What to do if you are hacked?

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With 22% of the people saying that they have got their online accounts hacked at least once and 14% of the people have been hacked more than once, hacking can happen to anyone.

Getting your account hacked is no less than a nightmare, but with the growing number of cyber attacks, it is likely possible that someone just hacked your account. While getting hacked might make you panic a bit, leaving you clueless about what to do next. But, certainly this is not the end, and you can make sure to recover your account by following some steps that we would be discussing in this article.

Before we dive into the steps that you should do upon getting hacked, it is first important to know that you are being hacked, so that you can do something about it.

How would you know that someone hacked you?

Here are some of the signs that point out someone has hacked you:

  • When you receive a ransomware message.
  • Your passwords for online accounts are not working. 
  • When your confidential data is compromised, altered, missing or leaked online.
  • Your bank account has lost some money with unacknowledged online transactions.
  • Unwanted software are installed automatically on your system.
  • You might receive fake antivirus messages.
  • You can see the cursor moving automatically and performing random selections.
  • There is an unusual network traffic pattern.
  • When the Task Manager, Antivirus or anti-malware are being disabled.
  • When random pop up windows appear on your screen frequently.
  • When your connections get random messages or requests on social media that are not directed by you.
  • Any online activity that appears to be done from your account, which is not done by you.
  • Your device runs slower than the normal and the battery drains out much faster. 
  • Your webcam is on (with the small light on) even when you’re not using it.

If you find any of these signs, then it is very likely that someone has hacked you. In such a case, when you feel that your online privacy has been compromised, then follow the directed steps to minimize the loss and prevent a further breach.

What you should do when you get hacked?

As soon as you get to know that you have got hacked, calm down and take the following measures to mitigate the ill effects of getting hacked and lower down the risks of compromising your data further.

  • Take stock of the situation

Note down the changes you are witnessing, take screenshots if required, so that you can report the hacking incident and take professional help from the Cybercrime cell. Get an idea of to what extent your accounts have been hacked and since when. This information would be helpful for the recovery phase.

  • Make sure you change your password immediately

Changing the password immediately is the first step to recovery, now that your password is already compromised, change it as soon as possible. In case you have been using the same password for other online accounts too, change it for them as well.

  • Inform your friends and online connections immediately

It is likely possible that the hacker could target your connections online, and to prevent it, make sure you inform all your friends and connections to beware and report if they get any communication from your account, as it has been hacked.

  • Flag any spam posts on your profile and delete them immediately

The hacker might have posted some spam content from your profile which could trap others. Flag such malware posts, report and delete them immediately.

  • Disconnect IoT devices if any from the affected account

With a massive rise of cyber attacks on IoT devices since 2017 as per the ISTR 2019 report from Symantec, IoT is the new hotbed of cyber attacks globally. Make sure to disconnect all the IoT devices that are connected to the affected account and reset their settings.

  • Delete all the sensitive data on the affected account

Often our online accounts have sensitive information like finance related files, important documents, personal information, etc. which the hackers could misuse.

Immediately delete any such information, because despite your account being hacked, still, there are chances that the hacker might not have accessed the data and you can save it by simply deleting it permanently.

  • Remove if any other online accounts are linked

It is common to link various online platforms for easy access. But if one of your accounts gets hacked, make sure to remove all the other online accounts that are linked with it to save them from getting compromised.

  • Scan the device using anti-malware software

Hacking could have impacted your device and even if you recover the affected account, it is essential to remove the malware files from the device. Scan your device thoroughly using a good anti-malware software, and delete the corrupt files permanently.

  • Check the storage files in logs

There are chances the hacker might have used your device, to ensure this, check the storage files in the logs and if you find any files that are not created by you, then it is likely that the hacker might have created them. Delete these files permanently.

  • Check the settings 

There are chances that the hacker might have changed the settings to get access to sensitive data. Make sure you check the settings of all your accounts and devices and reset them if you find any discrepancies.

Whom you should contact upon getting hacked?

Once you have taken all the above measures to mitigate the risk, make sure you lodge a due complaint with the concerned authorities about the hack and get technical help. Here’s the list of contacts that could come handy when you get hacked:

What preventive measures you should take to avoid getting hacked again in the future?

Here are a few preventive measures that you could take in order to save yourself from getting hacked again:

  • Update Firewall Settings

Make sure your firewall settings are on so that any potential malware content gets dodged off.

  • Keep Strong Passwords

Reset your passwords and make them strong enough by keeping a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Do not set passwords based on information that can be easily guessed such as date of birth, your name, etc.

  • Opt for Two Factor Authentication

To keep your accounts secure, opt for two-factor authentication, where you can log in with a combination of correct password and the OTP you receive on your phone number.

  • Do not use public networks

Avoid using public networks as they are vulnerable and there are chances that someone might likely intercept your network.

  • Choose strong security questions

While setting up the security questions, make sure you choose strong questions whose answers cannot be easily known to make sure your account is secured.

  • Format your device in critical cases

If you feel that your device is largely affected by the hacking, then it is advisable to format the device so as to get rid of the malware files permanently.

  • Reinstall Antivirus or Anti-malware software

Once you’ve formatted the system reinstall a trusted antivirus or anti-malware software immediately to avoid getting hacked in future.

  • Do not open suspicious emails or files

Phishing is widely used to hack users and compromise their accounts and devices. If you find any email suspicious do not open the file attached to it. You can simply mark it spam, delete it, or report it. 

The way ahead!

Now that you know what you should do when you get hacked, it is important that you get a thorough understanding of cybersecurity, in order to be able to protect yourself and others around in such situations of crisis. 

You can opt for cybersecurity courses that teach how to identify potential vulnerabilities, mitigate attacks, and dealing with such emergencies, in order to secure your network from potential cyber attacks.