Start by locating the portal through which the hacker got in such as a browser or an email program. Next, disconnect/uninstall this gateway from the Internet so it doesn’t invade other systems.
Check for suspicious activity by looking at your Activity Viewer or Task Manager. Check the CPU usage—if it spikes, you can have a better chance of spotting malicious activity. In fact, get familiar with how your device runs so that you know what’s normal and what’s not.
Once you’ve snipped access from the hackers, assess their damage and take these actions to protect yourself:
- Bring up to date your antivirus and anti-malware systems. If any protection system is disabled, enable it. Do a full system scan—using both systems.
- Remove anything that doesn’t look right. Various malware scanners will locate bad things, but those bad things will continue downloading if there’s a browser plugin or extension. So take a keen look at all the small items that you’ve downloaded.
- Change all of your passwords. Make them long and unique.
- After that, log out of every single account. This will force the hackers to figure out your new passwords.
- Clear out all cookies, the history and cache in your browser.
- You may still not be out of the woods at this point. Keep an eye out for suspicious e-mails, new addresses in your account and other phantom activities.
- If things are still going awry, wipe the hard drive and then reinstall your operating system. But first back up all of your data!
Other Preventive Measures
In addition, make sure you do these things as preventive measures:
- Have a firewall, and one that’s properly configured.
- Do not click suspicious links inside of e-mails, even if the sender’s address is one you know.
- Do not open attachments from senders you don’t know or from someone you DO know but would never have a reason to send you an attachment.
- Delete e-mails with urgent-sounding subject lines or claims you won a prize or inherited money.
- Have both antivirus and anti-malware applications. They are not one and the same but may be packaged together.
- Know what your security holes are.
- Can’t be said enough: Make sure all of your passwords are very strong.
- Keep your operating system and everything else up to date.
- If you’re on public Wi-Fi, be extremely cautious. Use a VPN to encrypt your activities. A Wi-Fi with a password doesn’t mean it’s safe.
- Never let your device out of your sight. Never. If you think you’ll ever need to leave it unattended, first equip the operating system with a lock and strong password.
- Back your data up routinely.
- Your device should have a remote wipe option so that you can eradicate data should someone steal the device.
- Be very cautious about what you share online. Your computer may have all the bells and whistles of security, but all it takes is one lapse in judgment to let a hacker in, such as falling for some Facebook scam claiming you can watch a video of the latest commercial airliner crash caught on tape.