from you and your acquaintances.
What to do:
The best defense? Go off the grid--become a mole person. Your shifty eyes, hardened disposition, and absolute lack of faith in mankind will assure that you won’t ever fall victim to sham emails again. Ok, maybe that is a little unrealistic—it would still probably work though. If you don’t want to go the mole-person route, you should contact the company who is providing the service. Hopefully they will be able to reset your account before too much damage is done. Furthermore, notify all your contacts about your compromised account in order to minimize collateral damage to friends and acquaintances. To avoid this hassle in the future, whenever you have a doubt about a suspicious email, simply go to the website itself to check if it is asking for the same information.
3. New Programs Installed: Malware programs these days often slither their way into your system by piggy backing on legitimate programs, allowing the hacker to surreptitiously gain access to large amounts of information stored on your computer. By hitching a ride with newly installed programs (that the user actually wants), this malware walks right in the front door, so to speak, in order to pilfer data and ultimately hard earned cash.
What to do:
In situations like these, it's best to break out the old Boy Scout motto "Always be prepared". The best defense against sneaky intruders is to Install highly-rated commercial (i.e. not the free stuff) antivirus and antimalware software on your computer. Although their price point hovers around $40, the supieror protection these powerhouses deliver will be well worth it in the end. If you’re the belts and suspenders type, having both antivirus AND antimalware software in place is even better. In the unfortunate event that malware slips through the cracks of one program, the other one will be there to pick up the slack.
References: Grimes, Roger. "11 Signs You've Been Hacked." Infoworld. Infoworld. Web. 26 June 2015. . , Bradbury, Danny. "How to Tell If You've Been Hacked." The Guardian. Web. 26 June 2015. .