1. Antivirus Messages and Unwanted Toolbars
When strange antivirus warning messages pop up alerting you to a potential threat, often the threat is as good as delivered. Phishing is a ploy for funneling traffic to a malicious website where some invisible party awaits the input of your personal credentials and financial information.
The same is true of unwanted toolbars, usually sandwiched in with software and apps you downloaded, they run silently in the background harvesting your sensitive information.
2. Kidnapped Homepages and Redirected Internet Searches
Let’s say that 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 kind of 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 strains viruses or malware will even intercept your Internet searches and hide them through the use of multiple proxies, keeping you from finding out what’s actually going on and later delete themselves, like the infamous Stuxnet.
3. 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 the necessary steps 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.
4. Unwanted Software Installs
New apps and capabilities on your device that you didn't install? Much like unwanted toolbars, they allow hackers a doorway into your device. Consider deleting them right away. Nearly all devices allow you to review and remove unwanted apps and programs.
Guarding Your Device
To keep safe: 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.