“I’ve been hacked. Now what?”
Maybe it was a keylogger. Perhaps it was a simple virus, or even a trojan. Spyware took over your computer? It doesn’t matter, really. Something happened, you’re back to being clean, but your confidence in the security of your computer is shaken; and now you’re sitting there wondering what to do next.
First off, you’re not alone. With an estimated 300 new viruses or malware variants coming out every month, most people at one time or another are going to be the victims of malicious software. And depending on the severity of the attack you suffered, it’s not unlike the feeling you get when your home is robbed or your car is broken into. There’s a sense of fear, mistrust, and possibly even anxiety about being hit by malware in the future. Again, you’re not alone.
While we can’t speak to the emotions you may be feeling about what happened, what we can do is help you fix what happened and maybe even help you avoid the problem in the first place. What you’ll find below is a list of suggestions we have to recover from a malware attack.
- Change your passwords
All of them. Especially if you had some kind of spyware or a keylogger on your machine. There’s no telling what passwords, if any, the crooks who authored your malware were privy to, but why take a chance? Make good use of our blog post on how to create a good password and come up with a new one for each and every site you use.
- Reconsider minor apps
Now’s as good a time as any to go to your
Add/Remove Programsand look at what software you have installed that you don’t use or might be suspect. Not only will this (possibly) help make your computer a bit more peppy, but it’ll also reduce the chances having of a piece of software on your computer that may be vulnerable to attack (vis-a-vis the bad guys).
While you’re at it, you may as well clean up and optimize your hard disk to help fix things up. That’s not going to prevent viruses or spyware from infecting your machine, but it is good general maintenance. 🙂
- Consider canceling those cards
If you used a particular credit or debit card with your computer, consider calling up the issuing bank, explaining what happened, and have them cancel the card and get a brand new one issued. That is, admittedly, a pain in the behind; but if your card data was compromised then you could be looking at an even bigger pain trying to recover from a bank account being open to the whim of crooks.
- Report any crime
It’s one thing to have some passwords compromised; it’s another to actually have sensitive data leaked or have money stolen a bank account whose information was on your computer due to malware. If you were a victim of a crime please contact the authorities.
- Be careful what you open
Emails, IMs, downloads… Not to make you paranoid, but pretty much anything you can click on has the potential to deliver malware right to your computer’s doorstep. Only open files or click on links from trusted sources. You should also keep an eye open on those, too, since spammers and hackers can forge email addresses to make them seem like they come from a friend or co-worker. Read the subject and content of emails and IMs before clicking on any link or downloading any attachments.
- Practice safe computing
Help yourself out by steering clear from traditionally virus and spyware-laden web sites: iffy download sites, adult sites, gambling sites, and movie/mp3/torrent/etc. sites. They’re not all bad, but they have a bad rap for a reason.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
While we can’t say that doing any, or all, of the aforementioned steps will keep you 100% protected against future infections, we can say that every bit of pre-emptive caution that you can take will pay off in the long run.