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Follow these steps to fight back a hacked network

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/hywards)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” The saying turns out to be a harsh reality especially when it comes to securing information over the internet. Unfortunately, we are living in an era when one tiniest crack in your defences can wreak a considerable amount of havoc.

We, humans, love to play the blame game and blaming tech is not an exception. I still remember how renowned companies like Equifax and Yahoo were in the spotlight for massive and preventable data breaches previous year. Apart from that, WannaCry- a high profile ransomware was found to threaten several organisations at a time especially in the healthcare industry. Hackers are growing smart and sophisticated. With the effective use of software, bots, viruses, Trojans and phishing techniques, they seem to be no more those bored looking suburban kids who enjoyed causing virtual mischief for the time being. An ethical hacker can be a good software developer, or they can even go against established business models pushing new ideas to their maximum potential, but at the same time, one wrong step can take them to places where there is no U-Turn.    

Do you know that it takes just 10 minutes to crack a six- character password? Many of the attacks are automated where cybercriminals can access data even while sleeping. This also means hacking is the only system that is against discrimination because a hacker can be anyone. Kidding! All they require doing is sending an army of bots to look for weak points over the internet. A specific type of malware is used to hack certain devices, access cameras or a network. However, some criminals have a motto while orchestrating attacks. For example- if someone wants to steal valuable information and sell in the black market or wish to harm a company’s reputation that takes much time to repair.

So what needs to be done?

People, it’s time to shore up your protections but before you must know a few signs of trouble. What will you do if they’ve already broken in, and yet you have no clue about it?

1. Ransom ware messages- One of the most apparent signs in the books of network attacks. Moreover, since they appear on the very first page of the site, it is easy to identify such signs. They restrict access to the remaining content until and unless the victim does not pay a specific amount to the hacker. It isn’t compulsory that you will face these signs only while visiting an infected website while working. One email or spam message is enough to direct a recipient to visit the site containing malware or infected files. In fact, they seem to be so legitimate that nobody would think twice about doing as the email instructs. As soon as you fall in the trap- hacker installs ransomware on the victim’s computer and play with it.

Solution- Well, one of the best approaches to take into account is by not paying any amount of demanded money and make sure to seek expert assistance at first. Also, shut down and disconnect any infected parts of their system. This will help you in preventing any further damage, plus communicate about the attack with law enforcement. Most important of all, keep backing up your data and implement recovery solution. This will provide great help in bringing pieces back soon.

2. Computers Functioning- Do you find your mouse cursor moving on its own? Do you notice any presence of an external element controlling your device? It isn’t any ghost! It’s what we call a remote desktop hack. Seems quite frightening, isn’t it!

Solution- Companies need to react by immediately disconnecting all affected computers from the network and then determining the point of entry. In addition to this, one definitely requires monitoring network traffic for suspicious activities at regular intervals. Of course, you require running a virus scan, sign out of all programs or services on an affected machine, and set up new passwords for everything.

3. Unwanted browser toolbars- Another common sign of exploitation is when you find that your browser has multiple new toolbars with names. Dump the tools unless and until they aren’t from a renowned source. Besides, keep reviewing all the installed and active toolbars at regular intervals. Remove the ones which are entirely unknown to you. Even if this doesn’t work, try avoiding malicious toolbars by making sure that all your software is fully patched. Try reading the licensing agreement, and I am sure you will know what needs to be done.

4. Unexpected Encrypted Files- Another kind of ransomware attack involves hacker encrypting files barring access to them until victims pay the requested amounts of money. However, it is impossible for an individual to detect encrypted files until they click on them and cannot open them. And that's the reason why it is always advisable to take proactive safeguards against malware issues.

Solution- Running day to day anti-virus scan is the smartest thing to do. In addition to this, users must also keep the associated software updated. Like I said before, one requires to be vigilant when clicking on links or downloading attachments that seem out of the ordinary. Keeping essential files in multiple places, for example- do not store the entire data on the work computer, try using a USB drive or cloud application like G suite.

5. Popups Everywhere- I am sure you must have come across the horrifying sign stating that “You Have Been hacked!” This is the moment when you get random browser pop-ups from websites that don't usually generate them. This also means your system has been compromised. It feels like you are continuously battling email spam, but worse!

Solution- Random pop-ups can be generated by one of the three previous malicious mechanisms such as redirect internet searches, fake antivirus messages, unwanted toolbars and what not! So this is as simple as it sounds, get rid of all the toolbars and other unwanted programs. You might get rid of pop-ups!

Vikash Kumar, manager, Tatvasoft
Image source: Shutterstock/hywards