Cybersec Essentials

Immediate actions to take if your computer is hacked

In today's educational landscape, 1:1 technology programs transform learning. Discover how Prey supports IT teams in managing these demands.

June 16, 2022

You may be right if your computer or phone is acting strange and you suspect you’ve been hacked or infected by a virus.  According to a Duke University study, at least 80% of all US-based companies have suffered an attack. Moreover, that number is only set to rise. . These breaches, on average, cost US organizations an average of $3.86 million, according to an IBM security audit.

When hackers target business organizations, they are after personal and financial data, trade secrets, and access information to extort victims or breach sensitive data. For example, in 2017, HBO was the target of hackers who stole thousands of internal documents.

Suppose your PC has been hacked or infected with malware. In that case, you must take quick action to protect your information and prevent the attack’s spreading through your digital and professional network.

These are the three steps you need to take immediately when your computer has been hacked.

1. Quarantine Your PC

LifeWire suggests you isolate the infected computer as soon as possible. As long as you’re connected to the internet, the hacker has access to the device and its directory.

You don't need to cut the network cable. Instead, unplug your computer from the network and avoid any wireless or physical connection. The goal is to prevent the virus from spreading!

Make sure you're offline and turn all Wi-Fi connections off, both by software and hardware. Some laptops even have a switch for this.

Why disconnect hardware? Hacking software is sophisticated and can make your computer seem like you are disconnected. At the same time, the malware continues to wreak havoc in the background.

It is increasingly important to ensure that your sensitive data is encrypted and your devices are protected by security management software. Features like device tracking, file retrieval, and remote wipe add layers of security against hackers and thieves.If you need a device security platform, we can help.

2. Change your passwords

According to Betterbuys, "it only takes five hours to decipher a password that's six characters long." Choosing a password with at least 12 characters will take centuries to crack.

First, you need to change your PC's access password. Then, change all your passwords using an unaffected computer or smartphone—email, social networks, subscriptions, etc. Every service you have access to holds precious information, including billing and personal data.

According to CybInt, 95% of breaches are caused by human error. What this means is that you could have unknowingly given enough identifying information for a hacker to guess your password. It could also mean that you’ve mistakenly run an infected program or document that contained malware. Verizon found that 45% of breaches featured hacking, 17% involved malware, and 22% involved phishing

How many of your accounts use the same password or variations of it? One password could be enough to grant access to all sorts of accounts. So double-check its strength and think it through.

According to CyberSecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), there are a few criteria you should follow when creating a safe password.

  • It should be between 8 and 64 characters (the longer, the better).
  • It shouldn't include personal information, like your name, your birthday, or your company's name. Get creative with it, and have fun!
  • It has to be different from your previous ones and from your other passwords.
  • If possible, don't include complete words.
  • Use mnemonics and memory techniques. For example, instead of using “hoops” try “IlTpbb” for “[I] [l]ike [T]o [p]lay [b]asket[b]all.”Create it using characters from all four categories: lower and upper case, numbers, and symbols.

Using a password manager makes changing passwords a breeze and also gives you added security benefits such as Two-Factor Authentication and issuing temporary passwords.

3. Remove external hard drives

If you have USB flash devices and external hard disks connected to your PC, make sure you disconnect them from your device. Don’t forget to "eject" them first. (Select the relevant folder and then click "eject.")

If you're positive you've been hacked, you should also delete your computer's hard disk. Back up whatever files you have (you may even save them to the cloud, such as Google Drive, or email tiny files to yourself); turn off all power sources, and then remove the hard drive after the computer has been turned down. Its placement will differ depending on the make or model, so examine the manual (hard copy or online) or, if you're not comfortable doing so, seek the assistance of an IT specialist.

4. Wipe your hard drive (if necessary)

If you find a virus or hack, you should wipe your hard drive and reinstall your operating system. Wiping means to totally wipe, so keep in mind that everything you delete will be gone forever unless you back it up first.

Do not remove files manually: they will still exist someplace on your hard disk. Instead, do the wipe with downloadable software. A wipe, like a virus scan, will notify you when it has been completed entirely.

5. Alert those connected to you

Hackers will try to spread by breaching an individual and targeting their network. The reason is simple. Your friends are more likely to open messages from you without thinking twice. Hence, hackers use your email to send messages pretending to be you.

So before you spam a virus to your family, friends, and coworkers. Give a heads up. Protect your core group and notify them immediately to avoid spreading the attack.

Conclusion: Be Ready To Act

Prevention is the cornerstone of virtual security and the best defense against hackers. Make sure you always:

  • Turn off your computer when you're not using it
  • Save sensible files on portable HDDs
  • Keep your operating system and antivirus software up to date
  • Don't forget to encrypt your data.

These tips are both practical and super easy to implement.

Cybercrimes are a real threat, and the steps outlined here are only a quick strategy to respond to hackers once they’ve already infected your computer. But you should be prepared well before this point by practicing good cybersecurity hygiene.

Beat the hackers. One app, one account, and a single online hub to find a lock. And secure all your gadgets. Get Prey.

If you act quickly enough, you'll have a key advantage that makes all the difference when trying to recover your files and minimize the damage. Time to get ready!

data loss

On the same issue

NIST or CIS framework?: Which is better for Schools

Comparing giants: NIST & CIS. Which framework secures K-12 schools better?

May 13, 2024
keep reading
Implementing the CIS Framework: Step-by-step Guide for K-12 Schools

Implement CIS Controls in K-12 schools to strengthen cybersecurity, safeguard student information, and be the hero your school needs.

May 10, 2024
keep reading
Decoding The CIS Control Framework for K12 IT Teams

Elevate your K-12 security game with CIS Controls for stronger security posture and regulatory compliance.

May 9, 2024
keep reading
Cybersecurity Trends to Navigate this 2024

Navigating the Cybersecurity Trends 2024: AI threats, ransomware, IoT risks, BEC attacks and more

February 5, 2024
keep reading