In this digital age, anyone who uses a computer, mobile, or any smart device can be hacked. Once a hacker gets into the system, they can steal anything they can get their hands on, your money, your personal data, credentials, or your files.
The hacked computer can used to install malware on your computer to steal your files, launch cyberattacks against other systems, spy on you, monitor your activities, send spam emails and phishing attacks to other people, and encrypt your files for a ransom.
You can easily tell your computer has been hacked by keeping an eye out for these signs of hacking on your Windows 11 system. If you already have sneaking suspicions that your computer might be compromised, this article will help you confirm it.
1. You Get a Ransome Message
The most obvious sign you've been hacked is receiving a sudden ransom message out of nowhere. These messages can come in various forms, like direct messages, emails, or even displayed on your screen through malware like ransomware.
Imagine booting up your computer, only to be faced with a ransom message locking you out of your system. You're unable to click anything or close the window. In some cases, they'll claim your accounts have been compromised and information stolen, even provide you some evidence via email or message.
Either way, they'll inform you that you've been hacked and demand some form of payment, usually in cryptocurrency. Otherwise, they'll threaten to dump the data on the internet or lose your files forever.
Don't pay the ransom money. Even if you do pay, there's no guarantee that you'll regain access to your computer or retrieve your stolen files. If they claim your online accounts are hacked, sign into those accounts immediately change the passwords, and enable two-factor authentication if possible. Then, contact the service provider and inform them you've been hacked.
If you have become a victim of a ransomware attack and you've been locked out of your system, wipe the hard drive and restore it from backup (if you have one) or reinstall the OS.
2. Suspicious Software on Your PC
Finding new programs installed on your Windows 11 computer is a major red flag that it may have been hacked, especially if you're the sole user.
While your device manufacturer may pre-install a variety of apps, and software you install (especially freeware) often comes bundled with additional programs, the sudden appearance of new and unfamiliar apps in your system startup, taskbar, notification tray, or desktop is likely sign of a malware infection.
Not all malware will be visible in the taskbar, system tray, or on the desktop. Instead, it may be quietly running in the background. Open your Task Manager and look for any weird names with high CPU, memory, disk space, or network usage that you cannot explain.
Hackers often install these malicious programs on your computer without your knowledge to steal personal data, track online activity, or even take control of devices. If you stumble upon any unfamiliar apps installed on your computer, don't just ignore them. Do some digging to see if they're legit or malware. Look for reviews, reports, and warnings from reliable sources.
3. Malicious Processes in the Task Manager
Windows Task Managers display all the programs and processes running on your computer. It can be used to locate malicious or unknown processes that are using a lot of resources or network bandwidth. Here’s how you can do this:
- Open the Task Manager by right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting ‘Task Manager’.
- Head to the ‘Details’ Tab and look for any suspicious processes. You can also check the ‘Description’ section to see what services the process belongs to.
- Right-click on the suspicious process and select ‘Properties’. If the process belongs to a trusted third-party service, you probably don't need to worry. However, it's always a good idea to check the process's authenticity.
- Then, go to the ‘Details tab for more information about the process.
- If the process details seem suspicious or lack information in the File Description or the Copyright section, as shown in the image above, then it's likely malware.
By going through these steps, you can find and eliminate any malicious processes and applications that might pose a threat to your privacy and security.
4. Unusual Network Activity
If you notice an unusual spike in your network activity, especially when you're not using any online apps or services, it could mean that you've been hacked. A hacker might connect to your computer remotely to gain access or use your bandwidth for malicious purposes, such as joining a botnet network. This usually results in increased network usage.
You can install network traffic monitoring tools like Glasswire or Nagios Core to monitor which applications are using your computer’s bandwidth. If you prefer a command line interface, you can use the Windows built-in ‘netstat’ command to check all active connections and open ports to your PC.
5. Check for Suspicious Connections
As mentioned before malware use remote connections to hackers' computer or server where the data is sent or hacker use your bandwidth to carry out attacks on other computers. All of these require an external connection from your computer. By checking any suspicious connection, you can find out if you have been hacked.
Look for Suspicious Connections
Your computer may be maintaining hidden connections that hackers are using to spy on you. Fortunately, you can discover these connections using a built-in Windows tool called Command Prompt.
- Open Command Prompt as administrator.
- Then, Type the following command into the window and hit
This command will display a list of all active TCP connections on your computer. Focus on the ‘State’ column, particularly the connections labeled as ‘Established’. These connections indicate a real-time link between your computer and a remote IP address.
Analyze Established Connections
- Copy the IP address from the ‘Foreign Address’ column for any connection that seems suspicious. Or you can check each Established IP address if you’re worried.
- Visit a popular IP location lookup site, such as IPLocation.net, and paste the copied IP address in the IP Location Finder field. Then, click the ‘IP Lookup’ button.
- Now, check the ISP and organization associated with the IP address. If it belongs to a reputable company you use, like Google or Microsoft, it's likely safe.
- If the IP address belongs to an unknown or suspicious company or one whose services you don't use, check further. Research more about that company. If the Company is suspicious or shady, then you’re hacked.
6. Passwords/logins Stopped Working
If you notice that one or more of your online passwords are not working, even though you are sure you are typing the correct passwords, you have likely been hacked.
If your password doesn't seem to be working, it's sometimes just a temporary glitch on the site's end. Give it 10 to 30 minutes, and try again later. But if your password consistently fails to work, it's likely that someone has gotten into your account and changed the password to lock you out.
Phishing scammers scammers send emails pretending to be from your bank, credit card company, or another trusted source. They'll try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. But don't fall for it! That link leads to a fake website that looks just like the real one. Once you enter your login info there, the scammer steals it, locks you out of your account, and has free rein to do whatever they want.
7. Suspicious Logins
Some hackers may not always attempt to take over your account entirely. Instead, they might lurk in the background, using your account to gather sensitive information without your knowledge.
So you should regularly check your account activity and login history. If you notice any unusual login attempts or activities, it could mean unauthorized access. If notice login sessions originating from another country or origin, it means that your account has been compromised.
When attackers gain access to your email address, one of their goals is to infect as many computers as possible. They use your email account to send infected email messages to as many people in your contacts as possible, hoping to trick them into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware.
If your friends, family, or coworkers inform you that they've received spam from your email account, it's a sign that your account is hacked.
8. Peripherals are Acting Strange
Another strong sign that your computer has been hacked is that your peripherals are acting strange. Watch out for these signs that your peripherals have been compromised:
- Your cursor seems to have a mind of its own, moving without you touching the mouse, clicking on random locations, or opening files and apps.
- Your camera and microphone start recording without your permission.
- Files copying or moving to a USB drive without your input.
- Printers and monitors might show strange behavior, throwing error messages out of nowhere.
Before making any assumptions, you should be able to differentiate between the effects of malware and genuine hardware failures. If you notice small changes in your device behaviors while using your PC, check for hardware problems first. Sometimes, dirt can get trapped inside the mouse causing random clicks and movements. A bad USB cable can mess with your webcam, making it turn on and off randomly.
9. PC Battery Draining Rapidly and Fans Running Noisily
Your battery is draining quickly, and your fans sound like they're about to take off. These are signs that your computer is working overtime, and it might not be because of you.
Check out these subtle warnings that your computer might have malware:
- Are you constantly hearing your computer fan at full speed, even when you're not doing anything demanding?
- Does your laptop or computer feel uncomfortably warm, even when you're just browsing the internet?
- Is your device running out of battery really quickly, needing to be charged many times a day?
If you notice any of these signs, it's worth taking a closer look at your computer. You might have some malware or spyware lurking around, draining your resources and putting your system at risk.
It's also possible that dust and debris clog your fans and components, causing the fans to spin uncontrollably and overheat your PC.
10. Your Network Traffic and Searches are Redirected
Hackers may gain access to your router or your browser and change its settings, like the Domain Name System (DNS). By changing the DNS settings, they can redirect your traffic to malicious websites or servers.
They often redirect your clicks and searches to websites that pay them for the traffic, such as ad sites, marketing sites, or scam sites. There are a few signs that your traffic is redirected.
- Your search results often bring up the same irrelevant websites in the results.
- There’s an increase in pop-ups and ads, especially from unknown sources.
- Your browser's homepage changed automatically to a different website than the one you set.
You can also use tools like Wireshark to analyze your network traffic for unusual activity or connections to suspicious domains.
11. Your PC Performance is Low and the App Crashes
If your PC is suddenly running slow and crashing frequently, it could be a sign that it has been hacked. Spyware, viruses, and remote control software can consume a large amount of your system resources, leaving other programs struggling to run properly.
Here are some of the symptoms you may encounter:
- Slow-loading websites and apps
- Media playback freezing or stuttering
- Unexpected app crashes
- Buffering issues with videos and online games
- Excessive data usage, especially on limited data plans
Open Task Manager on your Windows computer and monitor the CPU usage of each app. If your computer is not doing anything, it should have CPU usage between 10-15%. Games may use up more than 50%, but any unknown app demanding more than 30% is cause for concern. If an app is hogging more than 90% of your CPU, you might have malware on your hands.
12. Disabled Security Tools
If your security software is disabled, it's an obvious sign that your computer may have been compromised. If you notice that your security software isn't functioning as it should, like not starting properly, shutting down unexpectedly, updates disabled, or failing to run scans.
Some malware can disable your security tools leaving you vulnerable, making it difficult to detect, and allowing hackers to wreak havoc on your system.
You can try basic troubleshooting steps like restarting, closing, and reopening your security software. But if you still experience issues, then you consider your computer is infected with malware. Advanced malware like ransomware, adware, and spyware are often hard to detect, block, or remove by your free antivirus programs.
You should regularly scan your computer for malware and catch it before it's too late. You should also look out for warnings like antivirus notifications about suspicious files and check them out thoroughly. If something looks fishy, delete it!
Beware of pop-ups claiming to be from your antivirus. These are often scams designed to trick you into downloading malware. Remember, your antivirus doesn't need pop-ups to tell you about threats. It has its own ways of sending notifications. So next time a pop-up jumps up, be cautious and don't fall for the fake pop-ups on websites.
13. Your Web Browser is Modified
Another strong indicator that your computer may have been compromised is hackers making changes to your browser that you didn't make. Sometimes, these changes are obvious like a mysteriously changed web browser homepage, default search engine, or unfamiliar toolbars. Sometimes, it's not so obvious like unknown plugins or extensions you haven't installed, or an increase in pop-up ads and redirects.
- Unknown extensions or toolbars: If you see new extensions or toolbars in your browser that you didn't install, it's a sign that something is wrong. These toolbars and extensions may have sneaky names, implying they can help you with different tasks. But if you didn't install it, it's likely a malware. These extensions could be used to spy on your browsing history, show ads, or even steal your personal information.
- Homepage or search engine changes: As we mentioned before, if your browser's homepage or search engine has been changed without your knowledge, it's a sign that your system may have been hacked. Hackers often change these settings to redirect you to their websites where they can steal your data or exploit you with clickbaits.
- Pop-up ads and redirects: Most websites on the internet are supported ads but If you're seeing more pop-up ads than usual on your usual websites, or if you're being redirected to unfamiliar websites, it's a sign that your browser may have been infected with malware. These ads and redirects can be used to trick you into clicking on malicious links or downloading harmful files.
Other signs include slow browser performance and unusual activity in your browser history.
14. Verifying if Your Personal Data Has Been Compromised in a Data Breach
Data breaches are an unfortunate reality that can happen to anyone, anytime. When your personal information is stolen in a data breach, it may remain undetected for years, until the stolen data is put up for sale on the dark web or released to the public.
But there's a way to find out if your data has been compromised. Several websites can check for compromised email addresses. One of the most reliable websites is the ‘Have I Been Pwned’ which maintains a searchable database of all known data breaches.
Have I Been Pwned is a trusted website that checks your email address against a database of breaches and tells you if it has been compromised. It also shows the most recent and largest breaches.
Go to the Have I Been Pwned, type your email address in the search box,emails and click the 'pwned? button. If your email address has been compromised, you will see a list of breaches and when they occurred.
Then, it's time to set a different strong password for each website you see in the list. You can also sign up for notifications to be alerted when new breaches occur. This will help to protect your accounts from being hacked.
How to Prevent Your PC from Being Hacked
While no PC is completely safe, following these reliable practices can go a long way in protecting your PC from hacker:
- Always have reputable antivirus or anti-malware program installed on your computer.
- Stop installing pirated software and games no matter how tempting.
- Avoid opening shady emails or clicking on suspicious links.
- Always use strong passwords for your accounts and avoid using the same password for all your accounts.
- Be cautious about using unknown or borrowed USB drives. They could be infected with malware.
- Activate and configure your firewall to filter out unknown traffic.
- Only download software or files from trusted sources. Be wary of freeware or pirated content.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive activities like banking or online shopping.
- Create regular backups of your important files in case of ransomware attacks or data theft.
- Use Two-factor authentication for your accounts if possible.
- Keep your Windows regularly updated.
If you think your computer has been hacked, act quickly before more damage is done. The longer you wait the more time the attacker has to steal your data. In some cases, hackers can gain complete control over your computer, making it accessible or even unusable.