What to Do if Your Computer Gets Hacked?

It’s one of the biggest fears out there for any computer user⸺getting hacked. Even though computer systems go through regular updates to prevent unwanted lurkers from infecting our computers with viruses or malware, the chances of getting hacked are still pretty high. 

There are ways to prevent this and to better protect your devices so that no one has access to your personal information without getting through multiple layers of security. 

But what do you do if one of your devices or accounts gets hacked? Do you need to take your computer somewhere? Should you dispose of the device altogether? 

Though it may be tough, depending on the type of hacking you experience, there are solutions available to get through this. Don’t panic just yet. 

What Is Hacking?

Before you try to fix your computer, it’s important to understand what constitutes hacking. 

Whenever someone brings up the term “hacking,” they are referring to someone infiltrating a computer without permission from the owner; this could mean anything from hacking social media and banking accounts to taking over your entire system and hacking your computer. 

Think of it like a stranger walking into your house without permission and taking over your personal items. That’s what hacking is, except it’s the digital form of someone breaking into your house. 

How to Know if Someone Hacked Your Computer

Sometimes, as users, we choose to ignore signs that point to our device or account being hacked. Maybe you notice more pop-ups than usual. Or perhaps you receive emails in your inbox that look like they’re real, but when you open them, they’re just offers or “verification” emails to get you to click on something that’s probably a little shady. 

It is very possible that someone hacked your computer and you haven’t noticed it yet. Not all hacking is aggressive and blatantly obvious. 

Here are some signs you should look out for if you suspect someone hacked your devices.

  1. Pop-Ups
    It is common to see a pop-up on a website that you’re on offering 10% off on your next purchase. However, it is not normal to have pop-ups on your computer right when you turn it on.
    Pop-ups are a sure way to start questioning whether someone hacked your device, especially if the pop-ups are prompting you to go to websites that you would never visit on your own, seem inappropriate, or that keep enticing you to download some type of antivirus software on your computer.
  2. Emails
    Most people do not go through their “Sent” folders in their email accounts often, but it might not be a bad idea to look through them.
    Hackers have a tendency to send mass emails to a user’s contact lists with links that prompt them to click on offers that look real but that, in reality, are a gateway to viruses and malware.
    Since you are a trusted source, instead of those mass emails going into the “Junk” folder, they will go directly into a contact’s inbox simply because the email appears to come from you. This is a common tactic that hackers use often.
  3. Computer Crashing
    Let’s be honest your computer should not be crashing. However, if you notice that your computer is frequently shutting down when you’re in the middle of something, then you someone is probably hacking your computer.
    Sure, there might be other legitimate reasons the computer is crashing. It could be something to do with your hard drive, for example. But if your hard drive is brand new or you have never had problems with it before, there is an actual chance that the computer is crashing because someone hacked it.
  4. Unknown Programs
    Another sign that someone compromised your device is if you notice programs that you never downloaded start running in your computer background. Normally, with this type of hacking, you will probably notice some type of antivirus or malware program that you have never downloaded or have never heard of before.
  5. Password Changes
    This is probably the most obvious type of hacking, as it involves someone changing passwords for accounts that you use on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t remember changing your Facebook account password, received no type of email to warn you about the change, or any other type of security check-in, then your account was compromised.
    Pay close attention to your feed and see if there has been any unwarranted activity or posts that you did not make on your own. Best advice with this type of hacking is to change the password immediately and any other accounts associated with the same login information. 

What to Do if Your Computer Is Hacked

What to do next if you think your computer or private accounts have been hacked, really depends on what type of hacking was done. 

For example, if your credit card or checking account was hacked, the solution is simple. You simply call the bank, they corroborate the last few charges, close the account or freeze it, and issue you a new card or account. With just a phone call, you can regain access to the account and to all the features associated with it. 

With an email or social media account, it might be a little tougher to regain access. This is because if your hacker has access to your email, then resetting the password with your email account will not do much to mend the situation. It’s important to set up strong passwords and accounts that can use an alternate email to reset passwords. 

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a type of hacking in which the hacker takes over your identity. That means that the hacker can take control over social security numbers and credit reports. Essentially, the person pretending to be you online can cause some real life-long damage on your reputation, credit scores, and overall credibility. 

This type of hacking can be much harder to trace, detect, and eventually stop. The Federal Trade Commission offers valuable advice to help prevent identity theft among users. One of the principal things you can do to prevent identity theft is to consistently look at your credit report and see if there are new inquiries or accounts reported that are not yours. This is a great way to keep track of your accounts and anything reported to creditors. 

In modern times, it is practically impossible to not run any risks with our online presence. Our entire lives are online and, without proper protection, our personal information is available for anyone to view, change, or destroy. Hacking will never stop, but we can take an active role in our security and help stop hackers from accessing our information and devices.