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How do I know if any hackers or viruses have infiltrated my device?


When your device inexplicably malfunctions, the chances are high that it's been hacked or nearly KO'd by some wicked virus. Identifying the telltale signs is one way to pinpoint and address such ill effects. With knowledge, you're better prepared to implement prevention. Here are a few clues that indicate something wicked has compromised your device.

Strange Antivirus Messages and Unwanted Toolbars

When antivirus warning messages pop up alerting you to a potential threat, the threat is frequently as good as delivered. The warning message is a ploy for funneling traffic to a fake website where some invisible party awaits the input of your personal credentials and financial information.

The warning message often indicates that your device has already been hacked or infected. The same is true of unwanted toolbars. Some are unavoidable, such as the Ask.com toolbar that still accompanies the Java download. Other toolbars are sandwiched in with software and apps you might be tempted to download from lesser-known third parties.

Kidnapped Homepages and Redirected Internet Searches

You're a political news junkie, and Politico.com is your homepage in your default browser. One morning you open Google Chrome and discover that your new homepage is a search engine you've never heard of. Hackers and viruses are notorious for this covert bait and switch.

Later, you search for information about kidnapped homepages via Google and get results that are totally unrelated to your search. Some brands of viruses or malware effectively intercept and conduct Internet searches and hide them through the use of multiple proxies.

Your Device Entertains Itself

If your device comes alive in the middle of the night, randomly texts gibberish, explores menu paths, seemingly plays poker with itself, and then reads an e-book after the thrill of poker wears off, it's been hacked.

Since personal info is stored on devices, the hacker may also have access to credit cards, email contacts and passwords. Update your passwords immediately, alert your friends that you've been hacked, and take any steps necessary to reclaim accounts you've been locked out of.

Some email services, such as Gmail, alert you when someone has hacked your email account. Gmail also lets you review activity on your account, including geographical locations where devices have accessed your Gmail.

The same hacker may never hack your device, but the Gmail alert at least gives you an opportunity to proceed with greater caution, awareness and vigilance.

Unwanted Software Installs

New apps and capabilities on your device that you didn't install? Consider deleting them right away. Nearly all devices allow you to review and remove unwanted apps and programs.

Guarding Your Device

Install apps from well-known, established, trusted sources, such as Google Play. Keep the software and the apps and patches on your device up to date. Setting your browser to auto-update ensures that you're always using the most current version.

Devices are inherently vulnerable, and surfing the Internet exposes your devices to many dangers. To reduce the potential risks, don't browse dangerous websites and don't use public networks to conduct sensitive transactions.