How to Spot a Hack and Recover Your Device

Thursday, September 17, 2020

As countries continue to battle COVID-19, some malicious actors have decided to use the crisis to their advantage. Online attacks have become a regular part of our lives, but the pandemic has given them a new edge, playing on the uncertainty and anxiety many have been experiencing this year.

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With many office workers still working from home, outside the security of their business WiFi systems, malicious actors can slip through the cracks easily, exploiting the reduced amount of contact between colleagues to encourage people to give away personal information or click on false links.

It’s essential for everyone to know the warning signs of hackers, how to spot suspicious behavior, and how to limit the damage they can do. Knowing this will ensure your private and professional information is kept safe, and reduce the stress you may be feeling at this time.

COVID-19 phishing scams

According to Google, 18 million COVID-related phishing scams were blocked every day in mid-April. These scams can take many forms, from information about alleged cures to more sinister strategies that take advantage of the tumultuous economic, political, and social issues arising from the pandemic. While email providers are working hard to tackle these scams, it’s still highly recommended that you remain suspicious of any emails you aren’t expecting.

One particular problem relates to the rise of virtual meeting software. With many people working remotely, invitations to online meetings via Zoom and Microsoft Teams are becoming commonplace. However, scammers have been imitating job termination emails with false invite links that download viruses or lead to sites that ask for personal details, preying on those in insecure situations. If you receive an email like this, it’s always a good idea to confirm the email with a colleague through another channel before clicking on any of its links.

Suspicious behavior

Malware is sometimes unavoidable and, while prevention is the best method of protection, knowing how to spot suspicious behavior and act quickly to secure your device again is equally as important.

One of the clearest signs of fraudulent activity is money missing from your online bank account. In this case, contact your bank directly to secure it and then investigate how hackers gained access to your details.

However, there are a couple of other signs which may be more difficult to spot. For example, if you suddenly receive notifications from software you don’t remember installing or notice new browser extensions that you don’t recognize; this could be an indication your computer has been compromised.

Taking back control

If you think your computer has been compromised, taking quick action will be essential in mitigating the damage hackers can cause. The first action you should take is to restore your computer to a safe back-up point. A full restore is the best way to ensure malware is removed, but this isn’t always possible. For those who can only complete a partial restore, following more specific clean-up strategies might also be necessary.

For example, suspicious behavior or browser add-ons might require you to restore your browser to factory settings while any remaining unfamiliar software on your device should be deleted directly. If any personal information was accessed during the infection and you notice any suspicious activity on your online accounts, make sure you reset your passwords to restrict access.

Securing your accounts in the future

The number one way to keep your accounts safe even when your devices are compromised is multi-factor authentication (MFA). Many online banks already operate this, but it’s always a good idea to implement it elsewhere. MFA involves several steps to access your account, such as biometric logins or texting security codes to your phone. This allows your online accounts to verify every login, helping you catch fraudulent activity faster without risking yourself online.

Ultimately, human error accounts for as much as 90% of all data breaches. No matter how vigilant we are, hackers are incredibly adept at manipulating people into giving them what they want. Good cyber hygiene won’t always be perfect, but keeping your guard up and implementing as many security procedures will keep your private and professional information safe.

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Jade Mansfield

Writer

Jade Mansfield works with Maximillion, a team-building and events company. With years of experience within the events and business industry, we're always looking for ways to boost employee morale.

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