Tips and tricks to help you know what to do — and how to prevent it.
Have You Been Hacked?
Ever sat down at your computer and suddenly your password is rejected as incorrect and you didn’t change it? You try several combinations, no luck. Now you’re confused. To make sure you got it right, you try a social network — after all you’ve used the same password everywhere! But, oops, you saved these by mailing them to yourself. This is one of the most obvious signs you’ve been hacked. As a kick-off hackers change your password so you can’t log in.
If your password hasn’t been changed, but you smell a rat, check your sent items. If there are messages you didn’t send, a hacker probably has access to your account. Hackers know we often use the same password across different sites and by trawling through your inbox, can see which you regularly use and try access those. So, if you’re wondering how long it would take to crack your password, the answer is not long at all!
What To Do If You’ve Been Hacked
If you think your personal data is a risk, take the following mitigating steps to secure yourself:
Step 1: Access Your Email Account
- Log into your email account on your provider’s website. If the password has been changed, try the password reset mechanism (“Forgotten your password?” link or similar).
- Once you’re in, ask yourself “how secure is my password?” Change it to something strong and long: special characters, symbols, multiple cases, numbers, no real words, and no variants of the word “password” or common passwords (“qwerty”, “0000”, “1111”, “12345”). Commit your new password to paper or use password management software.
Step 3: Check Your Other Accounts
- If you’re storing all your passwords on your email (your internet banking, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, etc.), they’re probably breached, so change them too.
- Check your inbox and trash for password reset emails from other services or accounts linked to your email address that didn’t originate from you. The hacker could have tried to change your password on other sites, using access to your email to perform password resets.
Step 3: Check For Spam
- Some hackers trick your friends or contacts into buying things, giving personal information etc., by using your email address to send spam or phishing emails. Warn people that you’ve been hacked via email or other communication if you can.
Step 4: Sort Out Your Apps
- Make sure you can access your email in all your usual places. If you use an email program (Outlook, Mac Mail, Windows Mail), or you get your email on a phone or tablet, swap the compromised password on each device to your newly created secure one.
Prevent Future Hacking
Fraudsters that access to your mail are looking for personal information and the odds are against us: one in four email accounts today gets hacked. However, there are ways to prevent people spying on you and being compromised.
- Activate Two-Factor Authentication
Activate two-factor authentication ubiquitously as an extra layer of protection besides passwords. If a hacker cracks your password, now they still need bypass the second layer.
- Declutter & Backup:
Check everything you keep on your email. We live a large part of our lives through our email inbox so ditch what you don’t need and backup everything else — encrypt them and store them in a safe place (cloud storage or a separate hard disk).
- Learn To Detect & Prevent Phishing Attacks
Phishing isn’t a new technique, but it’s still efficient: 23% of email recipients open phishing messages, and 11% click on attachments. Cyber criminals can use them to steal your identity, withdraw money, open credit card accounts in your name, and trade all that information about you on the Darknet. Beware of the emails and attachments you open or the links you click on!
- Install Security Software On All Devices
Pay for a strong, reliable and well-known antivirus and never install those from pop-ups or ads that you run into while surfing the web.
Validate the legitimacy of any program, game, app, video, or song before downloading it (e.g. from a trustworthy site). If content is pirated, free, or comes to you incognito, assume it has malware.
- Phone Info
If you sell your phone that contains tones of personal info and probably your passwords, get up to speed on how to do a phone wipe.
The risk of having your email account or other services hacked is increasing, because as long as you have an identity and an email address, you’re valuable. Remember, if you comfort yourself that “you don’t care about getting hacked as there’s nothing valuable in your email — after all you’re not Mark Zuckerberg,” that’s exactly the mantra of the unaware!