Burton Kelso, Tech Expert
How To Tell If You Have Been Hacked & How to Protect Yourself
October is 'National Cyber Security Awareness Month and what better time to make sure you are protected from all of the real threats on the Internet and informed of what the latest scams and hoaxes are. If you read what's in the news and on social media, it seems everyone is getting hacked these days and you probably think you're next. Relax, if something strange is going on with your devices, it's probably a random glitch and not some shady hacker trying to break into your computer, smartphone or tablet. To help give you peace of mind and to keep you better informed, I'm going to share some tips to let you know if you’ve been hacked and what to do if you’ve been a victim of a cyber-crime.
The majority of hacks and viruses that attack your devices can not infect your computers, smartphones, and tablets without human interaction. This means in order for a virus to get into your devices or for someone to steal information from your devices, you have to initiate it. Remember that file you downloaded that wasn't from your co-worker or family member? That link you clicked on in that email or text? Remember that time tech support called to alert you about the problems with your computer and you let them log in? That's how your devices are infected. Criminals don't concentrate as much on attempting to break in individual devices (home and small businesses) and are more focused on 'social engineering', not hacking to get your information. What is social engineering? It's the act of using deceptive means to get your data. That is why you see a rise in robocalls, spam and scam texts. Don't want to compromise your information or get hacked from your devices? Always be careful when using your computer or other devices. Don't click on links in unknown emails, ignore those scary calls you receive and watch what websites you visit.
Even if you're careful with your devices and watch what you do when surfing the web, you still need to keep an eye on your personal data. Large company data breaches occur frequently, which means some or all of your data is being leaked on the Internet or being sold on the dark web. Obviously large companies need to do a better job of protecting it's customer's data, but there are some things you can do to find out if your data has fallen into the wrong hands. First, you need to visit Fighting Identity Crimes (fightingidentitycrimes.com). Once there, visit the 'Breach Tables' section to get a list of all of the companies that have been breached, what information was stolen and what steps you need to take to protect your data. This web site has tracked data breaches back to 2012. Next, you should visit 'Have I been Pwned' (www.haveibeenpwned.com). This web site will check to see if your email was part of a data breach. Why is this important? Well, most of us use an email address to log into our online accounts. Social media. Banking and Finance, chances are these web sites use your email address as the user name. If your email address has been 'pwned' (geek speak for owned), then you need to immediately change the password for that email account and any other online accounts in which you've used that password.
Here are some other ways you can protect yourself.
1. When you're on a public wifi network, use a VPN (virtual private network) to browse the Internet privately and securely.
2. Set up two-factor or two-step authentication for your important online accounts.
3. Use a password manager to help you use different passwords for your online accounts and keep your passwords secure.
4. Never click on suspicious links in email, text or on social media messaging services or download applications from unknown sources.
Here's what to do if your computer or other devices has been hacked:
1. Run a full virus scan to detect the malware and viruses infecting your devices.
2. Change the passwords for all of your online accounts.
3. Look at the programs and applications on your devices. If you see any program or app that doesn't seem legitimate, uninstall the app right away.
Cybercrime isn't going anywhere, so make sure you're taking steps to keep your information out of prying hands.
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