In an increasingly digital world, we’re all at risk of being hacked. Everyone’s online every day, sharing personal information from passwords and names, to locations and bank card details, on a regular basis.
Being hacked isn’t just inconvenient, it also puts you at increased risk of fraud. This means it's vital we stay safe online, and follow the correct procedures if we do get hacked.
Find out how you can tell if you have been hacked what to do next with our guide:
There are quite a few warning signs that could alert you to the fact that you’ve been hacked. For example, you might notice that:
Your contacts have been spammed with messages that appear to be from you
Your passwords stop working
You can’t update your system
Your computer starts running slowly
Your hard drive starts making loud noises
Your antivirus software has been disabled
You’re getting more pop ups and ads
You can’t access websites
There are unrecognised purchases on your accounts
You’ve got new programmes on your computer.
If you have been hacked, you’ll need to act fast to minimise the risk to your sensitive information.
Here’s what you need to do:
If you’ve been hacked, each email or social media account has a process you can follow to regain control. Here are some links to these processes for popular accounts:
You may get an email telling you your account was hacked, and explaining how to reset your security. Make sure it’s legitimate before following any links. That email could be from hackers, so it’s always best to be suspicious.
Let your friends and family know that you’ve been hacked. Send them an email or message, or update your status on Facebook or Twitter to let lots of people know at once.
They should delete all suspicious emails or social media messages that appear to be from you.
They should also never click on any of the links contained within those messages. Hackers send messages from accounts they get control of to trick others into opening links which extract sensitive information, like login details.
If hackers have stolen your bank account details, they could make fraudulent purchases in your name.
Most banks will contact you if there’s unusual activity on your account, but you should always check yourself as soon as you think you’ve been hacked.That way, you can quickly spot any transactions not made by you. Sometimes, hackers will make a few small purchases first to check they have correct details, before buying something more expensive.
It’s also important to know that your bank will never email or call you asking for your bank details. If you’re asked for this information, it could be hackers posing as your bank.
If money has been taken from your account, contact your bank immediately. They’ll put a stop on any other transactions and cancel your card.
Some viruses infect your computer and detect the passwords you type into online accounts. They can eventually take over your computer, leaving you unable to log in. Then the hackers take control.
It’s good practice to scan your computer using antivirus software to remove malicious software. You should update your antivirus software before you start – just go to settings to do this. Then you can click for a thorough scan of your system.
If you don’t already have antivirus software, you can download it for free. You could try the AVG website, for example.
Hackers will often try to steal your email address and password. People often use the same combination for many accounts, making it easy for hackers to get into whatever they want.
After you’ve done your virus scanning, you should change your passwords to something new. It’s important not to change your passwords until your system is secure, otherwise the new passwords could be captured too.
Aim for passwords that are 10-20 characters long, and include both upper-case and lower-case letters, as well as numbers and symbols. This reduces your chances of being hacked.
Your password should be memorable but unique. You should also avoid using anything that can be easily linked to you. For example, birthdays, addresses, pet or family names. These are too easy to guess, as are passwords like ‘1234’.
You also shouldn’t use passwords that you’ve used in the past and should avoid using the same password for more than one account. By setting new passwords for every online account you use, you’ll be more likely to stay safe.
It can be hard to remember lots of different passwords, but you could think about using password manager software to help.
It’s also a good idea to use Multi-Factor Authentication for all your logins. This is where you use a second mechanism – such as a text message to your phone – to authenticate your identity.
It’s important to secure your home broadband network with a password. This can prevent hackers from stealing your sensitive information.
It can also be a good idea to avoid using public WiFi to check your online banking. Public WiFi can be more vulnerable to hacking and your information could be stolen more easily.
It’s a good idea to check your accounts and make sure your shipping information hasn’t been changed to a different address. Otherwise you could find that your orders are sent elsewhere.
Equally, you should check to see that the hackers haven’t posted anything on your social accounts on your behalf, such as spam, adverts or malware.
It’s also worth checking your email inbox and spam folders to see if they’ve set up any new accounts using your email address. If they have, then you can log in by using the ‘reset password feature’, then you can delete the account.
Another sensible thing to check is whether any apps have been installed that you haven’t installed yourself. If they have, delete them immediately.