What the hack! How can you tell you’ve been hacked? What can you do?

We are all vulnerable to the threat of a cybercriminal or a hacker gaining access to our information. However, the cyber threats may not all be equal for us all. You and me, the average person? We will likely face fewer threats to our online security than high profile people, like actors, CEOs, and politicians.  

Higher-profile folks could be the target of phishing emails, with the goal of stealing data or even financial information from corporate networks. The average person is more likely to be the target of other cybersecurity threats. With the goal of credential theft or identity theft. 

The word HACK is itself enough to inspire Matrix-style fears and visions floating through our heads. Hacked. It feels invasive. Intrusive. It’s a violation of your online privacy. How can you tell if you’ve been hacked? What can you do about it? Why did they target you? 

Every week it seems like a new company is reporting a data breech. As alarming as this can be, it’s a positive step for a company to admit that security was compromised. This allows you the opportunity to take action if needed. 

There are countless emails and social media messages in circulation warning you of the latest antics of hackers and other ne’er-do-wells. Knowing how to recognize the signs of a personal hack, and knowing how to resolve your security issues, can save you a headache later on down the road. 

Who are these hackers? 

Just what or who are hackers? The hacker ecosystem is quite expansive, with various tiers of hacker. The word itself is likely familiar to most of us. However, you may not know much about the concept of hacking, hacking techniques, types of hackers or the motives and their targets.  

A hacker is a computer expert who takes advantage of their advanced technical knowledge to problem solve. While the word hacker can refer to anyone who is an expert computer programmer, in recent years it’s become more closely connected to the idea of a security hacker. This is someone who uses their advanced technical knowledge to exploit vulnerabilities or bugs to break into networks or systems. 

Broadly speaking, there are four motives driving hacker actions and behaviors. 

  1. Some may do it for what they believe to be patriotic reasons. This could include state-sponsored cyberattacks against rival parties or even governments of other countries. 
  2. Some may do it for the virtual street cred that will come from other hackers being made aware of what they’ve accomplished.
  3. Some may be hired by rival corporations to dig up information that can be used as leverage or to outright steal proprietary information.
  4. Most may do it for monetary gain. This is particularly true when it involves the manipulation of bank systems or breaking into systems that house credit card numbers. 

So, you’ve been hacked. Now what? 

What the hack! They got you. The reality is that with hacking, it’s not if they’ll get to you but when they’ll get to you. We’ve got a few easy-to-follow guidelines to help you figure out your next steps. 

Hack type: debit or credit card. Have you noticed unusual purchases that don’t make sense? Has your credit card been denied at a store when you know your limit hasn’t been reached? Perhaps you’re locked out of your online bank account? You may also notice that money is missing from your account and your bank is calling with fraud alerts. 

What should you do now? 

  • Take action immediately.  
  • Call your bank and report the fraud.  
  • Freeze your credit and debit cards.  
  • Change the logins you use for each of your financial accounts. 
  • View your credit report for any potential concerns. 
  • Run antivirus and malware programs on all of your devices. 

If you report the crime in a timely manner most financial institutions will reverse the charges so that you aren’t on the line for them.  

Hack type: Facebook, Instagram, other social media accounts 

Your friends might see strange posts on their walls or get unusual messages from you. Quite often these messages are asking for personal information or for money. Your profile information may change, and your friends may notice that you are suddenly posting spam-like or scam-like things all over social media. Your account has been taken over.  

What should you do now? 

  • Log into your account and navigate to the security or login sections that will indicate where your account has been logged in from and if there have been logins from locations you don’t recognize. 
  • Change your password to something not easy to guess. Enable two-factor authentication if possible.  
  • If you have a payment method attached to your account, be sure to check on the payment activity of your account. 
  • If there are any apps installed through Facebook that you don’t recognize, uninstall them. 
  • Scan all of your devices for malware or a virus. 
  • Check on your privacy settings to confirm that only contacts you have authorized can view what you are posting. 

Be sure to go through each of the contacts on your list, of every social media platform that you use. Remove anyone you don’t recognize. The more secure your social media accounts are, the lower your hacking risk. 

How were you hacked? 

We all like to believe that we are too smart to fall victim to social engineering or another type of cyberattack. The reality is that even some of the smartest among us have found ourselves caught up in scams that result in serious financial consequences. Understanding just what the threat looks like is a key part to understanding how to avoid it in the future.

It could be that you clicked on something that seemed interesting online. But it only led you down a path of security compromise. Always be sure that you know what the links are that you’re clicking on. 

Don’t discount the damage that social engineering can do. With just a bit of information and a spear-phishing campaign, you could find yourself revealing passwords and the answers to your secret questions. Lock down your personal information and protect it. 

Resources 

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/security/what-is-a-hacker.html 

https://www.webroot.com/us/en/resources/tips-articles/what-is-social-engineering 

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