The moment you realize one of your online accounts has been hacked can send a number of emotions raging through your head. Unfortunately, when it comes to online security, many of us don't think about it seriously until after it's too late. And even if we do everything in our power to create strong passwords and store data safely, there are many factors out of the end-user’s control such as vulnerabilities in the software itself that could result in a data breach. However, if you act quickly and rationally, you can mitigate the damage caused by a hack.

Signs Your Account Has Been Hacked

Even if you have no reason to believe an account has been hacked, it's best to always keep an eye out. Depending on the type of account (email, social media, banking, etc.), there are several signs you can look for to determine if your account has been hacked:

  • Unauthorized credit card transactions
  • Access to your account from an unusual location
  • Unable to log in to your account or information in your account has changed
  • Suspicious looking emails, perhaps about newly opened accounts or questionable activities within your account

I've Been Hacked. Now What?

Most commonly, cybercriminals go after emails and social media accounts. These accounts hold a wealth of information and can be used to lure others into giving out their information as well. If you believe one of your accounts has been hacked, remember the first step is not to panic. Here's how you can minimize the damage from an online account hack:

  • Immediately change your passwords. If you can still access your account, immediately change your password. Whether you use the same passwords or not for other accounts, it's best to change those too as a precaution. If you can't access your account, try notifying the support team for help.
  • Notify all contacts. Cybercriminals will likely use your account to infect others. If your email or social media account has been hacked, immediately inform your contacts so they know not to click on any suspicious links or messages coming from your account. If it's a financial account, immediately notify the institution to stop all transactions associated with that account. Scan your computer. Now’s a good time to make sure you're running the most recent antivirus software and scan your computer for malware.
  • Monitor your accounts. You may never know exactly what information has been leaked, so it’s best to keep watch on all your online accounts and the activity within those accounts. Many websites offer information on account activity, such as when and where your account has been recently accessed and what information has been updated.
  • Check your settings. More often than not, personal devices such as laptops and phones are also used for work related business. Therefore, it's possible the cybercriminal not only has your information, but data on your organization as well. Notify the IT team at your organization so they can take the necessary precautions to ensure company data remains safe.

The last step is to start thinking about what you can do better. Even with the best security in place, accounts can still be hacked. However, if your password is Password123 and you use this password across every account you have, then you're only putting yourself at greater risk. To further secure your online accounts, enable two factor authentication whenever possible and set up all possible security features to notify you if anything remotely suspicious starts happening within your account. Be careful what information you share online and only shop on websites you can trust. For more tips on protecting yourself online, join us for National Cyber Security Awareness Month!