You've been hacked! Now what?

Do this now

You’ve been hacked. You either can't access your data or your computer system is compromised. Here are a few tips to help you recover.
 

  • As quickly as possible reset your passwords using a different computer. If your system has been hacked, there’s a good chance that your activity is being sent to the hacker, so to prevent a future compromise, use another, non-infected, computer to change your passwords. 
  • Tell your friends that you have been hacked. Compromised systems and accounts are often used to send phishing emails to contacts. Give your friends notice so they can protect themselves. 
  • Monitor your bank and credit card accounts for fraud. If you don’t have time to check your accounts regularly, consider signing up for credit monitoring or identity theft protection. 

Options for fixing your computer

  • Consider starting over with a new computer. It is often safer to replace a compromised system than to try to fix the problem yourself or hire a professional to do it. Sometimes buying new can cost less less than fixing your old machine! And, you may get an upgrade on performance.
  • If you stick with your old machine, wipe out your old hard drive and reinstall the software. Or, purchase a new hard drive and install the operating system and software. These options definitely require some degree of technical skill and plenty of time. Before you choose one of these options, make sure that you have the installation disks or download information for your operating system and software. If you purchase a new hard drive, make sure to buy the same size and speed drive you had in your old system.
  • If you stick with your old hard drive, simply reformatting the drive does not eliminate the malicious code. You’ll need to wipe the old drive using software designed to replace the old data stored on the drive with a different character. After wiping the drive, format it before reinstalling software. 

All about your data

Backing up your data is always a good plan. Hindsight, however, is 20/20. If you've been hacked and can no longer access data that you need or is very valuable to you, you may need to hire a data recovery or digital forensics professional to restore your data. Before you hire anyone, research alternatives. You may be able to reconstruct your data from alternate sources, such as emails, data sticks or photo flash cards.

Data recovery and restoration can be expensive. Services can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, and it is unlikely to find anyone who will guarantee their work. Search for providers online, get a quote in advance and check the service provider’s online reviews and references before making a substantial investment.

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