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How to Know You’ve Been Hacked & What to Do

Dashia Starr
Updated Feb 17, 2021
1 min read

From bill payments to movies, messages and handling our most personal information – everything is accessible with the click of a button. Of course, that convenience comes with a bigger concern – hackers. But how do you know when you’ve been hacked? And what do you do next?

5 Easy-to-Spot Signs You’ve Been Hacked

Hackers are constantly coming up with new, sneaky ways to break into your devices and accounts without leaving a trace. The signs aren’t always clear, but here are a few clues to watch out for.

  • 1

    Mysterious Activity

    Hackers target usernames, email addresses and passwords that hold payment details and personally identifiable information (PII) that could lead to identity theft. If you’ve noticed unauthorized purchases, messages or other activity that’s out of your norm that may be a red flag.

  • 2

    Unexplainable Downloads

    If you find new software on your computer or smartphone that you didn’t download, you should be concerned. Sometimes you may get automated software updates, but they should always be from apps and sites you’re familiar with.

  • 3

    More Data Usage

    Most telco providers offer more data than what we normally use, but you should still keep track of your monthly usage. If you notice more data being used than average and your activity hasn’t changed, you should be concerned. USA Today shared that tech gadgets with harmful ads can run unsolicited clicks without you knowing. You may also notice that it takes longer to load pages.

  • 4

    Changed Camera Settings

    If you notice that your home security camera or other devices have changes in settings such as a blinking light when your camera isn’t on or your computer cam randomly turns on and off, you’ll need to look into things.

  • 5

    Random Restarts and Activity

    If you’re in the middle of a task and your device randomly restarts without warning, that’s a strong warning sign – or a sign your device is about to break down. If your device is shutting off or certain features are disabled there’s a chance your equipment has an unauthorized user.

Help! I’ve Been Hacked.

If you’ve been hacked it’s critical to take the right steps to avoid further damage or run the risk of it happening again. Hackings can lead to identity theft, Here’s what to do:

  • Delete all PII or sensitive information from accounts ASAP. That includes your address, payment information and anything that could lead to identity theft.
  • Review all accounts and activity to see what hackers have targeted, and what’s safe. Even if one account hasn’t been hacked, make sure you change your passwords and usernames on others immediately. It may even be worth setting up new accounts and deleting old ones. Here’s a quick list of accounts to check and update ASAP:
    • Bank accounts
    • Credit card accounts
    • Email accounts
    • Social Media
    • Retailers
    • Any site where your PII is included
  • Report the cybercrime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Make sure you have as much information as possible to support your complaint. You should also inform the site so they’re aware and can give you more next steps.
  • Sign-up for an identity theft monitoring service for regular monitoring and instant alerts if your PII is detected online. Hacking can lead to further damage that impacts your credit and other areas of life. Even if you haven’t been hacked, this is a good proactive measure to take. You should also regularly check to see if your usernames and passwords aren’t on the dark web.
  • Tell family and friends you’ve been hacked – especially if you’ve sent them messages because they could be at risk, too. The hacker may try to contact your loved one using your email.
  • Wipe your hardware clean. Completely reset and reinstall everything on your hardware if your device has been hacked. If you’re still not convinced that it’s enough, recycle the device or reach out to the manufacturer for recommendations on the next steps.

How to Stay Safe from Hacking Harm

There’s no clear-cut way to avoid hacks – unfortunately, they’re always finding new ways to steal information and data. But, a few Internet safety tips can help keep your information safe.

Remember to create strong passwords and usernames. Before you use a password, check Have I Been Pwned to see if it’s been compromised first. And, never share your login details with anyone, and remember not to handle any personal matters on a public network because your information could be easily accessed.

Look for ways to encrypt information to keep it easily accessible to hackers. Most home security system data and video footage are encrypted for your protection. Next, keep your software up to date as most have privacy and safety updates to protect your information. Stay up to speed on your account activity, settings and data so you can easily spot changes. Most apps and sites send instant alerts if passwords or settings are changed. 

Basic internet and personal safeguards can go a long way when avoiding hackers and protecting your information. Protecting your PII and staying up to speed on Internet safety can help you dodge hackers, data compromises and other Digital Age dangers.

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Written by

Dashia Starr

Dashia researches and writes on all things home automation and security. She focuses on the latest news, products, and providers to share only the best with you.

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