What to Do If Your Computer Has Been Hacked

Cybersecurity | January 3, 2020

If it can happen to Capital One, it can happen to you, too. But while you might be at least somewhat familiar with the threats hackers pose to your digital data already, knowing exactly what to do once your computer has been hacked is a whole new ballgame. 

The truth is that even the most innocuous of behaviors can lead to a breach of your personal or work device, leaving your sensitive information – and future security – exposed to hackers online.

So, if you followed a link to a sketchy site or accidentally opened spam mail for an unknown source, this one’s for you.

Here’s what you need to know about fixing a hacked computer: 

Red Flags to Recognize 

Today’s hackers are smarter than ever – making their handiwork that much harder to detect. Recognizing the telltale signs of malware, spyware, or any other privacy breach is the first step to re-securing your device, fast. 

Warning signs that your computer has been hacked include: 

Ransomware Messages: Any pop-up, email, or message asking for payment in return for your information could suggest the breach of your data. 

Unfamiliar Pop-Ups: The presence of annoying, flashy, or, frankly, weird pop-ups in your web browser is often a good first indicator that your device has been compromised, especially when they appear on frequently visited sites.  

Passwords That No Longer Work: Locked out of your accounts? Find your credentials in an online password dump? Yeah – that’s a bad sign.  

Low Speeds & Network Difficulties: Slow loading speeds and high lag times – as well as strange network patterns – can signal the existence of unwanted programs on your device.  

Unexplained Activity: Sudden restarts. Unexpected crashes. Redirected searches. Roaming cursors. Missing funds. These are all red flags for a potential hack.  

First Steps to Recovery 

Once you’ve determined that yes, your personal or work computer has been hacked, restoring your device to a secure status can be a long, frustrating process. But before you panic, know that there are a few things you can do right away to reduce the threat to your private data. 

Here are the first five things you should do when fixing a hacked computer: 

Reset Your Passwords. Now. 

After you’ve detected a breach on your device, reset all passwords to long, complicated credentials using a combination of numbers, special characters, uppercase, and lowercase letters, avoiding common words and phrases in the process. Doing so will help isolate the breach to one device or account.  

Update Your Programs and Scan for Malware 

It’s possible your hacker gained access to your computer from your device itself. Use the antivirus software you (hopefully) already have to scan for cracks in your security and make sure it is up-to-date. 

Backup Your Information, Reinstall Operating Systems, and Shutdown the Device 

Once you’ve inspected the accounts accessed on your device, back up all necessary files to an external hard drive, update your OS, and shut it down. This can prevent further damage to your – or, if the device in question is a work computer, your company’s – files.  

Stay Informed & Inform Others 

If bad actors gained access to your computer via a breach on an account with a major corporation, it’s possible that you weren’t the only one. Getting in touch with the account’s operators can help you get it restored. In the meantime, be sure to tell your friends and family that your account has been compromised, so they can look for the signs.  

Keep an Eye Out 

You may not see the effects of a hacked computer right away. Watch your accounts and activity carefully for unexplained changes.  

Time to Call in the Professionals 

Following these steps after your computer has been hacked can certainly lessen the impact of a security breach. However, depending on the severity of the attack, you might not be out of the woods just yet.  

If you’re unsure about the extent to which your device has been compromised, it’s time to contact an IT Professional. EMPIST’s cybersecurity solutions can help keep your business’s data safe without limiting the mobility of your employees. To learn more, visit EMPIST online today! 

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