Six ways to tell if you have been hacked



We all think that we are not rich or famous enough to be hacked, but the truth is that cybercriminals don’t discriminate. There is no fish too small for them and if you use online services and connected devices, you are at risk of being hacked.

Apart from getting a phone call from your partner asking why you need to borrow money, there are some prominent signs that can show whether you have been hacked.

Gerhard Swart, CTO at cyber security company, Performanta lists the signs below:

  • People receive messages you didn’t send
    Criminals have hacked your account and sent messages to all your contacts, pretending to be you. It’s common for criminals to hack email accounts or social media accounts, and then send unsolicited messages to all your contacts. These can contain spam messages, or attachments to help the criminals hack other accounts.
  • Your browser search redirects to a new provider
    Browser hijacking software has changed where your browser directs its search queries. If you type a search query into your browser address bar, but a different search site appears (or if you notice a very different homepage when you open a new browser page), chances are your browser has been hijacked by a plugin.
  • You can’t log into an account
    Criminals hacked your account and changed your password. This activity is relatively rare as the hackers prefer to hide their presence. But they might have reasons to stop you from accessing your account. Be sure you’re not just typing in the wrong password.
  • Suspicious transactions on your bank account
    You notice purchases you didn’t make or money movement you didn’t authorise. Criminals syphon money from your account, hoping you don’t notice the small transactions.
  • Your sim card stops working
    You might be the victim of a sim swap. Criminals fooled your provider into assigning your number to a sim card they control. Now they can intercept messages such as one-time pins from your bank.
  • You receive a message from the hackers
    You receive a message that your data has been stolen or encrypted, and it demands payment to reverse the damages. If this happens, you are likely the victim of a ransomware attack. But sometimes, criminals send out such messages even if there wasn’t a breach. They can claim to have compromising footage or images of you, hoping you’ll panic and pay anyway.

Swart says while the above list isn’t exhaustive consumers should watch out for any activities or transactions they didn’t initiate.

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He recommends using a website like haveibeenpwned.com to see if accounts linked to your email address or phone number were hacked.

What to do if you have been hacked

  • Change your passwords immediately
  • Contact the relevant service provider
  • Inform all the affected parties
  • If a specific device was hacked, take the device offline and avoid using it until it has been cleaned
  • Don’t engage with the hackers
  • Most hacks will target popular services, such as Facebook, Google or TikTok. Search for information from those companies on what to do if you suspect your account was hacked.

*Compiled by Xanet Scheepers.