Hackers are constantly finding creative and innovative ways to get past firewalls, lure unsuspecting people into sharing their information, or break into devices connected to public networks (such as when you’re at your favorite local café and using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone).
You could take steps to significantly reduce your risks of getting attacked by the hackers, but unfortunately, you will never be completely protected from motivated hackers .
While it can be frustrating and a bit unnerving, there are some important steps that you should take if you know you’ve been hacked.
Conduct a Security Audit on All Major Accounts
If you have a bank account, a few credit cards, and several other important sensitive accounts, conduct a thorough security audit on them. Call customer service for each one and check on access to your account. Be sure that you know when you last logged in. If you and the representative determine that access was gained or attempted when you know it wasn’t you, lock down the account.
Locking down an account can be frustrating as it will essentially freeze your cards, but it will keep you from having money stolen from the account. This step can be time consuming, and you may think that since it was only your email or Facebook account that was hacked, for example, that your financial accounts are safe, but in reality, people tend to store too much personal information in very insecure locations. Email and social media accounts can give hackers more than enough information to gain access to your financial accounts.
The first step is to go through any site or program that requires passwords and reset them all. Start with the most important sites and programs, such as financial. Banking, credit cards, and other websites where you have some sensitive, personal information such as account numbers, your address, and anything else related to this stored information should be secured as a priority.
Your passwords may be simple, something easy for you to remember, and you may use the same password for just about everything, but think about this: if you used a password that is easy for you to remember, then it’s probably one that will be easy for a hacker to figure out, even if they don’t have access to it directly.
Too many people use names of pets, their birth dates, and other easily identifiable names and numbers as part of their passwords. When you’ve been hacked and you begin the process of resetting all of your passwords, create random passwords that include capital and lowercase letters as well as symbols and numbers.
Write down these passwords in a book or on a sheet of paper. Do not store them on your computer, as it would defeat the purpose of being secure. A savvy hacker could gain access to your computer and have a look around and when they see a file labeled ‘Passwords,’ they’ll have access to everything they need.
Additionally, don’t forget to reset the key code for your wireless router in your home. You may have been hacked through any number of methods, but it’s still a good idea to reset your wireless router’s access information.
It’s also a good idea to get in the habit of changing your passwords every few months, especially the passwords to your credit card or banking sites.
Run a Virus Scanning Program
Even if you have one of the best antivirus or internet security programs money can buy, hackers are clever and can find ways around programs. Regularly run an in-depth scan of your entire computer system to determine if there are any viruses, Trojan horses, worms, or other malware or spyware sitting on your computer waiting to be used to read/scan your personal information.
If the scan uncovers a large number of corrupt files, they should be removed.
Check for Back Doors
Once a hacker has gained access to a computer, they tend to install ‘back doors’ so that they can get into your computer easily again. Check your email rule settings to make sure that nothing is being forwarded to another email account. Also, if you don’t know why a rule would be in place, and it is not something you would ever use or need, change the rule.
You should also check all of the websites that you use—especially those with personal information stored on them—and make sure that no security questions have been altered. Check to ensure that the email address they have on file is correct.
Update Your Computer
Yes, those constant requests by your computer’s operating system or other major programs to perform updates can be annoying, but they’re important. Many of the updates, or patches, that are developed constantly by the companies address vulnerabilities in the operating system or software programs. These vulnerabilities could provide a hacker with access to your computer once they find a way past your firewall.
Update your computer and make sure that you do so regularly. While it may seem annoying, spending hours upon hours trying to secure your information after you’ve been hacked can be far more frustrating.
Secure Your Wireless Router
Your wireless router is the first firewall for your computer. It is the first line of defense. Never leave your wireless router ‘open.’
Here are a few important changes you can make to your wireless network settings to secure your wireless network:
- Enable encryption – Wireless routers offer either WEP, WPA or WPA2 wireless encryption. Both WEP and WPA are old and can be cracked within seconds. WPA2 is the latest encryption standard, offering “government-grade” data encryption.
- Change the password for Web Access – If you don’t replace the default password assigned by the manufacturer, hackers can easily crack the password. Therefore, it’s important for you to replace the default password with a strong password. Create a strong and random password using a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Replace the default Service Set Identifier (“SSID”) with something unique – Changing the SSID doesn’t necessarily provides additional security, but it could discourage hackers as they now know that you have taken steps to secure your wireless network.
Ask Yourself Why You Were Hacked
Once you’ve gained control and security again, sit down and try to figure out why you were hacked. Often, it’s the simple behaviors that we get used to that allow us to get hacked. You might have clicked on a link in an email from a friend and that could have opened the gates to a hacker. Or you might have downloaded an attachment thinking it was safe.
You may have followed a link to what you thought was your financial institution’s official website when in fact it was a hacker’s site. Even though there are antivirus programs and other security measures in place to help protect our computers and personal information, nothing beats being vigilant.
When you follow these procedures in the aftermath of being hacked, you’ll help avoid more serious and lasting damage, not only to your computer but also your finances and other aspects of your life worth protecting.
Use a Virtual Private Network
Lastly, use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. It will provide a second line of defense for your personal information. With a VPN, your computer’s IP address, location, and a host of other information hackers use to gain access to your computer will remain anonymous.
Hotspot Shield VPN can create a VPN between your laptop or iPhone and our Internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers, ISP’s, or anyone from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network. Hotspot Shield security application is free to download and is easy to install and use.