Hacking: It Still Goes On, with Computer Attacks and Data Breaches
Here are 7 tips to fight back against hacking.
The history of hacking certainly has changed over the decades, and the definition of work along with it. Maybe it was small scale at first, and more like vandalism.
What’s changed the most is the size of today’s data breaches (they’re massive) and who’s being attacked. Hacking networks of the biggest organizations (Sony, Facebook, Equifax) are the top examples of hacking at its best…or worst.
So maybe you just want to know what you should do right now, to defend yourself. That’s what this article is about. Here’s a very helpful checklist—More details on each point follow:
How to protect yourself from hacking, computer viruses and cybercriminals.
- Change all your passwords. Change your password habits too. Maybe it’s time for a password manager.
- Check to see if you have accounts compromised in a data breach. Use our free Data Breach Tool.
- Beware of fake emails saying you’ve been hacked. They’re often sent by scammers trying to scare you into clicking a malicious link.
- If you have been of hacking, notify your contacts. Tell them to be on the lookout for someone pretending to be you.
- Check your credit card and bank statements and look for unusual activity. Report it immediately. Add two-factor authentication to your login process.
- Check for malware and other viruses ASAP. Be sure your antivirus program is up today’s threats.
- Find a PC expert to help you upgrade Windows, or move data over to a new, clean computer.
You’ll find more information as you read on.
Hacking is still an issue.
There’s this term floating around these days called “ethical hacking.” This type of hacking doesn’t mean that some outsider (hacker) is breaking into a computer system to right a wrong. That would be like Robin Hood stealing information from the rich to give to the data poor. Or like superhero protecting us from the bad cyberguys.
Ethical hacking is an exercise by a team hired by a network to hack their computer system. It’s done to see if they can do it and find out where the network’s flaws are. Why?
Because it’s better for an organization to pay find its own network flaws. Better than to have actual, real hackers do it and steal information.
Do you think your safe because you’re not a big company, like Sony, Equifax or Facebook?
Indirect victims of a hack.
These big network attacks have can still have a huge impact on your life. So, even if they’re not after you, they can still get to you through a data breach.
In April of 2018, according to USA Today, 735,000 million people were affected by cyberattack. That’s for just ONE MONTH! And in January of 2019, nearly 2 billion stolen records were released.
Maybe that’s why people say they are worried now more than ever. They’re worried about being a victim of a cybercrime more than other theft. Check out this survey.
Seventy percent (70%) of people surveyed said they are afraid of being victimized on the internet. That’s almost three times higher than the 24% who said they’re afraid of terrorism.
Here’s what should keep you up at night, even if you aren’t a big business, political party or country.
- More and more computers are being taken over and manipulated by hackers and their viruses. And the victims don’t even know it.
- Your computer could be part of a network (a botnet) that’s used by hackers to launch a larger attack.
- As if you’re not already worried about the internet, snoops spying on your personal information, stealing your email passwords and private data and, installing spyware.
Breached? Find out now if you have accounts that have been compromised in a data breach.
A historical look at hacking.
Years ago, the term hacker didn’t necessarily mean what it does today.
A few decades ago (and that means the 1990s!), the word “hacker” was the term for a skilled computer programmer. You know, the person who was good at writing code for computer operating systems. They could work on a program that maybe wasn’t working the way it should. Best of all, they could figure out what was wrong and fix it.
Moreover, they could also examine the code of a competitor’s software and do a little espionage. If needed, they’d even “borrow,” modify or stealing code to fix things.
Maybe there was too much temptation.
Because with the way business (and individuals) sometimes work, some of these skilled IT guys “expanded their talents. They learned to apply their skills to access password-protected computers and networks. At first these crooked would-be hackers were called crackers; but then the term hackers seemed a better fit for what they were doing. So today, when we hear the word hacker, we agree on what it means. It refers to someone use their technology talents for disruptive, criminal and general bad behavior.
It’s gone beyond crafty school kids changing their grades online. Hackers have taken their “skills” to the next level.
- There’s still an ongoing debate on whether or not a foreign country interfered with the Presidential elections in the U.S. in 2016.
- The credit bureau Equifax as hacked, affecting more than 140 million accounts!
- There are still thousands of data breaches every year.
Hacking isn’t going away.
So, what should you do if you get hacked? Start with the 7 following things.
Change all your passwords
Why not? When was the last time you change a password on ANY of your accounts? It’s not something we normally do on a routine basis, because we think we’re safe.
NEWS FLASH: you aren’t safe. There’s a good chance your password if floating around somewhere on the internet due to a data breach. Not only should you change your password, you should make them all extremely difficult to figure out. Hackers love simple passwords and like it when people use the same passwords on different accounts.
Your best move might be to use a password manager to help you manage it all.
If you hear of a data breach, check to see if you might be affected
There are data breaches happening all the time. The Equifax breach is still in the news. One of the most recent ones was DoorDash, the food delivery service. The numbers weren’t as huge—only four million accounts—but it’s a clear reminder that no company is safe.
And if you do business with a hacked business, you might be at risk. You need to be following the news and reacting immediately. If you have an account with that company that you’ve heard has been breached, do something! At least do a data breach check immediately.
You can use the free Data Breach Check at WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.
Beware of emails saying you’ve been hacked
Hackers are great at using email—and scare tactics—to trick us into giving up information. It’s part of the hacking and scamming game.
PayPal users have been targeted with emails, from online crooks, saying that their PayPal accounts have been compromised. The instructions they provide ask the victim to reply to the email and follow specific steps. Those actions reveal the information the thieves want—and many people fall for it.
Huge corporations, such as Facebook and Microsoft, are targeted often by hackers’ attacks. So, they have a process in place to notify their users with advice. And because they’re online services, they will contact you by email. (Wouldn’t it be weird to get a letter from Facebook?)
So, if you ever get an email saying that you have an account that’s been hacked, you have to think twice. It could be true, in which case you need to act; or it can be a ruse, a message from online thieves.
So, what do you do with a hacking alert?
If there HAS been a problem, a company will notify you by email and tell you what to do. Just BE SURE of two things:
- That there has been a reported and real attack. (It would be in the news, so check it out.)
- That the person who is emailing you works for the organization that was hacked. Go to the company’s website to look for trustworthy information.
- Verify that everything is legitimate before proceeding.
- Do not send any new personal information to the company. They won’t ask for it.
Hacked? Better let your online contacts know about it
This one can seem tricky. If someone hacked your social media accounts or email, they could be trying to fool your contacts. They may reach out to your friends and family, sending messages with dangerous links, looking for victims.
Cybersecurity experts suggest that you contact your friends as soon as you can. Let them know what happened and alert them to be careful answering odd messages from your hacked account. Do that and you might stay a step ahead of the hackers. Better yet, you could prevent a contact from being duped by a fraudulent email.
Do an intensive check of your credit and bank accounts
When hackers hit pay dirt and breach a company’s network, they have a treasure trove of data. They have in their hands credit card information and other valuable consumer information. And you know what their next step is…to make trouble. They make fraudulent credit card purchases and apply for loans as fast and for as long as they can.
That’s why you need to check ALL your credit card and bank accounts for fraudulent activity. You’ll know right away if your credit has been compromised. And remember, while you’re checking your accounts, to change your password and set up two-factor authentication.
Check for malware, viruses and other hacking signs ASAP
Despite all the technological advances, your PC can still get compromised and taken over. All it takes is for a virus to get in there—and it happens all the time. What do you think all the news about Russian hackers, spyware and ransomware are all about? Cybercrime is sophisticated and alive these days. Fortunately, PC makers—especially Apple and their Mac computers—have made great strides in that area. They focus on making our computers more secure and less susceptible to attacks. But they’re not impenetrable.
It’s often not the computer’s fault anyway, it’s us. We—ordinary everyday people and workers—are usually the weakest link in our home or work network security. We typically allow the viruses in by clicking on harmful links, visiting dangerous websites.
Make sure your antivirus program is good enough to fight today’s threats.
Computer crash? Give your PC a major tune up.
Many people take their car in for tune-ups routinely to keep it in top condition. Others take it to a mechanic when it’s not running right or there seems to be a problem.
Why don’t we do the same on our computers?
You certainly don’t want to transfer corrupted files from an infected PC or hard drive to your new device.
If you think your computer is not running right—or if you fear you have a virus or malware, get help! You may want to get help from an IT professional immediately…someone you trust, of course.
Maybe you just want to get a new PC and have all your old files transferred over. If so, you will definitely want professional help. You certainly don’t want to transfer corrupted files from an infected PC or hard drive to your new device.
Hackers Keep Out!
It’s a fact that most people are scammed, hacked or defrauded when they least expect it. and when they are least prepared. As they say in the sports world, the best offense is a good defense.
To succeed, be smart about what you do online and to build a fortress of protection around you. You never want to be easy prey for the criminal element online. The harder you make it for them to penetrate your fortress, the more likely they’ll look elsewhere.
Get a secure internet connection by using a VPN.
If you don’t know, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A lot of big companies use VPNs for remote employees, to ensure a secure connection. VPNs use the highest grade technology and encryption that makes life miserable for hackers.
The good news is, you can use the power of a VPN and have a more secure connection at home and especially on the road.
- A VPN is a program you install on your laptop.
- Even the top VPNs cost a only a few dollars a month. There are free VPNs too, but you must choose carefully.
We made choosing the right VPN for you easy by creating the VPN Simplifier. It helps you find the top VPN provider for what you need.
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