What To Do If You Think Your Computer Has Been Hacked Into

Christian Cawley 06-06-2012

Have you ever had your computer hacked, or wondered if some off mouse movement was down to an online intruder?


The threat remains a potent one, but with adequate security software installed on your computer you should find that your data remains intact and private.

However, if you think there is a greater-than-normal chance of intrusion or if you want to be aware of the threats and how to deal with them, use what follows as a starting point for understanding how to deal with a hacked computer.

Spotting a Hack

It is easy to be paranoid about these matters, but knowing how to recognise a hack attack can be tricky.

Vain hackers who are full of their own self-importance might leave you a note – perhaps a bit of desktop graffiti or a malware “timebomb” – but those are rare. Most hacks are courtesy of Trojan software and related automated tools, so uncovering an intrusion – particularly an online one – can prove difficult.

If you suspect a hack, first of all consider why you think this might have happened. Do you have sensitive information stored on your computer? Are you known as someone who might have access to private data? Next, check the files in your directory browser, taking care to note their “Last Modified” times and dates. Do not open the files, however, as doing so might result in the activation of malware.


Instead, run your anti-virus and anti-malware software, and then make backups of the vital files and folders before opening them.

Checking Your Firewall

Of course, the first thing to do if you suspect a hack attack on your PC is to check your firewall software.

what to do computer hacked

These utilities always update activities to the log, so it is a case of opening the firewall console and working out where the log is stored. If there has been an attempt to hack your computer in the past then this will be recorded.


Don’t take the lack of a successful intrusion record as evidence of no hack attack, however – it might also mean that the perpetrator is skilled in keeping their fingerprints off your ports.

However in 99.9% of cases a good quality firewall will keep your computer secure. See our list of recommended firewalls 7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer's Security Firewalls are crucial for modern computer security. Here are your best options and which one is right for you. Read More for more information.

No Firewall? What to do…

If for some reason you don’t already have firewall software installed on your computer (why on earth not?!) then there are other things you can check.

what to do if computer is hacked


Many users connect to the Internet via a router, either at work or in the home, and if you have permission to access this you will be able to view the traffic in and out of your computer. Checking the logs on the router will enable you to determine whether or not your computer has been hacked and if any data has been copied, although beware: this will take a while to track down, so you will need to have a good idea of when the attack occurred.

If a Trojan is running on your system and opened remote access to your computer then you should be able to tell pretty quickly. Slow performance and network activity when you’re not using a web browser, email client, downloading software or an IM client will all point to an intrusion, as will the more obvious loss of control (this is rare however, as hackers would probably use a separate session). If network activity is odd then switching off your router or disconnecting your Ethernet cable is the best solution as the hacker has probably disabled your ability to disconnect within the operating system.

After disconnection, restart your computer, staying offline, and run your anti-virus and anti-malware software. You should also use a secondary computer to download an update to your firewall software and install this on the first device.

Offline Hacking

Unfortunately so many of us are concerned about online hacking that we ignore the much more obvious method of gaining entry to a computer system – in person.


what to do computer hacked

There are various ways of doing this, from using a USB stick with a live operating system installed on it to simply guessing a password (and this is if the user even has a password set on their computer and knows how to lock the screen) and either method can be used to quickly gain access to the data stored on a hard disk drive.

Computer passwords should always be used for the operating system and you should also consider setting a password to boot your computer past the BIOS, thereby preventing the use of a USB live OS.

Similarly, external storage devices should be securely stored in locked cupboards, along with any clue that they even exist. Disc sleeves, cases and USB cables should be tidied away.


With so much to consider, taking steps to protect your data is the best answer. There is no way to protect the data stored on your computer 100%, so taking additional steps is wise. In addition to up-to-date firewall and anti-virus/anti-malware software, consider a registry protection tool and take advantage of any hard disk encryption tools that are available to you. Recent versions of Mac OS X and Windows have this facility built in.

Ultimately, awareness is your most important weapon. Hackers can’t steal data from your computer when it is switched off, for instance, while storing valuable data on removable drives and media that can be locked away or kept on your person will protect you from the effects of hacking.

If you understand the risks, you can take appropriate action.

Image Credit:Laptop and Wall Image Via Shutterstock, Server Room Image Via Shutterstock, Binary Code Image Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Anti-Malware, Firewall, Online Privacy, Password.

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    November 4, 2017 at 12:11 am

    HOW can you get onto your computer if the damn thing is hijacked?!!!! Mine is jacked, sitting beside the wall, and DELL couldn't even help me! 4 computers in 5 months hacked! 15 cellphones in 5 weeks hacked!
    I am sick of it! NOBODY CAN HELP ME so being a Published Poet I have to take my 63 yr old disabled widowed body elsewhere to punch keys on a damn cellphone! EVERY SITE, even this one, I'm sure, says :OK. You're safe! BULLS****!!!! I had McAfee, Norton, Defender, Activest (?) Fire Wall on, Defender on (computer-Microsoft) etc!!!!???, all protecting my computer! He hacked thru all of them! Changed my name, IP, routers, went from Sudden Link to DISH, Direct TV, back to Link, & 2 more! email addresses, EVERYTHING!!!! I WAS HACKED! Changed my password 100 times, Google & FB kept letting him in! Now he's stolen my contacts, photos, IRS docs, Medicare docs, Insurance docs, ALL ACCOUNTS & INFO!!!!! MY IDENTITY IS STOLEN! I know his name, but never met him! BUT if I ever do I am going to blow his ass away with one of the new guns I was forced to purchase because of his threats! tell me...WHAT WORKS!? I'll tell you! NOTHING WORKS!!!!!!! You people need to stop lying to us! The ONLY REASON I AM ALIVE STILL after losing my husband 5 yrs ago is because I REFUSE TO GIVE HIM THAT SATISFACTION!!!!!!

  2. Venelope
    December 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Hi while i was at school my computer has been acting really weird for almost afew months.when i came backthere was a password set on it (i dont set apassword on my computer because my family use it for things like skype ect)there was also a hint there that said "password hint Hacker" i dont know what to do i cant get past the lock screen.

  3. Shiro
    May 10, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Well, i have no acces to my files because its stand these are deleted but arent, i cant deinstall them or delete them aswell, sometimes if im on youtube there are some videos been watched that i not watched at all... If im trying to restart my computer so it takes like 1 hour its been restartet before it was only 1-2 mins... Its really hard and idk what to do now.. Idk how to formate my pc.... anyways im thinking of asking some help but they dont know aswell.. and im too scared to say it to my family because they are some little "hard" at these computer things.. Can you guys tell me what to do now?..

  4. Bob
    March 1, 2016 at 8:56 am

    My computer turns itself on in the middle of the night. I hear voices coming from the computer. When I get up and walk into the room. I see the computer shut down.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 1, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Hi Ryan

      You should probably unplug it on a night. Also, install a paid security solution like Bitdefender or McAfee

      • SICK OF IT
        November 4, 2017 at 12:18 am

        It DOES NOT MATTER WHAT you install, unload, download, etc...
        The person is HACKED! JUST LIKE ME! I had McAfee, Norton, Defender, Aticvast (?), my computer's Defender on, fire wall on, HACKER hacked thru ALL OF THEM! My HP TECHNITIANS said I was SAFE! DELL couldn't get into my computer!

      • SICK OF IT
        November 4, 2017 at 12:20 am

        I unplugged, called HP & DELL, changed routers, services, passwords, called HP, DELL, Microsoft, Outlook, Google, FB, Yahoo & now 5 computers & 16 cellphones later...HACKED & HIJACKED one more time! NOTHING WORKS EXCEPT to find the hacker & KILL THEM!

    • SICK OF IT
      November 4, 2017 at 12:13 am


  5. Ryan
    February 1, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Hi Christian,

    There are moments when I lose control of my mouse and bubbles/dots appear where the cursor should be. Also, a side screen appears with coding being scrolled through. Something like "translating page information" acts as a header to the coding screen. I'm assuming it's bot operated because it navigates extremely fast. Any idea as to what kind of virus this is? Based on your article, I'm thinking it could be a trojan. Any info is appreciated. Enjoyed the article!


  6. Unknown
    January 17, 2016 at 2:09 am

    Hey Anonymous, a little help? My screen hasn't flickers like yours and stuff but there was a warning message about me having a virus on my iPad and when I pressed cancel, it didn't work. Something like cookie virus? But something virus.
    And the message looks kinda weird. The way it is in old fashioned computer box messages.( do you know what I mean?) and when you give me advice, please don't say too much. You're actually scaring me. So is that a problem I should be worrying about or its nothing?

    • Unknown
      January 17, 2016 at 2:13 am

      Oh sorry. I thought Anonymous was the writer of this article but Cheistian Cawley, help. It's still occurring even in 2016!!

      • Unknown
        January 17, 2016 at 2:16 am

        Christian Cawley, please help me. There was a warning message about me having virus on my iPad. I can't remember what kind of virus though. And when I pressed cancel, it didn't work. That's the only problem I have. I'm wondering if someone is watching me now. Or maybe was it like just how sTU from October 23.2012 said it. Maybe they're just checking new hacks? I'm nervous. Please help.

        • Christian Cawley
          January 17, 2016 at 8:20 am

          I think the sensible option here is to factory reset your iPad. It is *very* unlikely that you have a virus on the device, but more likely you have an app that is a bit dodgy and causing you these problems.

          Trouble is, knowing which one it is could be difficult. So backup your data, factory reset, restore, and then install an anti-malware tool to ensure there is nothing in your data causing the problem.

        • Unknown
          January 18, 2016 at 1:18 am

          How do I backup my data, factory reset, restore, and install an anti-malware tool ? All I know is to turn the power off. And turn it back again. Do we have to pay anything? I also don't know what factory reset mean, nor anti-malware. May you please explain a little more?

  7. tapita toleafoa
    April 24, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I think my pc has been

  8. Anonymous
    October 20, 2012 at 4:45 am

    OK, here's one for you.... and I swear you will not believe this, but what I am about to write now is as true as true can be. This is why I have kept my identity hidden. Here is my story.
    I'll aim to keep this short and to the point...
    A couple of years ago... I used to be a member on a cam site with live girls on... this site was MyFreeCams.... Now I am naming them because if anyone has experienced same problems as me, I would seriously consider having your pc checked and fast.
    after a while on this site, I started noticing my pc running slow even just on starting up... i would see little screen flickers which never used to happen. I also after several tests convinced myself.... that whilst I would be on this site watching the cams, it kind of felt they we're watching me, so to begin with.. I unplugged my webcam.. which was the only source of mic... (now bear this in mind for later) Still convinced they we're watching me like a tv screen as i was to them, I would log into a non popular girls room where no one was in, holding up different words written on paper.. like... wave to me, or blow me a kiss... and which ever i held up.. was done so immediately by the person on cam. Now this aroused even more suspicion... I know this sounds crazy but believe me this is all real... I would log into different rooms and position myself at different angles to my monitor... sometimes in the middle.. other times right on the left edge or right edge... and immediately the girls would look in my direction where i was sat.... Now with such belief I was being watched too through my computer screen started to freak me out massively... Now bear in mind my only source of mic was my webcam which was unplugged... so i tried one last experiment....... I would go into different rooms where there was no one else there... and really start calling names to the girl on cam, like you ugly slag, pig ugly bitch etc.... and this is where my suspicions was finally confirmed... eventually one of the girls snapped... looked directly at me and shouted "will you fuck off" i swear to god this is true. Now its been confirmed... i was being watched and heard through my monitor... My computer started going mental, flashing flickering, like you would not believe, like they we're now trying to crash my pc from their end. it was like a scene out of a movie.... I firstly tried to record the goings on with my webcam, but the uninstalled the drivers... I then used a digital camera and started too record.... but they somehow erased the memory card of my camera maybe by some high pitched tone that erases memory cards.. I got to the point where i called a friend over with anything he could record on.... which was at the time the new iphone 4 that he had.... starting to record the screen for video evidence... suddenly his phone beeped and turned off... the entire phone was mysteriously wiped... it was like everything i tried to use to record was being countered with my the people at the other end. What ever i had somehow uncovered... they sure as hell didnt want me knowing about it. my computer was going like lazer lights at a rave party.... to the point where i had to shut it down to stop it blowing. To this day it has still left me very worried as i had never in my life thought someone could hack a computer and turn a computer into a tv to be viewed from where ever it was being hacked from.... But i'm telling you this is happening. The witness i had was my friend who came over with the phone, because even he was slagging off the girls and they we're all telling him to fuck off too...whilst my computer was being sent mental by their computer hackers. he saw the funny side of it, but it has scared me ever since. Believe this or not.... but every single bit i have said is absolutely true... so if you use this site, or sites like it... be warned, whilst you may enjoy watching these girls.... just bear in mind, if your computer seems slow and glitchy, even without being on their sites..... They are already inside your computer watching you. To this day is scares me. I run 2-3 firewalls and antivirus software and i am checking daily even now. people may think this is a load of crap... but try the simple pen and paper test if you have any doubts..and even the speaking test even if you dont have a mic plugged in... because believe me... if they are in your system,,,they CAN hear you.

    • sTU
      October 23, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      wild story might be true every computer runs on 1s ans 0s would'nt suprise me just piss me off.But that is there whole point anyway dude don't get to crazy about it if they can do all that they could do worse so if they havent they were just messing with you testing there new hacks.

    • Anonymous
      September 27, 2015 at 2:37 am

      This is exactly what I have been experiencing for a long time now, and I didn't think I was crazy. Now I know... thank you for this story... what can I do about this? Any advice, Please?? I'm really at a loss for words right now....

      • Anonymous
        November 3, 2015 at 7:17 pm

        Unplug your monitor when not in use, limit your router access while not on line
        (unplug the RJ45 Cabel to the router) no internet access, no live feed...simple Good Luck!

        • SICK OF IT
          November 4, 2017 at 12:29 am

          WRONG!!!!! NOTHING HELPS! I'm on my 5th computer in 5 months! 16th cellphone! ALL HACKED except 1 cellphone I got YESTERDAY & this computer because this is the 1st time I've used it! I had EVERYTHING! ALL SECURITY measures! Swapped routers, unplugged my printer, unplugged computer, turned off router, called DELL & HP. Changed services as in DISH, AT&T, Sudden Link, NOTHING WORKS!!!!!!!! EXCEPT DEATH!

    • Jessica
      February 20, 2016 at 5:22 am

      Well that is what you get for not paying for your LIVE NUDE GIRLS...ok if you are a cheapskate may I suggest FREE PORN!

      It is common courtesy to pay for live entertainment. This lovely girl told you to F OFF, but at least she doesn't walk in to your place of employment leer at you with her hand down her knickers asking you for a free McRib sandwich now does she?

      This time you got taxed for the price of your computer, but I bet you still came out ahead in free wanks prior to the incident.

    • Robert Richardson
      June 7, 2016 at 1:14 am

      After installing a software program on my PC I have been noticing almost the same thing. The next day I booted my computer up and hear voices in my computer. I don't hear them anymore. But I do keep hearing mouse clicks in the background. Becareful when installing
      any software that contains any bloated ware. After backing up my data. I had erased my
      hard drive and reinstalled windows.

      • SICK OF IT
        November 4, 2017 at 12:34 am

        HACKED!!!!!N DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY LIKE I HAVE! 5 computers in 6 months, 16 cellphones, subscriptions ($250. +) for McAfee, Norton, Defender, AVG, NONE OF IT WORKS!!!!!!! HE HACKED THROUGH ALL OF IT!

      • SICK OF IT
        November 4, 2017 at 12:37 am

        I doubt very seriously that my comment & my replies will be seen on here. BUT I have contacted the police & Cyber Crimes Unit. As of today I contacted The FBI Cyber Crimes Unit, The Dept of Defense & The FBI Complaint Center in WA DC! They have every kind of help sections you need! Don't waste your time here! GO FILE A REPORT! My identity is stolen & yours will be too! GO FILE!!!!!!!!

    • SICK OF IT
      November 4, 2017 at 12:25 am

      I believe every word of it! I am hacked & hijacked for the last 6 months! 5 computers & 16 cellphones! NOTHING WORKS to keep them out! I had ALL OF THE SECURITY MEASURES RECOMMENED & MORE! DELL couldn't even open one computer! I heard the guy on the 1st computer he hacked. He SHOWS me MY INFO on MY GMAIL account!!!!!! DO NOT FALL FOR ALL OF THIS 'YOU ARE SAFE" shit! Because you are NOT safe!!!!!!

  9. Morgan Partridge
    September 10, 2012 at 12:08 am

    If your computer is running Windows XP an above phone Microsoft's technical support helpline.

  10. Shana-san
    August 3, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I was just wondering does Window Defender help?
    As I turned it on does it help to have it on or should I turn it off??

    • Christian Cawley
      August 3, 2012 at 7:57 am

      You should certainly have it active as it is a useful real-time tool for detecting spyware; indeed, it is one of MIcrosoft's better utilities!

      • SICK OF IT
        November 4, 2017 at 12:39 am

        IT DOES NOT WORK! If someone is going to hack you like they did me you can have your computer chained & locked with explosives and THEY WILL HACK THROUGH IT! I KNOW THIS FOR A FACT!

    • SICK OF IT
      November 4, 2017 at 12:38 am

      NOPE! NOTHING WORKS if someone is wanting to hack you!!!!

  11. Irshaad Abdool
    July 9, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    do not forget to reset all your important passwords after running full system and anti-malware scans, as maybe during the attacks, your passwords were logged and are being used.

  12. Angelo Dipasupil
    June 21, 2012 at 11:06 am

    How about if i encounter that when i'm using internet sometimes it is very to slow to load or sometimes it always not responding,it is a sign of a trojan virus and how can i pix it.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 23, 2012 at 7:32 am

      You'll need some suitable malware removal tools for your operating system.

      • Bonnie Posey
        November 4, 2017 at 12:41 am

        OMG! You people are such liars! NONE OF IT HELPS!

  13. Carol Murphy
    June 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    someone hacded into my laptop throu the router and my guest user which i assume was open, how can i get this person out.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 23, 2012 at 7:31 am

      Hi Carol. You'll need to get the instructions for your router, do a full factory reset on the device and then apply some stringent passwords. Disconnecting it from the Internet is advised while you're doing this.

    • Anonymous
      November 3, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      Hard Reset the Router.

  14. Richvarsay
    June 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Hi, the information you have provided is worth a treasure. However, I would like to add some very basic points on how you can check if your computer is hacked.

  15. Nicky Chaleunphone
    June 10, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    That's why I use Keepass to create passwords and manage my passwords as well

  16. westley
    June 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    Generally malware is meant to just cause damage or to massage a hackers ego, spyware is, as it's name suggests, meant to spy on your activities, from spying on your browsing habits to stealing passwords and sensitive documents. Both equally bad.

  17. GamE
    June 7, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    what is the diff between malware and spyware ??

  18. Shehan Nirmal
    June 7, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Firewalling computer is much better to prevent hackers...

  19. Laga Mahesa
    June 7, 2012 at 1:53 am

    All my computers are safe, a buddy on 4chan showed me how to do impressive Matrix-y things using something called Command (I can't think of a kewler name!!!) after I gave him admin rights, so now I know how to check for haxxorz the l33t way!

    • David Commini
      June 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      wait, you gave a guy from 4chan admin rights to your computer? really? i sure hope you really know this guy well, but personally I would be getting a new computer and changing all of my online info.

      • Laga Mahesa
        June 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm

        Nah, mate, I was kidding. It was a lame attempt at highlighting the fact that social engineering is far more common and more likely to be experienced by Joe Public.

        • David Commini
          June 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

          I was hoping that was the case :-)

  20. Elijah Swartz
    June 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Getting a malware infection is different than a person maliciously trying to gain access to your system. Now a days, malware is profit oriented and completely impersonal. It goes after many users, and no specific user in mind in general. I would never consider that as "getting hacked." They just want their program on your computer in hopes of making money off of naive people by using a little fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You also should mention that people need to update their AV and antimalware software or else it is useless. Without updated definitions, you can keep scanning, what it won't identify the bad files. You could mention that scanning the system by a secondary computer would be the best option, and 2nd best is in safe mode. Also, skiddies everywhere can easily gain access of your system locally. Anyone can go to nirsoft dot com and use some their good free tools to rip every password you can imagine off your computer while your logged in. Similarly, they could use FTK Imager on a flash drive to copy your registry hives, including the SAM and SYSTEM files which contain your user password data. They could use Konboot to get a temporary admin account to Windows and GNU/Linux operating systems during bootup. Installing or leaving a physical keylogger there is also a possibility. You also forgot to mention that if you should keep all of your programs and operating system up to date to prevent exploitable vulnerabilities from being on your system in the first place. In regards to BIOS passwords, they used to have default manufacturer passwords you could use to gain access. If not, if you can get on the computer while it's running, in about a minute you could flash the computers BIOS and that will restore defaults. Of a person stole your computer, they could always just move the BIOS jumper. They could also pull the battery which over about 15 minutes or so will reset your BIOS data. In regards to the firewall, anyone could just whitelist their list of programs on your computer, and the firewall will allow the traffic. It is a good mentality to remember that someone is always smarter, more knowledgeable, and better equipped than you. Make yourself a difficult target, because people generally favor going after the easier and more vulnerable "low hanging fruit". One last thing to mention, other operating system can still spread malware from a computer even if it doesn't affect the host OS. An example would be that according to Sophos, about 20% of Apple computers harbor and spread Windows malware. Keeping yourself updated and protected can not just help you, but others as well.

  21. Jay
    June 6, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I have not used a firewall or an antivirus since I switched to Linux, I have read a lot of different opinions about this. I am pretty careful about what I install I also keep my router access on my quick launch and know what should be there and what should not. From what I have read a Linux computer can effect a Windows computer if it has a virus, so it might be a good idea to have some kind of protection if your networked to any Windows computers.

    It might be a good idea to change your router to allow only the MAC addresses you enter. This can get annoying if you have a guests who want to use your WiFi. A hacker can spoof their MAC address to look like one that is allowed.

  22. RamaKrishna RK Veluvali
    June 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks for the info...

  23. Mihovil Pletikos
    June 6, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    firewall.... for one i don't have any firewall installed on my computer, anymore...
    ever since i installed open-wrt on my router (and you can do it on most routers) and configured firewall on router i got rid of them.... this way, i think, i have most control and over all computers in home network and that everything is as safe as possible