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There are many more people working from home right now, using less secure computers and Wi-Fi, as well as less secure behaviors. So, is hacking on the rise? There are many ways that someone can compromise your computer or your online accounts. Read on to learn what to do to avoid being hacked.

First, let us agree on the meaning of being hacked. There are many ways that something malicious can happen to you while you are online or using your computer.

  • You can actually download a virus onto your computer. The virus can do anything from using your computer resources, to stealing the information you have stored on your computer, to interfere with your use of the computer entirely. 
  • When you enter information into a company’s website, you hope it is secure. Stealing information from a company is one form of hacking.
  • This stolen information can then be used to get into your account. If you reuse the same password in several accounts, the thief can log into several of your accounts.
  • When your information is taken, it can be used to steal your identity.
  • Your email or Facebook accounts can become compromised and someone can log into them (perhaps using the aforementioned passwords, or by guessing). The thief can then send emails or messages as though they are you.
  • In Facebook, it is fairly common for someone to create a duplicate account, posing as you, and send friend requests to your friends.
  • You can receive a pop-up window on your computer saying you have a virus and have to call a phone number or visit a website in order to correct the situation. 

These situations are hacking.  Many of these aren’t technically hacking, but we still try to avoid them.

How to avoid being hacked 

To avoid downloading a virus, you should not open emails that look at all suspicious. This is also true of Facebook messages and other electronic communication.

You should not click on links in emails, messages, or in websites that you are not 100% sure of the source. Do not click on a video in an email unless you were already expecting that person to send it to you.

Always check the actual domain of the email sender or website before clicking. The last two positions before the / are the most important –  bankofamerica.com is not the same as boa.com or bnkofamerica.com or bank.ofamerica.com .

You should avoid clicking on ads that run down the sides of your screen on certain websites.  This is a common result of hacking into a company’s site. If the ad contains malicious code, it may be missed by the company for a short period of time. If you click on the ad, it will run its program on your computer and may install additional software.

Instead of clicking on a link directly in an email, you should open a second window and search for the address or phone number. This will allow you to confirm the correct website/phone number without clicking on an ad or pop up. 

Be Aware

No computer or phone will send you a message or notification saying you have a virus and have to call Microsoft/Apple/Dell etc. If yours does, it is a scam. These people generally act as though they are helping you, and then will charge you for the service at the end. They are NOT helping you! Sometimes, it is not as benign as asking you for money, and they may install software on, or steal information from, your computer

You should use, and keep updated, antivirus software such as Windows Defender or Norton, or periodically download and run Malwarebytes.

You should use complex strong passwords and not reuse them across websites.You should change important passwords like at your bank periodically.

After You’ve Been Hacked

What if you couldn’t avoid being hacked? If one of those bad things has already happened? These must-do steps will help you regain control.

The answer depends on what the hack was:

  • A fake Facebook profile only has the information you made public. You should report it to Facebook.
  • A window popup, while you are visiting a website, is an example of the website being hacked. If this happens, you should delete your browser history, close your browser and stay away from that site for a time. Occasionally, even major websites get hacked. It isn’t a problem with you or your computer.
  • If you hear of a breach at a company, you should change the password for your account with them.  
  • Run an antivirus scan
  • Change your passwords at other sites where you have used the same password
  • Disconnect from the Internet while you ascertain the damage
  • Look for and remove viewing software if you allowed someone to access your computer
  • You might want to look at what tasks are running on your computer to make sure that there isn’t software you are unaware of running in the background
  • Disable remote connections to your PC if it seems that someone actually has access to your computer.

Here are some of our favorite sources on the topic of how to avoid being hacked:
What to do if you’ve been hacked – PC Magazine

How to find out if you’re been hacked – Digital Trends

How to report in Facebook

Identify theft is outside of our realm of expertise, but there is certainly much written about it! Here is a good article to start with from the Federal Trade Commission.

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