It is inevitable; at some point in your life you will get hacked. Someone that you haven’t authorized to access your personal data will get their hands on it. Some of you out there are thinking, “no way, not me… I’m not one of those people…” Well, let me tell you from a personal experience, it happens to the best of us. I’ve been working in the IT career field for over 20 years, and it happened to me. I even give seminars in my local community about how to avoid being hacked, and I got hacked. It was terrible! My wife’s Instagram was recently hacked, and we don’t even have the slightest clue as to how or why it happened. A couple of weeks later, my brother-in-law’s mother was hit with ransomware…it happens.
What to Do When You Get Hacked
Given that it will happen, it’s important to know what to do when (not if) you get hacked. Hopefully, a few good tips on how to respond will help you feel more in control when it happens because feeling in control in those situations is farthest from how you will really feel.
1. Disconnect/Unplug/Shutdown NOW!
The very first thing you need to do and do quickly, is disconnect from all of your accounts and log out of them. If it’s a hardware based intrusion, shut everything down. Physically unplug the network cable or disable the wifi on your machine. Make sure you don’t log back into it right away. Quarantine your accounts or machine until you can figure out what is going on. Don’t start sending messages to all of your followers or “friends” that you were hacked – that is the next step… triage and get ready to react.
2. Take Stock of What was Hacked and Triage
The next step is triage; figure out what was hacked and what information has been stolen or exposed. If your bank information was hacked and someone has transferred all of your funds out or spent all of your money, contact your bank ASAP and have them shut down your card and put a freeze on your account. If your Instagram account was hacked, go into the settings of the app and log out of all connections to your Instagram account. Figuring out what was exposed or stolen will help to create a plan of action and then begin to carry it out.
3. Reset Your Password(s)
This is a no-brainer! Reset your password(s). I know you took a while to come up with the super awesome password you have now, but who cares, someone else knows it now. In this case, the extreme step would be to change all of your passwords, just to be on the safe side. However, it is necessary to change the password of the account that got hacked and every other service account that uses the same password.
4. Enable Multi-factor Authentication
Two factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA) is crucial in today’s world. Simply requiring a singular password to access your most important data like bank and personally identifiable data just does not cut it. Enable MFA so that you not only have to provide something you know (a password) but also something you have (an RSA token) or something you are (a fingerprint, face scan). This makes it much more difficult for the intruder to gain access to your data.
Learn and Be more Vigilant
The worst thing you can do in these situations is panic. Take a deep breath and refer to the tips listed above. Quarantine your accounts, triage the situation, reset passwords, enable MFA, and notify the people that need to know you were hacked. If anything good comes from being hacked, it is the fact that you are now empowered and have knowledge that you didn’t before, which should help you feel more secure in the future. Again, this will happen to you at some point, and it may happen multiple times. Learn from these situations and be vigilant so you are prepared when they come knocking.