Cyberattacks seldom occur with an alert or an alarm and when it happens the damage is found to be irreparable. The frustrating thing is that attack is often detected after the damage is done. However, common cyber threats can be easily thwarted if their symptoms are detected beforehand. Most of the time, the symptoms are detected but the users rarely take them seriously. This is because these are often mistaken as performances issues due to old computer systems or network devices. However, every symptom must be taken seriously so that we can stop the attack immediately. Following are the most common signs that must trigger an investigation to ascertain a possible cyberattack:
The slow and sluggish behavior of your computer network is perhaps the most common sign that indicates that your IT system is under attack. When things slow down, you may try deleting unwanted programs or running a disk management program. But when things don’t improve, be rest assured that your IT security has been breached due to a vicious cyberattack. The attack is usually a well-orchestrated attack like DoS (Denial of Service) or a malware that has exposed your system to outside hackers. A company’s computers may also be a part of a botnet that it is being controlled by an outside entity. A botnet is a computer network whose machines are compromised by malicious software that enables an outside person to take control of their machines. Many times the attacker uses a botnet to install malicious code on the machine. Such types of attacks are mostly undetected and the IT security team needs to swing into action to check and stop the attack.
You computer system is surely compromised when windows popup on their own and that to without the user clicking anything on the screen. This surely indicates that your system is a part of a botnet and the remotely-based cybercriminal is clicking the internet links on your computer to open other sites. Your computer may also be used for ‘click fraud’; an internet fraud in which a website owner uses your computer to click on PPC (Pay Per Click) advertisements posted on his website. Unfortunately, there aren’t many tools that help you to eradicate the possibility of a ‘click fraud’ on your computer. However, there are tools that help you detect the ‘ip origin’ of a click. A compromised computer is also known to have sudden crashes.
Mysterious Computer Behavior
Strange behavior of the computer system must be taken as a red flag and a sign of trouble. Changed passwords, unsolicited software installs, automatic mouse movements and tampered security settings are all signs that your IT security has been compromised. The security breach can be because of a hack or a virus attack. There will be times when the computer seems to be controlling itself without your inputs. Sometimes, an unfamiliar toolbar may sign an intrusion because it indicates that a third person that has access to your system has installed some programs.
A compromised computer may be used by a hacker to send phishing email to company employees or other associates to reveal personal information. In such cases, everyone in the organization must be instructed to be alert and watch out for things that do not feel right. People must also check the ‘url’ and the domain name from where the mail has been sent. Cyber criminals are using sophisticated techniques to make their way around the firewall and hack unprotected systems. Various human psychological and technological factors must be considered to implement a solid defense against phishing attacks.
Inability to download updates
The presence of malicious programs in the computer also prohibits users from downloading important updates that will make their operating system more secure. Moreover, the malware also blocks the user from downloading and installing important anti-virus updates. In some cases, users are unable to visit the vendor’s website to get the updates. These signs clearly indicate that a cyberattack or malware is playing havoc with your computer system.
Unfamiliar programs running in Task Manager
One of the ways to detect a security breach is to open the Task Manager or Activity Monitor and detect suspicious processes that are running in the background. These processes will often have cryptic names and the user should investigate these for confirming the breach. The programs are usually startup processes and they will be utilizing the CPU and other resources more than any other program. Many times, the CPU gets overheated even when the machine is idle. This can be due to an unsolicited software program that is running in the background. Even though the CPU may be overheated due to a number of other reasons, it is wise to investigate the root cause of its erratic behavior.
Identifying signs of website hacking
Companies must rely on analytics platforms to continuously monitor the traffic to their websites. Any drastic changes in the internet traffic needs to be investigated. Moreover, search engines like Google usually flash a warning or an error message to signal a suspicious activity pertaining to the website. Tampering of admin controls is the earliest sign of a website being hacked. In such cases, web administrators will find that their logins and passwords have been hacked. Additionally, they will find that some of the management controls have been reset and changed. These incidents need to be treated as ‘red flags’ and the problem needs to be investigated on a war-footing. The effect of the attack is bound to be devastating even if the hackers deface the website and sabotage a company’s branding and marketing efforts. The most damaging attack occurs when the customer’s confidential data is accesses by the hacker and misused to tarnish the reputation of the business.
The above cases and symptoms clearly reveal that cybercriminals will continue to come up with new and undetectable ways to hack into the system. Hence, it is important that we understand our networks and proactively monitor the systems to detect any threat that can potentially damage the system. Ultimately, we must remember that prevention is better than cure.