Has Your Computer Network Been Hacked? Here’s How to Tell
Smart hackers never get caught. Once they break into your corporate network, they quickly steal all the information they can and vanish without a trace. Often, they leave a trail of mayhem and destruction in their wake, including malware, unexpected ads, stressed users, stolen identities, lost business, damaged reputations, and even drained bank accounts.
Because small and mid-sized businesses rely on technology to compete with much larger corporations, computers, routers, cellphones, and even webcams expose vulnerabilities within networks. It is straightforward for a hacker to access a network, mainly if users are not keen enough to notice subtle changes in their computers or network behavior.
Signs of a Hack
How can you tell if hackers are already in your system, and what can you do about it? Below are five clear-cut signs that you are the victim of a hack and possible solutions to the problem.
You Receive Ransomware Messages
Among the worst things that could happen to you is to have a sudden take-over message on your computer screen, telling you that all your data is encrypted and that you should pay to unlock it. Unfortunately, ransomware is one of the most significant cybercrime segments, costing billions of dollars of lost productivity with billions more spent on ransom every year.
Targeting organizations of all types and sizes, businesses, police stations, hospitals, fire departments, and even entire cities grind to a halt through ransomware attacks. Since many victims pay the ransom demanded by the hackers, this is a hack that looks like it is here to stay.
What to do: First, you must resist the temptation to pay the ransom out of desperation. You should then immediately shut down the affected parts of your system to avoid additional damage and inform law enforcement of the attack. You should seek technology experts who will clean the infected devices and plan a data recovery solution in a future hack.
Your Computer Functions without Your Input
If you see your mouse pointer move by itself and making selections on your screen, it is a surefire sign of infiltration of your computer or network. Mouse pointers could sometimes move randomly due to a problem with the hardware, but if the computer seems to make conscious choices to run programs, then a malicious human is involved somewhere. This type of attack is called a remote desktop hack.
This type of hack is not as common as other types of cyberattacks and is much harder to notice since it occurs when a computer stays idle for some time, which makes it particularly dangerous.
What to do: As soon as you notice your computer making actions without your input, you must immediately disable your router or unplug the PC from the network, and call in professional help as soon as possible. Using a different known, good computer, change all logins and passwords stored on the affected device. Have an IT professional carry out a full restore of the hacked system.
Your Contacts and Clients Receive Strange Messages
One of the most common ways an organization discovers that their network is compromised is receiving notification of strange messages received by clients or contacts. Once a hacker is inside your system, they can quickly gain access to your client records and contact lists and send them odd messages that appear to originate from your organization.
Usually, the messages contain attachments or links since they make it easier for the hacker to inflict more damage to contacts who inadvertently interact with them. Known as “phishing,” this type of cyber attack sends an email with a seemingly innocuous message, such as asking clients to “view the latest brochure”, or encouraging your colleagues to “download notes from a presentation.”
Besides damaging your reputation and that of your company, a phishing attack on your contacts could aim to transfer money from your contacts’ accounts or steal their identities.
What to do: Your IT department or outsourced consultant should educate your staff and clients not to open attachments or links from unverified sources, no matter how legitimate they may appear. Your IT experts can also set up and train your employees on robust password protection strategies, including time-based one-time passwords (TOTP) and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Your No Longer Have Access To Your Files
If you find that you suddenly cannot open specific files on your computer without any apparent reason, you could be a victim of an encryption ransomware hack. In this case, when you try to open your documents, you will encounter an error message telling you that the selected file cannot open, and you need to specify the program you should use to access the infected file. Your computer would then prompt you to choose one of the applications installed on your computer.
What to do: Once you find your files compromised in this way, the only guaranteed way to get your device back to its pre-attack state is to carry out a full system restore of the machine from a backup. In case you do not have a backup, seek help from an IT professional to establish if they can decrypt the affected files.
There Are Unexpected Browser Redirects
Many hackers earn a living by redirecting the online searches of unsuspecting users toward websites they did not request. A hacker gets paid when they send your clicks and tens of thousands of others to someone’s website. The website owner often does not know that the traffic they receive is down to malicious redirection.
If your browser suddenly loads a strange homepage when you fire it up, or goes to unknown sites when you try to use the internet, you are probably the victim of a redirect virus. Redirects commonly come bundled with software downloaded from dodgy websites, or could be hidden within browser extensions.
What to do: Back up your data and have a tech expert scan your computer for malware. If you use a Microsoft Windows PC, they will also check the “hosts” system file for any malicious redirects configured in it. To avoid redirect viruses, always have a qualified expert install software on behalf of end-users to prevent bundled malware installation.
NSA Helps You Take Back Control of Your Network And Prevent Further Attacks
Regaining full control of your hacked system is rarely straightforward. You will require a lot of high-level network security expertise and possibly have to deal with law enforcement.
Network Security Associates is a Las Vegas IT consulting company with experience, skill, and dedication to resolve the damage caused by a hack and prevent it from happening in the future. NSA’s range of security solutions for small and mid-sized businesses includes cybersecurity assessments, Security Operations Center (SOC), managed IT security, firewall management, endpoint protection, and cybersecurity training.
If you worry about your data and network’s security, contact Network Security Associates today and let us help you avoid falling prey to hackers.