Cyber security breaches are not uncommon; in fact, they were basically all the rage in 2015, and they show no sign of slowing down. If federal government agencies can be hacked, private consumers are basically sitting ducks. Here’s how you can know if your personal computer has been hacked.
Unfortunately for internet users, hacker software has become so sophisticated that it’s hard to detect once it’s become embedded in your system. Antivirus/anti-malware software can be effective when it comes to keeping your system from becoming infected, but once it has passed your software and become infected, the software can’t detect or remove the infection.
This is because well-made malware will embed itself into your system files and disguise itself to look like part of your key Windows system files system. It can even replace a system file with itself, keeping the same file name and functionality, but adding some extra parts that are malicious to you.
So when it comes to detecting when a hack has happened, something to keep in mind is why a hacker would even want access to your computer in the first place. They tend to look for credit card numbers, bank accounts, and other information that could aid them in identity theft. Some just want to be able to use your computer for their “botnet”, which is a network of compromised computers controlled by a single command and control center. 30 to 50% of consumer computers are said to be part of one botnet or another, meaning they’re being used for spam sending, password cracking, and to conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
Want to see if your computer has become part of a botnet? Start out by running antivirus software. There are a lot of good software options on the market, but even the best don’t tend to detect over 5-10% of all known malware. Unknown malware comes out constantly and hackers are always developing new software. That said, that 5-10% does help and keeps you from being susceptible to the most basic attacks. Be sure to buy anti-malware software and keep it updated. Check out Virus Bulletin to see what malware you should look out for.
Another thing you can do is check Task Manager. Click on the “Processes” tab and see if you get a window that demonstrates CPU usage down at the bottom. If your machine is spiking around 90% or higher and you’re not editing music or videos or playing a high-processing video game, your machine is definitely infected. An idle system should be under 9%.
Because Malware tends to embed itself into system files, Microsoft builds a system integrity checker into Windows called sic.exe. According to Windows:
“System File Checker is a utility in Windows that allows users to scan for corruptions in Windows system files and restore corrupted files. ”
You can also check netstat to identify all connections to your system. Some malware can make sure your system files manipulate what the operating system says and therefore you won’t see anything in netstat. That’s when you have to get Wireshark to check any connections to your computer.