While the internet has opened the world to us, unfortunately it’s also opened us to the world. Attempts to gain unauthorized access to online accounts and computers have become an almost daily occurrence, and it’s become important for even the most casual of internet users to learn how to protect themselves.
From banking accounts to emails to social media, it’s important to be vigilant. While you may not always know exactly how you’ve been hacked, you can keep an eye out for common signs of trouble, and be ready to take action with a few quick strategies for countering and protecting yourself online.
Here are a few warning signs to be on the lookout for:
- Your online passwords or settings have been changed
- Your computer’s passwords have been changed or you see new User Accounts
- You notice that posts you never made are showing up on your account
- “Official” emails are filled with poor spelling and/or grammar
- Your friends receive strange emails or spam from you
- The computer’s home page or default search engine is suddenly changed
- Your mouse moves on its own to make selections
- You notice confirmations in your email for things you haven’t bought
- Messages proclaiming dire circumstances such as “your account is being cancelled,” and asking you to click on suspicious links
If you suspect you’ve been hacked, here are a few actions you can take right away to protect your accounts:
Change your password: In some cases, hackers don’t change account passwords right away. This means you still have access, and can change your password to block outside access. Most email or online accounts have a Change Password option from the Account details page. Or you can always click on “forgot password” at the login page to reset your password.
Password good practices: When suspicious of a possible hack, it’s a good policy to change all passwords for accounts such as email or for financial institutions. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts. Use long, complex and unique words or phrases, and if available, opt-in for 2-step verification when changing passwords. This means that any change prompts a notification or special code to be sent to your personal phone.
Spread the word: Send an email or text to your contacts letting them know that you were hacked, and warning them not to click on any links or heed any information in suspicious emails that seem to originate from you.
Scan your computer: Running security software scans should be a routine practice. If you suspect you’ve been hacked, immediately run an in-depth scan for anything suspicious that may be active in your computer.
In this age where business and life are being conducted more and more online, it’s necessary to be as vigilant in your activities online as you would be in the real world. Be aware of your surroundings, adopt good safety techniques, and you’ll be creating good habits that will protect you in the future.