One of the tough realities of having an online life is the risk of being hacked. The internet is bursting with an ever-growing number of criminals looking to gain illicit access to your computers, mobile devices, apps, and online accounts. The good news is that being prepared for a cyber intrusion can help minimize the chances of falling victim to one, and can help you quickly spot and recover from a compromise if you do inevitably find yourself hacked.
The Probability of a Hack
Protecting against cybersecurity incidents is undoubtedly a major concern of businesses and corporations, but individuals like yourself are also popular targets of hackers. According to a study
conducted at the University of Maryland, hacker attacks are a near constant occurrence, happening an average of once every 39 seconds. Furthermore, since the start of COVID-19, the FBI has reported a whopping 300% uptick
in reported cybercrimes.
Types of Hacks
There was a time not so long ago when the primary hacking concern was having your computer or laptop compromised. Today however, there are many other systems that you need to safeguard from hackers. These include:
Protect Yourself from Hackers
- Mobile devices such as phones and tablets
- Email platforms
- Social media profiles
- Online banking and other financial accounts
- Accounts and logins for healthcare and government websites
- Online shopping accounts
- Online tax filing platforms like TurboTax and H&R Block
- Peer-to-peer payment apps and services like Venmo, Popmoney, Zelle, and PayPal
Whenever possible, it’s good to be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of waiting for a hack to occur, you should take a few steps now to prepare for (and hopefully prevent) a cyberattack. Here are some best practices to help safeguard against hacks and allow you to more easily recover from them:
How to Tell if You’ve Been Hacked
- Keep a backup of your data and information files
- Stay vigilant to help prevent falling victim to phishing scams
- Never use public Wi-Fi to log into accounts or conduct financial activities
- Use strong passwords, change them regularly, and don’t reuse passwords or share them across various accounts
- Ensure that your browsers and operating systems are up-to-date
- Conduct regular or automated security scans of your computer and mobile devices
- Opt for multi-factor authentication whenever it’s offered
The scary thing is, it’s possible to get hacked and not know about the intrusion for quite some time. This is a particularly dangerous scenario, as the longer a hacker remains undiscovered, the greater chance they have of creating substantial damage in your life. This destruction could include financial loss, having data files stolen or corrupted, or having sensitive personal information compromised.
Because of this, it’s extremely important to be on the lookout for signs of hacking. Knowing if you’ve been hacked is vital and will allow you to react as rapidly and proactively as possible.
Luckily, there are some common warning signs and clues that can help alert you to the possibility of a hack within your devices or accounts. You should react immediately if you notice any of the following:
What to Do if You Are Hacked
- You notice that software you did not authorize is being installed, or has been installed, on your computer or mobile device
- You open an attachment, or click on a link from an unknown sender or source
- You find that your email account is sending messages that you did not create
- Your friends or business associates contact you about odd messages supposedly sent by you via email, social media, or text message
- You receive odd virus messages that aren’t from your antivirus provider
- You receive a ransomware notice in an email or pop-up notification
- Your password fails to work when you know you are entering the correct one
- The cursor on your computer moves on its own, or webpages scroll on their own, without you moving the mouse
- You notice unauthorized credit card charges or financial transactions in your accounts
- Your browser is not responding properly or is taking you to unexpected websites
- You are experiencing issues with your computer, such as crashes or unauthorized restarts
If you suspect that your device or accounts have been hacked, it’s a good idea to start with the following steps to help mitigate the potential damage:
- Change all of your passwords
- Run your anti-virus software in full scan mode
- Check your online financial accounts for any unauthorized activity
- Alert your financial institutions immediately if you suspect anyone may have gained access to your accounts
- If you believe a breach may have included your work files or devices, let your manager or your company’s IT Department know
If your computer or mobile device has been attacked and suspect that malware or a virus was installed, you will need to take more aggressive action. You should reinstall your operating systems, which can be tricky. Depending on your situation, you may want to use a professional computer service for this process. You should also ensure that any backup files you have are secure and clean before reloading.
If you have suffered a serious financial loss or have received threats or extortion demands as a result of a cyberattack, you should contact your local law enforcement as soon as possible. Many police departments have resources or units dedicated to electronic crimes.
As the world we live in continues to grow more digital every day, it’s critical to take the threat of being hacked seriously. Staying vigilant can help minimize the probability that you will be the next hacking victim, and being able to spot a hack in a timely fashion can also help lessen the damage caused by it.