What to do if you discover that you’ve been hacked

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A recent spate of ransomware and malware attacks have prompted a few of our members to ask what they should do if they discover that they’ve been hacked.

It’s not difficult to become the victim of malware or other insidious computer viruses. All you have to do is open the wrong email, or an attachment in what looks to be an innocent email, download a nasty file, or fill in your details on an unassuming looking website and, bang, you’re infected.

So, what action should you take to minimise the damage and avoid passing it on to others? Here’s the quick and dirty DIY post-hack manual.

1. Unplug your computer
Pull out your power cord and unplug all of your computer cables. Deactivate your wifi and Bluetooth connections. Switch off your computer. Turn off your modem.

2. Report the hack
You may get some good advice from professionals who have dealt with the specific attack you have suffered.

3. Restart your computer (and we mean start afresh)
If you’ve been hacked, it’s probably best to say goodbye to the contents of your hard drive. Erasing the contents of your drive and restoring to factory settings is the closest you’ll get to a clean start, so here’s how to do it:

Windows 10

  • open the Start menu
  • go to ‘Settings’ (or the gear icon), then select ‘Update & Security’ > ‘Recovery’ > ‘Reset this PC’
  • click ‘Get Started’
  • select ‘Remove Everything’
  • Follow the prompts to begin the recovery process
  • Windows will be reset and you’ll have a clean hard drive.

Windows 8

  • press the Windows and ‘C’ on your keyboard
  • select ‘Search’ and type ‘reinstall’ in the Search text field, but don’t press ‘Enter’
  • select ‘Settings’, then, select ‘Remove Everything and reinstall Windows’
  • On the ‘Reset your PC’ screen, click ‘Next’
  • Then, when ‘Do you want to fully clean your drive’ appears, select ‘Fully clean the drive’
  • click ‘Reset’
  • your hard drive will be erased and Windows 8 will be reinstalled.

Mac

  • switch on your computer while holding down the ‘Command’ and ‘R’ key on your keyboard. Your Mac will now start in recovery mode and Disk Utilities will open
  • click on Disk Utility and select ‘Erase’
  • then quit Disk Utility and select ‘Reinstall OSX’
  • select ‘Continue’ and follow the prompts
  • your hard drive is now erased and a new operating system will be installed.

Now, that should sort out your problem. Prior to doing this, you could try scanning for viruses and malware using anti-virus software, but restoring your computer to factory settings is the best way to guarantee a fresh start. If you have any concerns, it’s best to speak to an IT professional.

Hopefully, you’ve backed up your files. If so, you can now transfer them over to your new hard drive.

Now, to protect yourself from future attacks:

  • make sure you regularly update your operating system
  • keep regular backups of your important files
  • install anti-virus software
  • regularly run disk first aid and virus scans

Following these procedures is the best way to stay ahead of hackers and cybercriminals. Not updating your operating system is akin to leaving your windows open and going out for the day. You may return to an intact house, or you could be robbed. It’s really not worth the risk now, is it?

Do you have any security tips for our members? Why not share them?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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5 Comments

Total Comments: 5
  1. 0
    0

    What about Windows XP. Huge amount of people still use it. As do I.

    • 0
      0

      Yes, a huge amount of people still use Windows XP, but usually NOT connected to the internet.

      Only 4 years ago I was still using Windows 95 and 98 to control test equipment from my home to test explosives when working for Defence. But these were only ever connected using a private network, separated from the internet.
      (Now that brings back memories of how sh%#, and therefore call-outs, only happen on freezing rainy nights or on glorious sunny weekends)

      If you MUST continue using XP on the internet, see my post below to make it a bit more secure

  2. 0
    0

    So I’m a tech dummy I know but- how is best way to ‘back up files’ quickly & easily?

    I never seem to be sure how to go about this successfuly & thoroughly/properly & am a bit frightened by the words ‘back up’ tbh (frightened I’ll wipe everything out permanently in one click either by accident or by misunderstanding the options)

    And not sure exactly what or exactly how much do I need to ‘back up’ (I have google chrome, etc on 3 devices, if I get hacked or a virus will that mean all 3 devices are automatically infected? ..
    DOES MY HEAD IN!!

    • 0
      0

      Cheezil, assuming you have Windows devices, and that you want the setup to be as simple as possible, and to cost nothing;

      1. Download and install “EaseUS Todo Backup Free” from
      http://www.todo-backup.com/products/home/free-backup-software.htm
      When installed, ensure you use the “Create Emergency Disk” Tool to make a bootable CD or USB Drive to run the System Recovery when that “worst case situation” arises.

      2. Get yourself a USB portable hard drive of 1TB or more to hold your backups (Size depends on how much your devices hold).

      3. Open EaseUS Todo Backup and run a “System Backup” which makes a compressed copy of everything required to recover your system and data in a worst case situation. You can also read and recover individual files if required.

      4. Regularly run a “System Backup” once a week/fortnight/month (choice is yours) on each device. Delete all but the newest 2 backups for each device to stop the USB HDD from filling up.

      I’ve tried to keep this simple and I hope I haven’t left anything major out. There are better ways of setting this program up, but I don’t think you want to go into this. If possible, get a knowledgeable friend to check and advise.

      BUT PLEASE, DON”T TRUST WINDOWS INBUILT BACKUP FACILITY

  3. 0
    0

    Pedro, unless you have Windows Embedded Hardware, XP has not been supported by Microsoft since April 2014. This means it is open slather to hackers because security updates are no longer issued to end users.

    BUT, you can apply a registry hack to your Windows XP SP3 system which tricks Windows Update into thinking you are running Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 (a variant of XP that’s used by ATMs and cash registers). This will allow you to receive Windows Updates until 9th Apr 2019.

    Just google “xp security updates extended” to find out how to do it.

    If you continue running an internet connected XP box, and do not perform this hack yourself, then YOU WILL (AND YOU DESERVE TO) GET HACKED BY SOMEBODY ELSE.


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