• Tech

11 red flags worth questioning while working online

This article is posted with permission from our partner MacPaw. MacPaw makes Mac + iOS apps that have been installed on over 30 million devices worldwide. Freelancers Union members receive 30 days of free unlimited access to CleanMyMacX and Setapp:

It just so happens that sometimes we get logged out of Instagram. It just so happens that we get an ad pop-up about our computer being infected. We don’t see anything strange behind these situations. After all, it’s the internet: close an ad here, log in there. Why make a big deal out of little things?

Just like one note out of tune in a song may go unnoticed, the entire track out of tune would be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. So, keep track of bizarre events taking place on your laptop, social media accounts, and phone. Ring the alarm and take drastic measures when a few of them, or even all, are happening all at once. 

1. Flawed software updates

As a responsible person, you regularly update your operating systems and software, don’t you? However, often developers are so eager to release an update that, in some places, it’s out incomplete and laggy. Well, don’t start to get cross at them so quickly. 

Moonlock Lab, the team of MacPaw’s malware researchers, says that cybercriminals might use AI to trick users. They impersonate authentic software update notifications and trick users into installing fake updates

If you notice any issues with the performance of your phone or computer after installing new or updated software, take a closer look at it.

2. Alerts from an antivirus you never had

Too many online advertisements are not good in any scenario. Especially when some of these ads pretend to be antivirus messages, warning that your computer has been infected. If you come across such an ad, it is likely that your computer has been hacked, and the malware installed on it is directing you to a sketchy website. 

Never trust messages from an antivirus that miraculously works from an ad pop-up, no matter how convincing they may seem. The solution to this problem is to actually install a reliable antivirus program to scan your computer for adware and delete any problematic browser extensions. Moonlock Engine, for example, does a great job of detecting malicious programs as a part of system maintenance in the award-winning CleanMyMac X. 

3. Requests from friends

Hold on, wait with the judgment! True, not all friend requests to download an app or follow a link, are phony. However, you should always keep in mind that those are some of the most prolific kinds of scam. 

Moonlock explained that cybercriminals use a simple yet effective social engineering tactic. They contact you through an account that belongs to a friend or a close family member they hacked, pretending to be them. Then, they ask you to perform a particular action: accepting a push notification, entering multi-factor authentication, making a call, downloading a link, or something else. This is how cybercriminals infect an entire network, starting with one hacked messenger account and then moving on to hack all the contacts in that account. 

According to Moonlock experts, if a contact approaches you with such messages, try to speak to them in person or at least call them to confirm the story.

4. Forgetting a password

Has this ever happened to you: one of the passwords is no longer working, but you can’t recall changing it recently? That could be an indicator that your account has been compromised. Cybercriminals usually start by altering your password and recovery options, including two-factor authentication, once they gain access to your account. This is how they prevent you from accessing it and get complete control over your assets.

5. Messages you didn’t send

Sort of a combination of the previous two points. If you don’t remember sending some of the recent messages to your contacts on social media, that’s a valid reason for concern. When cybercriminals get hold of your account, they may often exploit it for spam campaigns and the spread of malware. Check your list of friends, messages, and history of notifications to see if nobody has hacked your social media.

6. Agitation over authentication notifications

Getting frustrated over persistent “Did you just log in?” notifications is valid only in one case: when you didn’t ask for them. Setting up multifactor authentication is a must, so when you’re changing devices or logging in from a new location, security messages should be welcomed and expected. However, if they’re bugging you out of the blue and therefore feel annoying, please give them a minute of your time.

7. Cracking sounds on voice calls

Yes, we should keep an eye not only on cameras but on the sound, too. Background noises on a call or during a team meeting might be an indicator of somebody else being on the line. Granted, a weak internet connection may cause some interferences, either. At the same time, when cracking sounds go hand-in-hand with other red flags from this list, it’s better to run a malware scan on everybody’s devices.

8. Unfamiliar credit card charges

Humans have a tendency to spend just a little over their weekly budget and fall into self-denial once they see bank statements. Some skepticism is always healthy while dealing with finances, though. Noticing unfamiliar credit card charges is the fastest way to see if your bank account was compromised. 

Don't hesitate to reach out to your bank or digital financial services provider. They are there to help you, and they can take immediate steps to secure your account. Also, keeping your financial information and passwords safe and secure is always a good idea. Try not to store them on your phone, and don't share them with anyone you don't trust. 

9. Your device is overheating

If your phone or computer is acting a bit like it's had too much coffee, working overtime, and getting all hot and bothered, it might be a sign of some unwelcome guests. Think malware, spyware, or even a hacker taking it for a joyride, pushing its little digital legs to the max. When this happens, your battery might start feeling like it's sunbathing on a hot summer day. So, keep an eye on it! Is it getting warm more often? Battery draining faster than it used to? Does charging feel like it's taking forever? These could be little red flags waving at you, hinting that something fishy might be happening out of sight. 

10. Not getting calls or messages

If you haven't received any calls or SMS messages recently, that doesn’t mean that you’re unpopular. According to Moonlock, there’s a popular attack on smartphones that exploits International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) codes. These codes can enable hackers to forward your calls or SMS messages, receive your verification codes, and even reset passwords on your accounts. 

Has a stranger convinced you to dial a code on your phone recently? If that is the case, it may be worth checking the status of your forward phone settings. To do this, simply dial *#004#. This will allow you to see the status of all existing forwards on your phone number. If you find that there is a forward that shouldn't be there, you can erase all forwarding configurations for calls and SMS by dialing ##004#.

11. Browser redirects

If you find yourself being taken to websites you didn't intend to visit while browsing the internet, there's a chance that you fell victim to a browser hijacker. This type of malware used to be limited to computers, but it can now also infect Android and iOS systems. 

You can resolve this issue by using antivirus software or performing a hard reset. Moonlock experts add to always check the extensions and apps that are currently running on your device, as one of them could be the cause of the problem.

As we spend most of our time in the digital world, it's crucial to remember that even the smallest issues we encounter online can have significant consequences. Cyberthreats are a constant danger, but we have the power to protect ourselves and our business partners. By staying vigilant and taking action when we experience unexpected anomalies, we can safeguard our digital lives and prevent bigger problems from arising. Let's be proactive in protecting ourselves from online threats and stay informed to ensure a safer online experience. Together, we can create a safer digital world for everyone.

MacPaw MacPaw is a software development company that creates maintenance, security, and app distribution solutions for macOS and iOS. Every fifth Mac in the world has at least one MacPaw app installed.

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