Seeing the term “Hacked” in the world of Internet Security is a complete disaster. Different systems and cybersecurity software have been all set up in order to prevent and avoid getting hacked, no matter the means used for the cyberattack.

It’s not often that you get a message that clearly states your data or account have been hacked, you usually discover it yourself, whether by running a scan that looks for malicious factors, looking for suspicious or unauthorised behaviour, or by receiving a message from the organisation handling your account that their database, including your information, have been hacked.

Here’s how to know your data has been hacked and what to do in this case, how to avoid getting hacked online, and the different cybersecurity software available, what they’re for and how to choose between them.

How do I know my data has been hacked?

In many cases, you get informed right away like when you get a ransomware message asking for money in exchange for returning your information back. But that’s not the only case, here are the signs indicating you’ve been hacked:

  1. You receive a direct ransomware message, asking for money.
  2. Your online password doesn’t work anymore, which is a sign the password changed.
  3. You get random popups frequently while online.
  4. You find toolbars in the browser that you haven’t installed yourself.
  5. You receive a fake anti-virus message.
  6. Your searches online are all redirected.
  7. When you find installed software that you haven’t installed yourself.
  8. When your friends on social media receive invitations from you, that you haven’t sent yourself.
  9. You find your mouse moving on its own between programs, pages and making selections.
  10. You find the Task Manager, the anti-malware software or the Registry Editor has been disabled.
  11. You stumble upon your data online.
  12. You find the patterns in the network traffic are obscure, denoting suspicious activity.
  13. When money is missing from your online banking account.
  14. You get notified by someone that your data has been hacked, like when the financial institution or bank informs you of the incident.

What do I do if I got hacked?

If you’re certain that your computer got hacked, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take your computer offline by unplugging the internet connection and turning all connections off.
  2. Change the password of your computer, then use an uninfected device to change the passwords of your other accounts, which you’ve accessed through the infected computer.
  3. Remove all external data devices that were connected to your computer.
  4. If you have backups of your data, it’s best to wipe your hard disk.
  5. Wipe your hard drive and reinstall your OS.
  6. Alert your family and friends of the hack, so that if they receive a message from you, they’d know to check with you first.
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How to avoid getting hacked?

The first step you can always take is creating a strong password for any of your accounts, however, passwords are just one way to get hacked. To face the varied ways you might get hacked online, here’s what to do to further protect yourself and your data online.

  1. Using Multi-Factor Authentication: this should be the default for your important accounts, to verify it’s you.
  2. Use a Password Manager: to do both, create strong and unique passwords and store them safely for you.
  3. Learn how to detect a Phishing Attack: if your instinct is telling you not to click the link in the message or email, don’t. Stop and think.
  4. Updates are Vital: Your phone and your computer must always have the latest system updates to avoid hackers finding a way in through application bugs.
  5. Encrypt Data: You can use applications that automatically encrypt data such as WhatsApp, Signal and ProtonMail. Make sure to turn the encryption option on through your computers as well.
  6. Remove your Digital Footprint: if there are any old accounts that you don’t use anymore, it’s better to remove them and wipe any saved data pertaining to them from your computer. The perpetrator will resort to using the data from those old accounts to try and hack your current ones.

Anti-Virus, Firewall, Anti-Malware, what’s the difference?

Online threats vary between viruses, malware, cookies and popup windows, just to name a few. However, what program to get to protect your data? Here are the differences:

  • Anti-Virus: is software designed to scan, detect and remove viruses from the computer, monitoring all data and programs for any suspicious activity.
  • Firewall: can be a software or external device, used in monitoring and protecting the network traffic of your computer, to allow only authorised users.
  • Anti-Malware: is software that protects your computer from all types of malware, such as spyware, adware and worms.

While antimalware encompasses a wider scope of threats than antivirus, they both work on different levels. Antimalware is typically designed to protect your device against new complex threats springing every day to increase the strength of your system, while an antivirus works to protect your system against established threats such as Trojans, viruses and worms.

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So, what should you have installed on your computer?

Many antivirus and antimalware software won’t hinder the speed of your computer. A firewall will only monitor the access between your device and the network and blocks unauthorised access, but it doesn’t have the ability to recognise malicious factors. It’s typically embedded in your OS, you can simply choose the recommended settings and activate them.

This is why you need to have both an antivirus to regularly scan your device for viruses and remove them, and antimalware software to keep up to date with the constant evolvement of malware. Together they provide the utmost protection for your device and data.

Cybersecurity will continue to evolve, and so will the means of cyberattacks. Do your part to protect your data online, it starts with you!