I’ve been hacked. What now?

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?

Related articles:
Can the CIA hack your smartphone?
How to make your email hackproof
How easily can your phone be hacked?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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