Monthly Archives: September 2011
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This is Part 2 of a Series on Online Safety. Read Part 1.
It’s a terrible feeling, logging in to an account online and knowing someone other than you has accessed it. I’d hate to draw comparisons with having your home burglarized since that’s (fortunately) never happened to me, but it’s the closest online equivalent.
How did it happen? Well, maybe it’s because you clicked a suspicious link. Other times, you may have forgotten to log out of some account on a work or school or friend’s computer. A computer you were on may have had some kind of malware or keylogger on it designed to steal your information. Or a jolly band of hackers stole your information from a company you had trusted it to. Whatever the cause, you now have to take a few steps.
Run A Scan
…for malware, viruses, spyware, keyloggers, etc. etc. Make sure you get the check from a reputable source since it could very well be that trusting something that looked legitimate (but wasn’t) is what got you into this mess in the first place! CNET has a pretty good selection of software that will perform these types of scans for you.
Change Your Password(s)
Note that this is step 2. If you change your password first, but don’t clear any malware, you could just have your account broken into again.
Tally Up The Damage
Figure out what messages were sent out, what was charged to your credit card, or what information might have been taken. If it was something like an email or social networking account, contact those who might have been sent messages and tell them to follow these steps if they clicked on anything. If it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ in particular, delete any messages left behind by the person who broke into your account. Leaving them up there just runs the risk of someone else making the same mistake.
This in particular relates to your social media accounts being compromised, and goes double if your account is also used to interact with fans or customers. Remember, these are people who trust you and subscribe to your updates because they feel you have good content to share. If you’ve wronged them and don’t make it right, you can tarnish your online reputation.
Don’t let this happen again! Think about how you might have reached this situation, and consider what you can do differently next time.
Now, a few prevention tips…
Get Some Protection
There are several decent free programs. I personally use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware but use whatever works for you. Full blown retail anti-virus software can be good, but remember it’s a huge drain on your system’s resources (sometimes, it’s worse than having a virus!) and they’re typically not cheap (granted, the cost is fairly marginal versus the damage someone could do with access to certain accounts).
Always Log Out When You’re Done
…especially if you own a laptop or tablet and are leaving it unattended for any period of time. In some instances, you’ve got to be as worried about strangers on the internet as you do about the ones who are sitting right next to you. And if your classmates or co-workers are practical jokers…
Don’t Use The Same Password For Everything
A no-brainer. If you can’t remember all your various passwords, keep a paper list somewhere safe in your home. Or, if you back up your files externally, consider keeping a password protected document with your account names and passwords. Also, change your passwords regularly! And don’t make them easy to guess!
Question Everything Online
You ever read that old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Taking the few extra seconds to message someone and ask if what they sent you was legitimate shouldn’t offend them! The one time it turns out to be something harmful, you’ll both be glad you did.
It seems just about every show now we talk about the latest scam spreading on Twitter or Facebook. I won’t say who, but recently I noticed several people I follow on Twitter click on a bad link, and they passed it on to others, and it spread across the city. Most of the people clicking these links were journalists, trusted people who are in the public eye and expected to be critical thinkers who question everything. It’s a serious hit to their brand and trustworthiness, and even worse is when they do nothing about it even as people try to get in touch with them to tell them it’s still going on.
Have you ever had your online security compromised recently? Let us know in the comments!