Many of today’s criminals do their worst work from behind a computer screen.
Criminals ranging from petty thieves to international terrorists now see cyberspace as an open hunting ground. This has made cybercrime a growth industry where hackers can get big rewards at low risk – and it costs the global economy $400 billion every year!
Maybe you haven’t thought much about the risk of hacking. If you’re a normal person using the internet for work and entertainment, you might not feel like a hacker would have much to gain from targeting you.
But once you’ve been hacked, that will change very quickly.
Ordinary people fall victim to cybercrime every day. Hackers might try to steal your bank account information, infect your computer with malware or hijack it into a botnet.
What starts as a minor annoyance might escalate into a serious problem. That’s why at the first sign of trouble, which is usually unusual activity on one of your accounts, it’s important to act fast and protect your computer.
If you’ve noticed this, here are the first steps you should take.
Get back control of your accounts
If you’ve lost control of one of your accounts, your first step is to get it back.
Many web services, including Google and Facebook, have systems in place for people in your situation. You might have to contact them directly. Go to the site’s help section and you can find out how to manage this.
On Facebook, for example, your friends can help confirm your identity and get you back into your account.
Identity theft and financial fraud are more serious risks. If this is the case, contact your bank’s fraud department immediately. Order a copy of your credit report, cancel your cards and follow any other instructions the bank provides.
This is definitely a situation you should report to the police.
Once it’s all resolved, monitor your account carefully for the next few months.
Change your passwords
Once you’re back in charge, it’s time to change your passwords. (More on this further down.)
There are many methods for generating safe passwords. As general rules, passwords should be at least 8 characters long, include letters, numbers and special characters, and should not be a name or a dictionary word.
Avoid using the same password for more than one login. If you do this, when any account is compromised then all those accounts are vulnerable. That’s why it’s so important to use unique passwords.
Of course, this is easy to say but harder in practice. How many different accounts do you have? How many do you have to access just on a daily basis?
This is why 55% of people reuse passwords, opening the door for cyber-attacks.
To balance security with memory, come up with a “base password” and create variations on it for each login.
You might also use unique passwords for your important logins and the same one for less critical accounts that don’t access sensitive information.
Even with strong passwords, it’s a good idea to change them every so often.
Clean up your computer and accounts
You should also update everything to the latest operating system.
Next, check all of your accounts to see if the hackers got into others. Any activity or messages you don’t recognize are a sure sign the account is compromised.
Finally, disconnect any linked accounts. If your Facebook has been hacked, you’re now vulnerable on any sites where you’re connected through Facebook or use it to login.
Let everyone close to you (within the digital sphere) know that you’ve been hacked.
This will explain any weird activity that they might notice from your accounts.
Also, you want to warn them to be alert against similar attacks. Anyone in your address book is a potential next target for the hackers who got into your account.
As mentioned earlier, it’s especially important to contact your financial institutions and make sure everything is in line there.
Protect yourself in the future
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Hackers are always coming up with new tactics, and there’s no way to be 100% secure against them. However, some simple precautions can go a long way towards reducing the risk and damage of cyber-attacks.
- Switch to secure alternatives to Google, Bing and Yahoo, these data aggretors collect alot of your personal info for commercial purpose, this info can get easily stolen and use for hacking into your sensitive files. Interest in secure messaging services and private search engines is growing. You can now get great results from engines like MyPrivateSearch, DuckDuckGo, SearX and others. These protect your security as well as privacy: everything is encrypted and they don’t share your personal data, so it can’t fall into the wrong hands.
- Don’t use public WiFi networks, like at a coffee shop or hotel, for sensitive activities like online banking. If you have to enter your social security number, financial information or other private information into a website, only due it on a secure private network (or over a VPN).
- Be cautious downloading files. Only open email attachments from sources you trust.
- As mentioned earlier, use strong passwords and a unique one for every important login. You’d be amazed how many cyber-crimes are made possible by people using passwords like 12345, qwerty or their own name!
- Be aware of what you post on social media. Hackers might check out your account for details about your life that they can use to guess your passwords.
- Before entering information onto a site, check that the address says HTTPS, not just HTTP. This means that the site is secure and verified.
It’s scary to realize you’ve been hacked. No-one sees it coming, and it’s very difficult to tell how far the damage goes.
But don’t panic if it happens to you! It’s common enough that most web services and financial institutions have protocols in place to protect victims of hackers.
Put a little extra attention into your online security and you can avoid this headache in the future.