In today's threatscape, antivirus software provides little piece of mind. In fact, antimalware scanners on the whole are horrifically inaccurate, especially with exploits less than 24 hours old. After all, malicious hackers and malware can change their tactics at will. Swap a few bytes around, and a previously recognized malware program becomes unrecognizable.
To combat this, many antimalware programs monitor program behaviors, often called heuristics, to catch previously unrecognized malware. Other programs use virtualized environments, system monitoring, network traffic detection, and all of the above at once in order to be more accurate. And still they fail us on a regular basis.
Here are 11 sure signs you've been hacked and what to do in the event of compromise. Note that in all cases, the No. 1 recommendation is to completely restore your system to a known good state before proceeding. In the early days, this meant formatting the computer and restoring all programs and data. Today, depending on your operating system, it might simply mean clicking on a Restore button. Either way, a compromised computer can never be fully trusted again. The recovery steps listed in each category below are the recommendations to follow if you don't want to do a full restore -- but again, a full restore is always a better option, risk-wise.
1: Fake antivirus messages
2: Unwanted browser toolbars
3: Redirected Internet searches
4: Frequent random popups
5: Your friends receive fake emails from your email account
6: Your online passwords suddenly change
7: Unexpected software installs
8: Your mouse moves between programs and makes correct selections
9: Your antimalware software, Task Manager, or Registry Editor is disabled and can't be restarted
10: Your bank account is missing money
11: You get calls from stores about nonpayment of shipped goods
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