In the first half of 2018, global data breaches compromised an estimated 4.5 billion data records worldwide. These attacks have seen millions of people’s personal and financial information put at risk, and demonstrate the need for security across all devices, whether business or personal.
Of course, the ideal solution is to avoid an attack in the first instance. By using a combination of regularly updated antivirus, a VPN service, and security best practices, you should be able to keep yourself protected. However, hackers are constantly working to get around the latest patches and restrictions, and are always on the lookout for new exploits and opportunities to attack. In some cases, it can be difficult to tell if your device has been hacked. These tell-tale signs will help you determine if you’ve been a victim of cyber crime, and what can you do to protect yourself.
A sure sign of an attack is a ransom message. Ransomware attacks, such as WannaCry, typically install malware on your device which blocks access to your data. A message will then appear demanding payment for its release. Sometimes this may also include a timer that could see the ransom rise, or threaten to destroy your data if it goes unpaid.
The best way to avoid ransom messages is to make sure you are running an antivirus package that includes Ransomware Protection, but the risk of losing data to this type of attack can be significantly reduced by ensuring that you keep regular backups. This way, if an attack does occur, you can simply restore your device.
Antivirus software is disabled
If you find your antivirus software has been stopped or Task Manager is behaving strangely, there is a very high chance that your device has been compromised. As it is unclear where the attack is originating from, it may not be safe to use some applications.
As with ransom messages, the pre-emptive solution is to make sure that you have kept a backup, as you will likely need to perform a complete restore of your device. But before taking that drastic step, boot your device into Safe Mode. This will restart your device with the bare minimum running and may allow you to delete affected software.
Your device is very slow
Some forms of attack are far subtler. Rather than targeting your data, the infected device may be used for background activities. This form of attack is deliberately hidden, which could make it difficult to spot at first. But if you are noticing that your device is significantly slower, or webpages are not loading correctly, this may be a sign of an attack.
Despite their efforts to be discreet, this form of attack can be simple to identify. Internet providers all track your data usage, and this information will be available to you through your account. If you can spot spikes in activity that do not match your typical usage, this could be a sign that your device is infected and being used for cryptojacking, or as part of a botnet.
Suspicious social invitations
Friend requests are not uncommon across social media, but if you receive a request from someone who is already in your network, be wary – this could mean that your friend has been hacked, and has either had their account hijacked or they are being impersonated.
The first thing to do is contact both the friend in question and others in your social circle, warning them to not accept suspicious friend requests.
To protect yourself from similar attacks, be sure to use all the security measures your accounts offer. In many cases, this includes two-factor authentication and using strong passwords.
Your password isn’t working
Phishing attacks are one of the most common forms of cybercrime. By targeting people with realistic-looking emails from reputable companies, they are able to fool the user into sharing secure information. If one of your passwords stops working, you should report this potential breach to the company in question, either directly through their website or by phone. This way you can confirm the validity of the emails you have received and if your account has been breached.
While everyone knows that it is important to use strong passwords, in practice there are so many accounts requiring different passwords that many people prefer to stick to just a few, memorable passwords. While this might make them easier to remember, they will also be easier to guess. In addition, if passwords are reused it means that every account sharing the same password could become vulnerable.
To be safe and secure, consider using a password manager. This tool will store all your passwords, meaning that you can use complex passwords on all of your accounts and you will only need to remember one.
Strange activity may not just be limited to the behaviour of your devices. If you have become the victim of a phishing attack, you may notice through suspicious activity on one of your various online accounts.
From unusual activity on your Netflix account to purchases you didn’t make on your bank statements, being vigilant for suspicious transactions can help you to spot them early and give you the best chance of cancelling unauthorised payments. The activity may seem small at first, but if these test purchases work, the hackers are likely to continue spending.