It’s naïve to believe that you’ll avoid getting hacked in your lifetime. The average person has about a dozen online accounts, and each is susceptible to hackers. Even your personal computer and smartphone may be attacked, especially if you’ve used public Wi-Fi recently.
Many people don’t realize the threats of public networks. Public Wi-Fi is prone to man-in-the-middle attacks where hackers hijack your transmissions and private information. There are also issues of malicious hotspots and malware distribution.
Improper safety and security practices will also increase your risk of getting hacked. Failing to use a good password, staying logged into accounts on public computers, pairing devices with others, and other seemingly harmless mistakes are made every day.
At some point, you will probably get hacked. According to the New York Times, this is an assumption everyone should make. Even those who are aware of threats and take steps to prevent it are probably at risk—it’s just the nature of the 21st century. The important lesson to learn is what to do when it happens.
Identify Whether or Not You’ve Been Hacked
Before you take steps to mitigate the risks, identify it as a true hacking attempt. You might have your suspicions, but according to USA Today, there are some tell-tale signs that you’re experiencing an attack:
- Your device slows down suddenly.
- Your data consumption has suddenly increased.
- Apps, software, and programs start crashing on your device.
- Pop-up ads start appearing everywhere.
- Your device suddenly reboots without prompting.
- Websites refuse to load, even though your internet connection is fine.
These are all signs that your device has been infiltrated, especially if they happen in conjunction with each other. USA Today also warns about suspicious online activity.
“Keep an eye on your email’s “sent” folder and on your social network posts,” the article says. “If you notice emails and posts that you don’t remember sending or posting, it’s likely that you have been hacked.”
It’s also important to watch your social media usage. If friends report you sent them a spammy link or you’re commenting strangely on their posts, it’s very possible that someone has gained access to your account.
If you’re unsure about a hacking attempt, ask a tech professional to assess the situation and potentially save you from further information loss.
Clean Up Your Device
If a hacker has accessed your device, they’ve likely used malware, a virus, or other malicious code that will lead to data loss and/or stolen information. If you suspect that bad code is corrupting your device, act before the damage becomes irreversible.
Use software to clean up each device. There are apps for your phone and software for your computer. Just make sure you use software designed for your operating system. You’ll use different software to remove malware from your Mac than you will for removing it from your PC.
Change Your Passwords
One of the best things you can do to secure your information is to change your password. If an account has been hacked and you change your password, most accounts have a security measure that will log everyone out of your accounts and prevent further access to your information. This is especially true for your banking apps and social media accounts.
Unfortunately, passwords are a weak point for most internet users. According to research published by Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director and security expert, 86 percent of passwords are considered weak. Many people use a variation of sequential numbers or letters, and many simply use the word “password.” This makes it easy for hackers to access your information through brute force attacks.
You can significantly reduce hacking risks by using strong passwords and changing them often. Include numbers, capital letters, and special characters in each password. Change them at least once every six months, and don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts.
If necessary, use a secure passwords manager to keep track of your credentials for more secure accounts across the board.
Spread the Word
Don’t forget to consider those around you who might have been affected. Many hackers will use your account to distribute malware. Send a quick message to friends and family that they might have received a bad link, and they shouldn’t open it. It will prevent them from going through the same thing and keep you off their blacklist for exposing them to it.
When you’ve navigated a hacking attempt, whether it was successful or not, you’ll likely become more vigilant in your efforts to keep your account safe. Share with others what you learned from this experience and the importance of keeping accounts safe. It will potentially prevent future attacks and will make the technological world safer.