Modern digital devices are much more secure than they were years ago, but they're not immune to cyberattacks. Hacking incidents are more common than one might think—and they've only risen in number in recent years. Unfortunately, most successful hacking attempts can remain unnoticed—further reducing a device user's digital security while doing more harm.

Today's Cyber Landscape

We're constantly connected to the online world: Whether it's social media, online banking, or local map services—it's difficult, if not impossible, to be without the Internet. Because our digital landscapes are only growing in complexity, so are the threats lurking within them.

The unfortunate reality is this: Intelligent hackers know how to remain invisible and untracked. They're skilled at breaking into devices, stealing valuable data, and leaving without a trace. While some threats are directed towards specific users, most hacks target indiscriminately—existing as traps waiting to exploit unfortunate users who stumble into them.

Assuring Digital Defense

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid these threats. Of course, the best way is to use digital defense tools, such as your device's built-in firewall, third-party antivirus software, or a trustworthy VPN provider verified for quality services. In many regards, any digital security package's main goal is to protect the confidentiality of its users. These digital defense tools also serve to keep their respective devices protected consistently—remaining active in the device's background processes to defend against malicious software around the clock.

Surprisingly, most successful hacking attempts ate the byproduct of uninformed users being unaware their devices have been compromised in the first place. However, it can be difficult to determine whether your device has been compromised without knowing what to look for.

Sign One: New, Unknown Applications

A telltale sign of a compromised device is the sudden appearance of unfamiliar software. While these often appear in the form of active windows, they can sometimes lurk in the background—making them practically invisible. To double-check your device's integrity, open up its task management services. If you see any unfamiliar processes running, search these processes online. It's a good idea to do this often, too, as even frequently visited web applications can be compromised—putting unsuspecting users at immediate risk.

It's also a good idea to uninstall unfamiliar applications, regardless if they've suddenly appeared on your device's listed programs and applications. If you're having difficulty removing these programs, try booting your device into Safe Mode—as it's a much better way to terminate suspicious processes.

Sign Two: Denied Access

Some of today's most dangerous hacks restrict a device owner's access. If you suddenly observe that you're unable to use your desktop computer, phone, or tablet, your device may have been hacked. This is commonly referred to as a 'denial of service' attack—and it's most frequently observed in ransomware attacks. The ransomware itself is a form of malware which 'locks down' a user's device, accesses the device's valuable information, and demands a ransom for its return.

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks have spiked in recent years: In 2019 alone, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded over 2,000 ransomware events that cost involved victims approximately $8.9 million. Sometimes, denial of service attacks involves changing a user's password. This is one of the preventable methods with a little forethought, making it worthwhile to apply it: Activate your device's password recovery tools ahead of time, and consider utilizing a trusted cybersecurity provider's services to access an external password recovery suite, as well.

Sign Three: High Data Consumption

While some cybercriminals target user data during hacking attempts, some simply seek your computer's processing power, SMTP capabilities, and Internet bandwidth. They create "botnets" or entire networks of compromised computers controlled from a singular center. In this event, a botnet's controller might use the botnet to mine cryptocurrency, send spam emails, obtain passwords or launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. In extreme cases, this can lead to a data breach—putting all of your device's valuable information at risk.

Sign Four: An Increase in Pop-Ups

Another major indicator of a compromised device is an abnormal increase in online ads. Spyware—or spy software—and adware and trackware are often the cause of this. They aren't as dangerous as viruses, but they can be incredibly disruptive to day-to-day device operation. This said, devices compromised by adware, spyware, or trackware become less secure over time—and spyware, sometimes, can be used to launch malware attacks on previously affected devices.

The Best Way to Protect Your Device: A VPN

Hacking prevention might seem like a near-impossible task, but it's far easier than many assume. Again, the best way to avoid digital threats is to follow good digital defense practices. Create complex passwords, and consider changing them often. Be vigilant about any local networks you connect to, and always use caution when opening emails, downloading media, or otherwise browsing online. Practicing cyber defense is the best way to avoid information security risks, but digital defense technology is equally important. There are many cybersecurity products and services currently available today, but one option stands out among the rest: a VPN.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a nonlocal server that owners can use to stay safe online. It's a service offered by today's leading industry professionals, and it can be downloaded right to your device. Existing as either a desktop's software application or as a mobile app, your VPN can operate quietly and unobtrusively as a lightweight background process—keeping your device defended around the clock and during every online activity.

When using a VPN, you'll be able to choose which nonlocal server to connect to. These servers are situated around the globe—and selecting one instantly 'cloaks' your device beneath an IP address of its country's location. Internet hackers steal data by tacking a user's IP address—as it can reveal a lot about a user's device itself. So, by changing your device's IP address, you'll be able to avoid online threats entirely.

Your VPN also encrypts any data that hackers might attempt to steal. Encryption 'scrambles' a device's data, making it nearly impossible to decipher by anyone without the data owner's 'digital keys.' These days, VPNs are just about as popular as antivirus software suites—and they're only getting more popular. They're also incredibly affordable to use, as even top-tier VPN services can cost as little as a couple of dollars per month.

Achieving Long-Term Cyber Safety

Using professional cybersecurity tools should also be a major consideration: Modern VPNs and antivirus software sites are much more affordable than they used to be. They're incredibly user-friendly, too, keeping device-holders protected throughout the day, across multiple devices, and many locations. Get in touch with a provider you trust, and outfit your devices with today's leading technology. The online world certainly poses risks—but, with forethought—they're risks you can avoid.
Security Breach