Criminals attempt to hack a device once every 39 seconds, indicating a near constant threat to internet users across the world. Though many of these attacks are unsophisticated, it is all too easy to underestimate the power of manipulation hackers can employ to gain access to your personal information.
As Covid-19 has driven most offices to work remotely, hackers have taken this as an opportunity to further exploit people’s vulnerabilities, taking advantage of the anxiety and confusion many are feeling right now. Remote working also means many people are outside the protection of their business wifi systems and using personal devices, posing even further risks for employees and the businesses they work for.
With the full return to the office not close on the horizon for many, it’s important to stay vigilant of hacking attempts and avoid falling prey to common tricks. That being said, it isn’t always possible to escape the attacks of hackers so understanding the signs your device has been compromised and knowing what to do to save it will be essential in protecting your personal and professional data.
Covid phishing scams
The coronavirus pandemic has brought with it a new wave of malware and phishing scams intent on exploiting the insecurities and fears surrounding the virus. This includes direct scams which claim to have information about ‘cures’ to more insidious attacks that take advantage of the economic, political and social disruptions caused by the virus and the lockdown.
One of the most significant strategies being noted is inspired by the explosion in the use of virtual meeting software. With invites to meetings on sites like Zoom and Microsoft Teams now so commonplace, hackers have been tricking people into clicking false meeting links which download viruses to the victim’s computer. Some hackers are also creating spoof job termination meeting invites, encouraging people to click by creating a sense of fear and urgency. The best way to avoid these traps is to confirm meetings with colleagues through another channel or contact a different colleague to confirm the meeting before clicking on any links.
In mid-April, Google was blocking around 18 million Covid-related phishing scam emails a day but while email providers are doing the best they can to prevent these scams reaching our inbox, this won’t be the case for every attempt, so maintaining vigilance is essential.
Spotting unusual behaviour
If you think you could have been exposed to a virus, there are a few common signs to look out for when identifying suspicious behaviour. For example, you may receive notifications from software you don’t remember installing, or notice the software suddenly on your desktop. If your browser has been infected, you may see unfamiliar addons or your online searches might sometimes be redirected. There are many more obvious signs of malicious actions, such as money missing from your online account or another account being used without your knowledge. However, being able to spot the subtler signs will help you act before a hacker is able to access your details and cause any serious damage.
How to take back control
The first thing you’ll need to do if your computer has been compromised is to reset your device to a safe back-up. This is best done by carrying out a full restore, however, this isn’t always ideal to maintain the files saved on your computer. A partial restore might be enough to purge the virus but you may need to carry out more specific clean-up activities at the same time to ensure your computer is completely safe again.
If the restore doesn’t remove the suspicious software, you might want to try resetting your device to an older back-up or deleting the software directly and carrying out an antivirus scan with a trusted software. If your browser is infected, there are ways of resetting the software to its original settings which should be enough to remove the malware.
You will then also need to review your online accounts to see if any unusual activity has occurred and change your passwords accordingly.
Staying secure in the future
Knowing how to secure your device after it’s been hacked is vital but preventative measures are the best way to keep you and your data safe. The number one method of adding security to your accounts is multi-factor authentication. Adding extra levels to your logins helps to keep your accounts safe should hackers ever gain access to your password. This can include biometric logins on your phone or receiving a text code before being able to log in.
Multi-step authentication helps decentralise your login information so if one device is vulnerable, this doesn’t cause you any damage or loss.
Data breaches are caused by human interaction in around 90% of cases. Hackers use ‘social engineering’ techniques to manipulate people into downloading viruses and giving away private information which can be much more effective than attempting a brute force attack. Ensuring you maintain strong cyber hygiene, especially when working remotely, will protect your own online information and any data you have access to at work.