The Telltale Signs of a Hacking Attempt

The Telltale Signs of a Hacking Attempt

Cybercriminals often rely on chance. That’s why they tend to roll the dice with large organizations. While it’s important to have preventative measures in place to protect your company’s data and devices, it’s perhaps more important to recognize if a hacking attempt has slipped through the cracks.

Since the bait for a scam can either be obvious or subtle, the same can be said when determining if an attempt was successful or not. You may notice problems with your programs and data immediately, or it can take longer for the effects of a hack to surface. That's why knowing what a hacking looks like will make it easier for you to take action before it's too late.

  1. Incoming alerts from anti-virus programs ideally will appear to inform you that your system has been infected. As a result, this may prevent you from removing or isolating affected files.
  2. When you access the internet, your browser homepage may be changed or you may be redirected to unfamiliar websites. You may also receive frequent and random pop-ups when using the web or accessing personal accounts.
  3. Applications might appear that will ask you for authorization to install software updates or programs that will request you to make changes to your system.
  4. New accounts or programs will suddenly be installed that you did not set up. You may also see toolbars from unfamiliar vendors appear on your web browser.
  5. Your online passwords may no longer work and your computer applications could consistently crash or freeze when you attempt to log in to them.
  6. Your coworkers may also receive spam emails or illegitimate social media requests from your hacked accounts. Notify them to not open suspicious messages or requests sent from your account, as this could be an attempt to harm their data or devices.

Damage Control

In the event that your computer or device has been affected, it's crucial that you take the correct steps to mitigate the harm it can bring to your data. If your work device is affected, if you have an IT department, contact them immediately and isolate your computer from any networks so that it won’t be used to attack others. Do this by pulling the network cable out of your workstation and turning off the Wi-Fi connection.

Be sure to take these steps if your personal devices have been affected:

  1. Update your passwords to all online accounts on a secure computer or device that has not been infected. This will work as an immediate defense to prevent the hacker from trying to use your information to unlock your other accounts.
  2. Back up important files from your personal infected hard drive onto a clean hard drive. This can be done as a preventive or recovery measure and will help you easily recognize what data or programs have been compromised.
  3. Make use of your PC’s anti-virus, anti-spyware, or anti-rootkit to scan your personal computer or device to help locate the threat and prevent it from spreading.

Don’t Be Fooled Again

If you've experienced a hacking attempt, it's important to take a look back at where the threat may have originated from and what steps you can take to ensure that it won't happen again.

First, you should be suspicious of any external emails you receive, as just receiving a corrupt email could put you at risk. If you suspect that a message may be a threat, do not open any attachments or click on any links. Also, do not reply to it or forward it to anyone else. If you have an internal IT department, report the email to them. If you don’t have an IT department, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that you delete the email. If the email comes from an organization that you do business with, call a trusted number for that organization to follow up.

Since hacking attempts are also common through harmful URLs within emails, check link locations on email attachments and websites to avoid being taken to an unsecured site. Remember, any website enabled by HTTPS will be encrypted with additional security to keep you safe on the web.

Hackers often strike us through our email accounts, so use strong passwords that use a random combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Or use a passphrase or complete sentence rolled into a password format. This may not only help you remember your login information, but it will also be hard to crack. You can take a sentence and make the first letter of every word your code. That way, only you know what it means. For example, “The first house I ever lived in was 613 Fake Street” would be Tfh!eliw613FS. This example also uses numbers and characters for added complexity and protection. Don't use the same passwords on multiple accounts and change them every couple of months.

Since hackers lurk in unprotected networks, check that you're always connected to a secured network. Save work documents and data only on devices authorized by your company. For personal email and file sharing accounts, enable multi-factor authentication and push alerts when available.

You never know when a hacker may strike, so it’s always best to be prepared and to be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary to protect your work and personal data.