Hackers are all over the internet, and they’re out for blood. That said, are you their next potential victim and what puts you at risk?
You are most at risk for being hacked if you don’t manage your passwords carefully, click on any pop-ups that arise without first reading them, fail to update your devices and security, and fail to encrypt your information.
That said, keep reading to find out exactly what being hacked can mean for your life, as well as detailed steps you can take to prevent this from ever happening.
What Are The Risks Of Being Hacked?
The unsettling part about becoming a victim to hacking is the fact that, most of the time, you have absolutely no idea that your personal information has been compromised.
Hackers use your information quietly in order to engage in illicit activities, and this can result in your social security number, credit score, usernames, and passwords all being used to their advantage.
They can also obtain more serious data such as credit card information and they can go as far as creating bank accounts in your name.
As you can imagine, this can create serious problems down the line and can potentially result in you getting into trouble with the law.
So, how exactly can you protect yourself from becoming another victim to hacking, and what makes you most vulnerable?
What Makes You At Risk Of Getting Hacked?
When it comes to being hacked, there’s a ton of ways that you’re probably unknowingly putting yourself at risk.
That said, the good news is that you can make some small and easy changes that can be the difference between you becoming another victim and staying safe!
Here are some common mistakes people make and steps you can take to become safer:
1. Watch What You Click On
I’m sure all of us are guilty of this not once, but multiple times! You’re in a rush to download or research something on the web and a pop-up appears prompting you to click something.
Your first instinct is to quickly click the usual suspects such as “yes”, “ok”, or “allow” in an attempt to quickly get rid of this digital barrier, but you’re giving the phishing scammers exactly what they want!
One of the most common ways that people are hacked or scammed is by clicking on pop-ups without first reading what it’s asking you to do.
Never thoughtlessly download a file that is from an unknown source and use your intuitition.
If something looks too good to be true or if the pop-up prompts you to act with haste, then there’s a very high chance that you’re about to be reeled into a scam.
2. Never Ignore System Updates
While it’s true that laptop and cellphone system updates are a pain, they’re necessary in order to keep your devices are protected as possible.
The reason being, new patches and fixes are constantly being developed in order to fight off cyber attacks and you’re only as protected as your latest update.
So, next time you have some free time check your settings on your devices and complete any of the necessary updates!
3.Multi-Factor Authentication Is Your Friend
Most companies and banking apps make use of this handy security method. If you’ve ever used internet banking you’ll know that you have to authorize the payment from your cellphone before the payment can go through.
This means that even if your credit card details are compromised and someone tries to steal your money, you’ll still have the opportunity to reject the payment from your cellphone.
The hacker can only steal your personal information if they have your cellphone on hand, regardless of how easy your passwords are.
4. Encrypt, Encrypt, Encrypt
Most reputable companies will encrypt their important information, meaning that only the intended recipient can gain access.
WhatsApp and Signal are two prime examples of encrypted messaging services. Every video and picture you send are encrypted by both apps, but Signal is definitely more secure than WhatsApp.
WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and their privacy settings aren’t as secure as Signal, but they still offer relatively secure end-to-end encryption.
Regardless, it’s always a good idea to encrypt what you can control such as the files on your phone and laptop.
5. Manage Your Passwords
How many times have you had to click on “forgot password” in your lifetime? If you’re anything like me, it’s more than I can count!
As a result of this, I tend to choose short and easy passwords that I use across my accounts so that it’s easier for me to remember. It goes without saying that this is a bad idea!
With a password manager, it creates complex and secure passwords on your behalf and stores them safely for you, meaning you will never have to contend with a forgotten password or a hacked account again!
If you’re looking for some of the top-rated password managers, then take a look here.
6. Clear Your History
When last did you clear your search history or delete old accounts that you haven’t used for years?
Leaving your digital footprint for all to see is only maximizing your chances of being discovered and hacked by online scammers.
Next time you have some free time, go back and delete any old accounts you haven’t used in a while and make a habit of deleting your search history regularly.
What Are Common Signs You Have Been Hacked?
If you have a nagging feeling that you’ve somehow been hacked, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and try and identify any of the below signs so that you can take action.
1. Strange Browser Toolbars
If you suddenly notice that your browser toolbars are full of strange, unknown names, this is a telltale sign that you’ve likely been hacked.
People often unknowingly download these malicious add-ons when downloading other content. If this is you, simply reset your toolbar to default settings or manually remove the unwanted browser toolbars.
The best way to avoid this is by avoiding unknown free software and ensuring all of yours is 100 percent patched.
2. Ransomware Messages
This type of message will assure you without a shadow of a doubt that you have been hacked!
If you’re fortunate enough to have never fallen victim, a ransomware message works by taking over your screen and informing you that your data has been encrypted and you’ll need to pay in order to retrieve it back.
As you can imagine, this is more than alarming! While the best thing you can do is avoid paying (as this only encourages them), billions of dollars are lost every year as a result of people paying the bribes and losing out on business time and money.
Ironically, even after paying the hefty ransom, the software does not resume back to working order. According to cybersecurity insurance firms, almost half of the people who pay the ransom spend many days recovering lost data.
So, what is the takeaway? Don’t pay the ransom!
3. Pop-Ups Are Everywhere
If you are constantly seeing pop-ups this is likely because your information has been compromised.
Despite anti-pop-up software, many websites still have the ability to bypass this and spam your computer.
Your best port of call is to remove all unknown browser toolbars as well as any other untrusted programs that may be causing the problem.
4. Your Friends Are Receiving Strange Messages On Social Media
I’m sure that most people have experienced this very common hack. You’ll get a strange request from a friend you already have or you’ll be sent an unknown link with a request to open it.
Some may read “look, it’s you” in order to garner your interest and prompt you to click. If anything like this happens, it’s always best to ignore this request completely and never open the link.
The best thing you can do is to report the problem to the relevant social media site and notify your friend immediately.
The more people that report the account the sooner it can be blocked!
5. You Notice Unusual Installation Of Software
These days, most malware programs are worms and Trojans, and they secretly install themselves on your computer posing as verified software.
If they ever get caught, criminals hope to claim that their malware is a legitimate program, when in fact, it’s the opposite! This is why they do this, so you have to be extra careful when downloading new programs.
So, how you can you avoid this? Well, you’re not going to like this one! It’s really important that you take the time to at least skim read the license agreement presented to you when downloading new software.
If any unknown programs are going to be downloaded alongside the one you are currently downloading, then you should be able to identify this and opt out in the license agreement.
6. You Find Your Information In A Password Dump
Did you know that billions of compromised emails, passwords, and phone numbers can be found on the Dark Web and the internet? In fact yours could be there too!
You can find out whether your personal information has ever been breached on cool sites such as Have I Been Pwned?
If you do find that your personal information has been breached, make sure that you reset all of your passwords and notify your employer if this is work related.
Becoming a victim of hacking is a whole lot easier than you originally thought! The good news is that it’s just as easier to protect yourself from it by following the above protocols and always keeping a keen eye for suspicious activities.
Remember, if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is!