No matter how unlikely you think it might be to happen or how careful you are, you still have to be prepared when your computers get hacked. If you don't know how to respond properly to a successful attack, you might unknowingly create a bigger problem such as furthering the spread of a computer virus. One of the most common ways of getting hacked is by accidentally unleashing a virus in your system. Trojans for example are a type of computer virus that can enable a hacker to remotely control your computer. Spywares can record your keystrokes and can be used to figure out your passwords. Adwares can continually annoy you with incessant pop-ups, hijack your browser so that it automatically keeps going to some website, or record your Internet browsing habits and sell them as direct marketing research information.
Here are a few things you can do if this unfortunate incident ever does happen.
1. Take your system off the network.
Just as people with contagious diseases need to be isolated, compromised systems must be taken off the network. The damage has been done but further damage can still be prevented.
2. Do a system scan or virus scan.
This may no longer be quite as effective on a compromised system because some malicious programs can manipulate your system to mask their presence but if the attack wasn't so serious this method can still help you assess the extent of the damage.
3. Block the suspicious program via a firewall.
Some firewall software allows you to list down programs that will be denied connectivity to the network. Add the suspicious file to this list. You may have successfully deleted it but in case you get infected again, the firewall is ready to block it from its inception.
4. Reset all your passwords.
It's best to assume the worst when it comes to hacking. Change all your passwords from your email account to your bank PIN. You can't really be sure what sensitive information was stolen from your system.
5. Reinstall the operating system.
If the damage is really serious, formatting the hard disk is the surest way you can wipe out the malicious program. This will entail rebuilding your system from the ground up. That's why it's always prudent to back-up important data on a separate media like a CD. When you start all over again, be sure to apply updated security patches this time to remove the vulnerability that compromised your system in the first place.
Sometimes it's easy to figure out that your system's been compromised but the more insidious attacks can be hard to detect. They usually operate in the background so you don't see any windows opening or programs running on your screen. What you may notice are occasional and unexplainable slumps in your system's performance. This could be the result of the virus program using your computer's resources to perform some malicious task. One way to monitor your system is to be familiar with all the programs you intentionally installed and use. When you see something you didn't install and it is not part of the system files, chances are it’s a malicious program. You can look up the filename in security or anti-virus sites to be certain what it is before you delete it.