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How to Spot a Hacked Electronic Device - and What to Do About It

Expert Witness: Evidence Solutions, Inc.
As a Digital Forensics company, we receive frequent inquiries from people who believe their devices have been hacked. In some cases, it becomes quickly apparent that the person reporting the hacking may be imagining some or all elements of it (especially when the FBI is claimed to be involved). However, that does not change the fact that there are 100% legitimate instances of hacking, and it is essential to be aware of the warning signs that someone may be accessing your devices without your knowledge.

Here are some indicators that your electronics may have been compromised - and what to do about it:

Unusual Behavior
One of the more glaring signs of a potential device hack is when your device begins acting in strange ways, particularly ways that indicate someone else is engaging with it. Unusual behavior can include making calls, sending messages, or opening apps without your direction. It may also include randomly turning off, restarting, or other erratic behavior.

Unexpected Pop-ups and Ads
An increasing number of pop-up ads may also indicate issues (note: this may also indicate you're attempting to read a recipe on a food blog). Being wary of pop-ups overall is a good rule of thumb: even if your
device isn't compromised, cybercriminals often utilize pop-ups to try and introduce malicious software or phishing for private login information.

Slow Performance
A hacked device is likely to be a slower device. Rapidly declining performance on a once-speedy smartphone or laptop may be due to malware or a hacker operating behind the scenes. Some bad actors may also use hacked devices to run illicit activities, slowing down the device overall.

Unfamiliar Accounts and Charges
Everyone should be in the habit of reviewing their financial accounts, including bank statements and credit card statements. Unauthorized charges, transfers, or withdrawals are all (perhaps obviously) huge warning signs that something is amiss.

Password Anomalies
If your passwords change without your authorization and you are locked out or must reset your account, it is likely that someone else has gained access. Hackers will often update passwords to gain control and keep you from stopping their activities.

Excessive Data Usage
A big jump in data consumption may be the result of malware or hacking. Keep tabs on your usage so you can be alerted to any significant changes.

Steps to Take if You Suspect a Hack
Disconnect from the Internet
If you suspect a hack, disconnect your device from the internet to prevent further unauthorized access.

Change Passwords
Change the passwords for everything, including your router. Start with the most critical accounts, including your email and financial accounts. Use strong, unique passwords for each account. Utilizing a password manager can be a great way to ensure you have strong and unique passwords without having to remember them all individually.

Update Software
Out-of-date software can be an access point for bad actors. Ensure that your operating system and apps are all up to date, as manufacturers frequently release updates to patch security vulnerabilities.

Install Security Software
There are many reputable antivirus and anti-malware software options that can protect your devices. They can scan your devices, alert you of any threats and remove malicious programs.

Contact Support
If you are unable to regain control of your device or accounts, contact the manufacturer or service provider for guidance.

Electronic devices are a largely inescapable part of our modern lives, but they present new opportunities for criminals to target us. Shielding against potential threats requires vigilance. Keep these tips in mind so you can recognize signs of hacking and take prompt action to prevent further harm to your personal information, financial accounts, and digital devices.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Evidence Solutions, Inc
Evidence Solutions, Inc. is a premier forensics and expert witness firm with over 40 years of experience helping the legal industry obtain, understand, and utilize complex information. Our Trusted Expert Witnesses provide consulting in Digital Forensics, Law Enforcement, Cybersecurity, Accident Reconstruction, Commercial Trucking, Transportation Safety, Sports & Fitness Safety, Real Estate, Greek Fraternity, Product Failure, & more.

Decades of experience make us adept at the technical aspects of evidence retrieval and analysis, but what truly sets ESI apart is the ability to explain complex evidence to a jury. Our experts enjoy their work and often serve as faculty for CLE presentations to help assist attorneys in their practice.
During Cybersecurity Awareness Month our Digital Forensics team aims to keep firms and private individuals safe with these tips.

Copyright Evidence Solutions, Inc.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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