Is Someone Trying to Hack Your Identity?
By Andrew Tipp
Each year families spend more and more of their daily lives online. We bank, do our shopping and share jokes with friends. From social networking to online shopping, there are few areas of our lives that aren’t digitally linked these days.
As our online identity grows, so, unfortunately, does the risk of being hacked. But how do you know if you’re being hacked? What should you do if you discover you’ve been hacked? And how can you stay safe online?
How to tell if you’re being hacked
If your computer or phone starts acting strangely then there’s a very strong possibility that it could have been hacked. Behaviour to look out for includes:
- Your phone or computer powering down, or working slower than normal.
- New programs or folders appearing that you haven’t downloaded or created. This can be checked using Task Manager (Windows) or Activity Monitor (Mac iOS).
- Cursor or typing activity that doesn’t relate to what you’re doing.
- Virus protection software being disabled.
- Passwords changing – this is one of the first thing that hackers do when they get access to your online identity.
- Malicious messages or spam in your email outbox or on social networking sites.
Spotted one or more of these red flags? Now make sure that your bank or online shopping accounts haven’t been attacked. Use a different computer to the one you think may have been hacked and check your online shopping accounts.
Has anyone else been ordering goods and charging it to your account? Now check your bank statements. Are there are payments you don’t remember authorising? It’s important to check all payments that have gone out, not just the big ones. Often cash will disappear in a number of small transactions, as these are harder to spot.
If you think your identity’s been hacked, the first thing to do is change your passwords. Don’t do this using the device that was hacked. The hackers may still be keeping tabs on your activity, and may pick up your new passwords immediately.
Ensure your new passwords are stronger and don’t relate to the ones you used previously. Also use a different password for each of your accounts. Strong passwords are at least eight characters long and contain a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Test some combinations of your own using the password strength checker.
Contact banks and credit card companies
If you suspect your bank details have been compromised, visit your branch in person or change security settings and report the problem over the phone. Do this as soon as you’re aware that there is a problem. Don’t contact banks or credit card companies using the device you think may have been hacked.
If you have checked your statements and have spotted any unauthorised charges, report these immediately. Your cards will need to be cancelled, so make sure you have enough cash to cover your expenses for the next week or so.
Remove malware from your phone
If you suspect that your phone was hacked, visit your local mobile provider’s store and ask them to run a diagnostics test on your device. This will identify whether it has definitely been hacked and will remove any malicious software (malware) that have been placed on it.
Request a usage log from your mobile provider and check it carefully. Do outgoing and incoming calls match the ones you’ve made? What about the data usage information? If anything looks suspicious, let your mobile provider know immediately.
Run antivirus software on your computer
If your computer has been hacked then run an antivirus program to clean it up. Find out how to install a free antivirus download.
Spending even short amounts of time online can leave you open to hackers and viruses. If you don’t already own antivirus software you should certainly invest in some. Even a minor hacking can be a waste of time and money, but a major one could leave you in serious financial difficulties. Don’t risk it!
Preventing future hackings
Increase your online safety and reduce the chances of being hacked again with these tips:
- Switch off Bluetooth on your phone when you’re not using it. Bluetooth is one of the easiest ways for hackers to access your smartphone.
- Be careful what you reveal online. Hackers often troll social networking sites for clues that they can use to unlock your passwords. Don’t give anything away!
- Install virus protection software and keep it updated.
- Keep passwords strong and change them regularly. Never use the same passwords for multiple accounts.