How to know if you have been hacked and what to do next

How to know if you have been hacked and what to do next

Every eight minutes there is one notification of a cyber attack in Australia. In reality, only what has been reported and many hacks go undetected.

From April to June in 2022, Norton Research for Australia detected 32,660,129 cybercrime blockers. That’s 358,902 blocks a day.

Just recently a massive cyber hack on the telco Optus potentially compromised 9.8 million customers, with information such as passport and license numbers, emails, home addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers stolen.

So what happens if you’ve been hacked? It is important to know what to expect and how to act to ensure that you keep the level of risk as low as possible.

How to know if you have been hacked and what to do next
Scammers hackers laptop cybercrime online criminals (iStock/Getty)
If there is a major cyber attack it will be all over the news, as Optus was recently. An attack of that scale will usually mean that the company will contact you and have specific information available about its website.

But not every hack will be as obvious. You may notice an unexpected purchase on your credit card. Scammers can skim your credit card at a restaurant, a shady online store you recently used, or even at an ATM.

Other hacks may involve your social media account or email address. Friends may get in touch to ask why you sent them a strange message or forwarded them spam.

Some other red flags you’ve been hacked are;

  • Problems logging into your accounts
  • Contact for debt collection
  • Unusual activity on the phone
  • A warning that your account may be compromised

What to do after you’ve been hacked?

The first thing is to take it seriously.

Melissa Dempsey, Norton Senior Director of Product Marketing, told that one in five Australians have experienced identity theft, but 59 per cent of Australians have no idea what to do if their identity was stolen.

“If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft or suspect that you may be, you must act quickly in hopes of minimizing the impact and any financial loss,” Dempsey said.

What you do will depend on the hack.

Credit card fraud will mean contacting your bank (if they haven’t already contacted you). You must cancel that card and get a new one. And be sure to update any subscriptions or services where the credit card is stored (such as a phone or utility bill).

If your email is hacked you must regain control by contacting the email service. It’s not easy if you don’t have access to your account, so ideally have two email accounts linked together.

And if your email has been stolen, hackers can reset passwords for your social media accounts. All they have to do is tap Forgot your password on that side.

Identity theft can be a total nightmare. Your first step is to get in touch IDCARE – a not-for-profit charity that helps victims of cybercrime.

After becoming a victim of cybercrime, there are also some important steps you can take:

  • Update and run antivirus software on all your devices
  • Reset all your passwords and PINs
  • Check where you have stored personal information (such as emails) and delete them
  • Contact your bank or financial institution to tell them what happened

Scam text tricks drivers into thinking they have missed paying a toll

How to avoid being hacked?

Once again, take it seriously. Don’t just change the one password of a hacked website.

Go through all the steps outlined and use public resources like these step by step guides about setting up two-factor authentication and checking account security.

Here is some general advice on how to stay out of the hackers’ crosshairs:

  • Do not open suspicious emails or text messages, just delete them immediately
  • Create a variety of passwords and make them difficult to guess. There are several password management apps you can use to keep track
  • Get antivirus software and a good firewall. Use a VPN if you connect to public Wi-Fi
  • Do not post public information on social media. Those Facebook quizzes that ask your first pet’s name, street name and age are probably collecting data to try to guess your passwords
  • Be alert. If you don’t know someone and they ask for information, be very suspicious

Reported losses from cybercrime in the 2020-21 financial year were $33 billion, you don’t want your hard-earned money to be part of next year’s statistics.

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