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Getting Hacked 101: Has Your Device   Been Hacked or Is Your Account Compromised?

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It’s common to fear getting hacked but you may not exactly know how it will happen or what to do when it does. The whole ordeal can be insanely stressful and that anxiety can quickly escalate as you try to get your device or account back in working order.

To effectively solve the issue, you need to ask: Was your account compromised or has your device been hacked? 

Finding the answer can be exceptionally challenging if you’re not super tech-savvy. After all, most hackers don’t leave a note telling you how they hacked you. You’re often thrown into reaction mode or, completely freaking out because your computer or phone does not work, your Instagram has been duped or your email is sending out multiple mysterious messages. 

A great first step is to figure out if your account has been taken over — which you may be able to solve by simply changing your password or contacting customer support. If your device has been hacked, you may need more in-depth work to remove any malware.

What are the signs of a device vs. an account hack?

How to Tell Your Account is Compromised

It’s easier to see that your account has been compromised than if your device has been hacked. It can sometimes even happen instantly. You click on a link or approve a new contact or follower and suddenly there’s a ton of messages in your outbox that you did not send. You may start getting messages from your friends that they’re getting random DMs with a sketchy link. 

The clearest tell-tale sign your account has been compromised is behavior on your account you did not intentionally do. This could be emails you did not send, accounts or profiles you did not approve or add, or direct messages or posts you did not write. 

Another sign your account has been hacked is getting an alert about a sign-in from a device you don’t own. Social media sites and apps do their part to maintain your privacy and the security of your account. They often note strange behavior and send you an alert about an unregistered sign-in, an alert that your password has changed, or multiple failed login attempts.

If you see a duplicate social media account that’s created with your name, photos, or information this could mean that your account has been compromised or at the very least that your account has been targeted by a hacker.

The key is that these strange occurrences are account specific. While a hacker can take over multiple accounts at once there are reasons that your social media accounts or information may have been compromised other than a hack.

Reasons Your Account May Have Been Compromised

Falling for a phishing scam, clicking on a link that launches malware, or having your information as part of a data breach could be the reason why your profile is being accessed by someone other than you. 

Hackers can often target people with large social media followings to hijack their profiles,  use their following to manipulate their contacts to sell fake products, run scams, share sketchy links, or steal information. 

If you use the same password for multiple accounts, it’s possible that your login information may have appeared on the dark web or been pulled from a data breach. After all, hacked info can often be used to guess your passwords or some breaches may actually leak your login information. 

Your best bet is to quickly change your password for your account. It doesn’t hurt to also turn on two-factor authentication and review your privacy settings and security controls for your social media accounts to prevent any further intrusion. 

How to Tell if Your Device is Compromised

Strange behavior on your device can be the clearest sign that your device may have been hacked. There can be other potential reasons why your device is running super slow or overheating. But many hacks can take a toll on your device and force it to overwork. The hacker has caused your device to do more than it normally should and that can cause your device to work harder. 

If files are suddenly missing, or you cannot log into your device this could be a sign of a malware infestation. If you see an admin account or login that you did not create, this can also be a sign that a hacker has accessed your device or changed your information to lock you out. Ransomware  can be used to lock victims out of their own devices to extort money or information. 

New mysterious accounts or apps added to your device, missing information and data and strange cursor activity can also be signs your device has been hacked rather than your email or social media accounts. These can be signs that someone has logged into your device or may have some form of control. 

Strange pop-up windows, network messages, accounts, or sounds can also be clues that your device has been compromised. Malware can often cause your device to function abnormally. Understanding the different types of malware can also give you a clearer picture of what can happen to your device. Hackers often hijack devices to steal your files, collect information, or spread more malware.  

Reasons Your Device May Have Been Compromised 

It’s most likely that you have malware downloaded onto your device. There are multiple ways malware can get onto your device. If you download a corrupt file, click on the wrong website, download a program or click on a suspicious link it can launch a download of malware onto your device. 

Obviously, finding malware is the clearest sign that your device has been compromised. You may not know the extent but it’s key to change your passwords and scan your files. 

It’s vital to have good online security practices and antivirus software to do your best to protect your devices from malware. Proper network security and using a VPN while on free Wi-Fi can limit the opportunities for hackers to try and access your device. 

Conclusion

When your device or accounts are acting funky you can be quick to think you’ve been hacked. Stop and figure out if it was your account that may have been compromised or if your device has been infected by malware or an attack. Knowing these key clues to the source of your tech issues just might be the key to reversing the issue and protecting yourself online.

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