Telltale Signs Your Computer Has Been Hacked – And Simple Steps You Can Take to Prevent It from Happening
A bot net forms when a hacker gets into your computer and recruits it into a large group of similarly hacked computers (also called a “zombie army”) that are all programmed to follow the hacker’s orders: send out spam, spread viruses, attack web sites, or do other mischief. (Read more about bot nets in this Computerworld article.) Most bot nets run very quietly in the background, only using a small amount of your computer’s processing power in order to avoid tipping you off that it has been compromised. That said, if your computer starts to exhibit the following warning signs, it might be part of a bot net:
- Your computer seems to be working overtime – the fan is on, the disk is spinning away, but nothing’s happening.
- It takes a very long time to open programs and perform simple tasks.
- Your bandwidth slows to a trickle and it seems to take forever to download pages that you know shouldn’t take a long time to load (like Google).
- Your email client’s Sent Items folder contains messages you’ve never seen.
All of these could be warning signs that your computer is using extra processing power, sucking up bandwidth, and sending out emails unbeknownst to you. So what can you do to stop it – or better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place?
- Get good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection. Something that will scan both attachments and web pages before downloading, and that will update automatically, tends to be more effective than software that just runs a periodic system scan.
- If you do have security software that only runs periodic scans, make sure they actually run. System scans often take up a lot of processing power, so they can be a nuisance if you’re trying to work and your computer wants to run a scan. Schedule system scans for nights, weekends, or a time when you aren’t on your computer – and you won’t be tempted to stop a scan before it has fully run.
- Be careful about downloading attachments and clicking on links in email. An attachment with an .exe file extension should almost certainly be junked – that means it’s an executable file, the most common form of virus out there. In fact, many corporate firewalls won’t even let through this kind of attachment. Similarly, if somebody you don’t know sends you an email saying “Check this out!” with just a link, best to throw that directly in the trash rather than clicking through to a site that attempts to download spyware and viruses onto your computer.
CMIT Solutions offers virus and spyware detection and removal plus periodic security patches as part of CMIT Marathon, our proactive maintenance and monitoring service. Visit our website to learn more about CMIT Marathon.