I always feel sympathy when I hear about hackers breaking into someone’s computer. I felt terrible when Phillis from Orlando Beach, FL, called the show and said hackers stole $150,000 from her brother’s PC. If you’ve ever been hacked, you know how scary it is.
That’s why I put together this hacking survival guide. Follow this seven-step checklist if you’re unfortunate enough to fall victim to this cybercrime.
1. Change all passwords
Update all of your passwords — especially your email and financial accounts. Every password you keep is a potential entry point for a hacker.
Here are five ways to make a strong password:
- Make them longer than 14 characters: More is better, but be mindful of character limits.
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters: Mix them up to make your password more complex.
- Throw in numbers: Avoid birth dates. They’re far too easy to figure out.
- Don’t forget the symbols: Throw in asterisks, parentheses, exclamation marks, commas, question marks and anything else you can think of.
- Make it a secret phrase: Use something like, “I went to the spa and saw the moon.” Replace some of the letters with numbers and symbols.
Need more advice? Use these 10 tips to secure your accounts with strong passwords.
Don’t forget to use unique passwords for every online account. It can be challenging to remember them all. A password manager can help keep track of your changes. Here’s everything you need to know about these important security tools.
2. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) after you’ve been hacked
2FA makes you prove your identity whenever you log in. For example, when you try to access your online banking account, you’ll need to enter your credentials and a security code sent by text. Type the code into your device to prove your identity.
Unfortunately, some hackers can intercept 2FA texts. That’s why I recommend authenticator apps. They provide one-time-only codes that refresh every 30 seconds. Since they’re time-sensitive, they’re more difficult for hackers to use. Whenever an account gives you the option to connect an authenticator app, take it.
3. Install antivirus software
After you’ve been hacked, you must go above and beyond to thwart future cyberattacks. But you don’t have time to look for all the threats, like viruses and malware. Let an antivirus program do the work for you.
I recommend my sponsor, TotalAV. It has the most robust protection in the business. In fact, it’s received the renowned VB100 award for detecting more than 99% of malware samples for the last three years.
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4. Be cautious with emails and links
You should always be careful when opening emails from people you don’t know. Take extra caution after hackers have broken into your computer. Cybercriminals may have already leaked your private information on the Dark Web.
Remember: Never click on random links. They could install harmful malware onto your devices. Also, don’t open attachments unless you expect them from friends, family members, or coworkers. Phishing emails often come with dangerous files.
5. Back up important data after you’ve been hacked
After a hack attack, you’re especially vulnerable to ransomware. That’s when hackers inject a virus into your phone or computer that locks down data. Just like that, you can’t access your files unless you pay an expensive ransom. Even paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee they’ll give you back your files. They are criminals, after all.
Back up your important data once a week at a minimum. Otherwise, you could permanently lose your emails, spreadsheets, passwords, photos, videos and other important files. Tap or click here for the service I trust to back up my files.
6. Do a complete factory reset
The hacker may have planted secret programs on your device. A complete factory reset will eliminate harmful bugs in your system. But as we outlined in step five, you must first back up your computer.
To reset a Windows computer, follow these steps:
- Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security.
- From there, select Recovery > Reset this PC > Get Started.
- Go to Keep my files and choose cloud or local.
- Set Restore preinstalled apps? to No.
To reset a Mac, do this:
- Select the Apple menu in the corner of your screen.
- Go to System Settings > General.
- Select Transfer or Reset on the right.
- Then, click Erase All Content and Settings.
7. File a complaint with the ic3.gov after you’ve been hacked
The Internet Crime Complaint Center — or IC3 for short — can help stop the hacker who targeted you from going after anyone else. Tap or click here to file a complaint.
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