Headlines have been shouting out, that the FBI recently investigated a website which had obtained personal information of high-profile people, and posted it online. Their credit card and social security numbers were available for anyone to see. These numbers have been conned out of the victims, through various methods of hacking.
Now it’s unlikely that anyone would want to target you specifically in order to take your information, but hackers have special tools that allow them to mine the information of hundreds or thousands of people and computers at the same time, exploiting any holes that they find.
In previous articles, I’ve covered a lot on how to protect yourself from spyware, malware, and hackers. But preventative measures don’t always do the trick, or sometimes you learn about them too late. So what are you to do when you think your account has been hacked, or someone is stealing your information?
First Step: Call your bank or credit agencies. If you are able to access your finances online, chances are that a hacker can too. Banks can review and stop any suspicious activity on your account. It would also help to get a credit report to check if any accounts have been opened in your name. If you’re only suspicious, you can set up a fraud alert at an agency like Experian, Equifax, or Transunion. For three months, they will make sure that any creditor must contact you by phone whenever someone requests credit in your name.
Second Step: As always, scan and update your computer, while this may not fix what has been hacked, it should help to close those vulnerabilities that allowed them in. Use Malwarebytes and Microsoft Security Essentials to check for viruses. Update your flash, Java, and PDF plugins as well.
Third Step: Change your passwords. If you suspect that anyone but you has access to any of your online accounts, simply change your password. The quicker you do this, the less opportunity the hacker has to actually inflict damage. While you really shouldn’t use the same password for every site, many people still do. My personal strategy is to pick a few memorable passwords and then create variants for different sites. Instead of making them more complex like many people recommend, consider simply making them longer, with more personal meaning for you. A computer is more likely to guess Hunt3r2 than it is Ilovebakedbeansuccotash.
Finally… if in doubt call a pro – like your local computer repair expert if your problem is more complicated than you can handle. These are good steps to get you started. There are dozens of types of attacks, and the only way to truly combat each one is to talk to an expert in the field. So make sure to get all the information before proceeding to fix the problem.