“I have been hacked!”
We see it every day, a customer comes into our store and says, “I have been hacked!” It usually starts with a pop-up that can take many forms, but the result is always the same. The pop-up will give the victim a phone number to call to resolve an issue, or show a prompt to install fraudulent software to fix their computer. There is still hope at this point. They can power off the device and bring it to a professional. Nothing has been jeopardized just yet.
In cases where an individual is prompted to call a number from the pop-up, the scammer will often pose as a technician who is trying to help the victim protect their computer. They will then try multiple scare tactics to get the victim to allow them to have remote access. Once the scammer has the victim’s trust, they will exploit it. They will walk them through multiple steps to take control of their computer remotely. Once they are in, they can acquire crucial information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and anything else that has been stored or accessed on their device. In extreme cases the scammer can even lock the victim’s device, so they no longer have access to their data. That is, until asking them to pay an absurd fee to regain access. This is a common form of ransomware.
What do you do when you are hacked?
Let’s make one thing clear here: This isn’t ‘hacking’, in the traditional sense. We hear it every day. ‘I have been hacked!’. But the more likely scenario is that the victim has been duped. Very rarely do we see cases where an individual’s computer has been compromised by an outside influence simply by being connected to the internet. In nearly all cases there is always a point where the victim inadvertently let the scammer access their computer.
Think of it this way. We have all seen horror movies where demonic objects such as creepy dolls, and ouija boards open a connection to a malevolent spirit. In the 2013 classic ‘The Conjuring’, Ed Warren lays out the degrees of demonic possession as “Infestation”, “Oppression”, “Possession”. Giving a scammer access to your computer, after they’ve conned and manipulated your emotional well-being is akin to moving from an ‘infestation’ to succumbing to a demonic possession.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
The simplest thing you can do to protect yourself when you receive one of these pop-ups is to follow three simple steps:
Don’t Call, Power Down, Get Help
The first step is to not engage. Never call the number the pop up asks you to call. Don’t install software you don’t 100% trust. Microsoft, Norton, McAfee, and other companies will never make unsolicited attempts to get the end user to call them.
Power down is our next step. Sometimes the shut down option will not be available to you when you receive these types of pop-ups. You can, however, hold the power button of the device in for 30 seconds or until the device completely powers off. While it is not advised that you do this frequently, this is a surefire way to stop any access to your machine, and any malware from infecting your system.
Our final step is ‘get help’. In this step we recommend you take the device to your local computer repair center (hopefully us!) to have them scan the device for any malicious items. It could be that the pop-up appeared from a dubious website that you stumbled upon, or there could be more potent malware lurking on your machine that requires specialized cleaning applications to remove.
Protect Yourself From Possession
When faced with these kinds of threats, or if you find yourself thinking ‘I have been hacked!’, it’s important to know what to do and what not to do. There is a fine line between staying safe online and suffering through a fake scam. Education is the first step in protecting yourself.
If you click on any link provided in these types of messages, or contact the scammer directly, you’re asking for trouble.
Remember, if you receive one of these pop ups Don’t Engage, Power Down, and Get Help.
Additionally, did you know that we have partnered with Carbonite, and that they provide a service that can help you recover your files from a ransomware attack (provided you had backed up your data with them beforehand)?
Learn more about Carbonite here!