Security Breach
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 primary goal is to protect the confidentiality of its users. These digital defense tools also 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 are the byproduct of uninformed users being unaware their devices had been compromised in the first place. However, it can be challenging 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 as 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, even if they suddenly appear 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 cannot use your desktop computer, phone, or tablet, your device may have been hacked. This is commonly called a 'denial of service' attack—most frequently observed in ransomware attacks. Ransomware is a form of malware that '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 involve changing a user's password. This is one of the preventable methods with some 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.

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 compromised computer networks 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 your device's valuable information at risk.

Sign Four: An Increase in Pop-Ups

Another significant indicator of a compromised device is an abnormal increase in online ads. Spyware—or spy software—and adware and trackware often cause this. They aren't as dangerous as viruses but 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 near-impossible, but it's far easier than many assume. Again, following good digital defense practices is the best way to avoid digital threats. 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. Many cybersecurity products and services are currently available today, but one option stands out: a VPN.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a nonlocal server owners can use to stay safe online. It's a service offered by today's leading industry professionals and can be downloaded to your device. Existing as a desktop software application or 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.

You can choose which nonlocal server to connect to when using a VPN. 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 tracking a user's IP address—as it can reveal much about a user's device. So, by changing your device's IP address, you can 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 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, as even top-tier VPN services can cost as little as a couple of monthly dollars.

Achieving Long-Term Cyber Safety

Using professional cybersecurity tools should also be a significant 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. Contact a trustworthy provider, and outfit your devices with today's leading technology. The online world certainly poses risks—but, with forethought—they're risks you can avoid.