What warning signs you should look for to spot a computer hack, and what do if you fall victim to one?
When checking your daily email, you come across what looks like a legitimate email from Amazon telling you there is a problem with your account.
“All you need to do is click on a link or call the phone number provided and a “representative” will help you straighten out the problem.”
If this happens to you, it’s almost certainly a scam. So, what is the best way to avoid these criminals that are working very hard to steal information from you? And, if you are the victim of a cyber-attack, what is your best course of action?
Think Before You Click
Most people think they can easily identify a spam or fake message. However, many phishing scams appear to come from legitimate sources (see image to below). Phishing involves sending you a message that tricks you into clicking a bogus link, opening a file, installing malicious software, or simply giving out personal data that should not be shared, such as passwords or account numbers. Phishing is not just limited to email. It can also take place via text messages (smishing), over social media, or even voice calls. Some scams can take the deception a step further by targeting and personalizing the message using the recipient’s name or other personal details to appear more legitimate.
Opening a phishing message or clicking on any of its links can result in information being exploited and your computer becoming infected, creating immediate exposure risk for you.
What should You Do If You Have Become a Victim of a Cyber Attack?
The first line of defense for your computer is your anti-virus software. How many times do we see anti-virus update notifications and we ignore? It is important to constantly update the antivirus software on a computer because computers are regularly threatened by new viruses. Also, antivirus software will scan your devices for viruses, malware, and other cyber threats. If it detects anything malicious, it will quarantine and remove the file. Secondly, make sure you back up your files regularly in an encrypted cloud or a local storage device. If your computer is infected, you will have a secondary source to retrieve your information. Lastly, do not use the same username and password for multiple online accounts. Utilize a password manager (we recommend LastPass) to make it more difficult for hackers to access your information.
If you fall victim to a scam, here is what you should do:
1. If you are on the phone with a scammer, hang up immediately. If you are online, disconnect your computer from the internet and unplug from the power source.
2. If the scam compromised your banking information, contact one or all three of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to set up a fraud alert for the next 90 days. You can also freeze your credit lines until needed by contacting all three credit bureaus.
3. Change your login credentials; especially on sensitive sites used for banking, email, social media, or anywhere that stores personal data. (Even if you are not a victim of a scam it is best practice to regularly update/change your passwords.)
4. If you do not have anti-virus software or it is not updated, take your computer to a reputable computer repair store to have scans run. Just like you have a go to real person when there is a plumbing emergency, it important to know a good computer repair specialist if you run into problems with your computer.
With today’s digital age allowing for unprecedented levels of convenience and ease of communication, we are quick to open emails and answer questions about our personal lives. It is always better to err on the side of caution and delete emails that are pushing you into an urgent situation, asking for access to your computer or just don’t seem “right” in general.
If you have any questions about the material covered in this blog post, please do not hesitate to contact us.