How to Find Out If You’ve Been Hacked & What to Do Next
Like every other aspect of the IT industry, hacking has improved over the years. Cybercriminals have gotten craftier and more efficient than ever, and in this era of COVID-19 and nation-wide quarantines, chances are high that everyone, you included, can sustain a cyber attack.
Of course, not everyone will become a victim of hacking with the same level of intensity. For example, everyday people like yourself will most likely get a few automated emails that seek private information. These methods are usually low-effort and easy to spot. However, high-ranking public figures could become victims of more elaborate attacks. The criminal acts usually include phishing emails from hackers who want to steal corporate-level secrets and blackmail the victim into paying a huge sum of money.
So, how can you tell when someone has hacked you? And, more importantly, how can you handle the situation with your private data intact and your wallet untouched?
What Do Hackers Target?
More often than not, cybercriminals and hackers for hire will hit platforms that contain something of value to the victim. For example, they will focus on online banking and shopping platforms, as well as Escrow services like PayPal. However, they will also target social media websites like Instagram and Facebook, or online streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. In short, anything that they can use to gain financial or material goods, or that they can use to blackmail the victim into giving them money. It isn’t uncommon for people to hire a hacker online in order to get into other people’s websites.
Recognizing and Handling the Hacks
Step 1: Spotting the Unusual Behavior
No company, no matter how powerful, is immune from a data breach. Just remember the 2015 Ashley Madison debacle. And as if that weren’t enough, you won’t be pleased to know that no platform is safe, even if it’s as small as a knitting forum or a collectible card game website.
So, what are some of the early signs of a data breach? Well, pay attention to your platform of choice. Did you get a notification that somebody tried to log in using your account from a remote device? Was there an attempt to buy something using your credit card? Did you get locked out of the account and can’t log in? Any one of those instances can point to a hack taking place.
Step 2: Regaining Control Over Your Data
Once you’ve identified a potential hack, you’ll need to do the following:
- Let your friends, family members, and business contacts know that your account has been compromised
- Contact the platform that owns your account (i.e. Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Facebook, etc.); each of them has a set of procedures and policies when it comes to data breaches and hacks
- Let them know if you’re able to access the account or not; depending on the answer, follow the steps they provide to the letter
- Once you’ve recovered your account thanks to the parent platform, make sure to check all other platforms you frequent and check the settings; change anything out of the ordinary
- Change your passwords on all platforms (more on that in the next paragraph)
- If necessary, contact the law officials in your country and proceed with legal action
Step 3: Securing Absolutely Everything
Did you regain control over your data? Excellent, because you’re not done yet. Once you went through the steps above, proceed with the following:
- Change every password everywhere in case there’s a repeat attack
- Limit the online info you have by going over every single internet page you frequent
- Make sure to also check accounts from websites you’ve stopped using years ago, just to be on the safe side
- Update all security settings and introduce a multi-factor authentication system
- For added safety, use a VPN.