How to recognize a hacking attack and what to do in such a situation?
Let’s start with a brief explanation of who a hacker is and what groups of hackers we can distinguish. First of all, a hacker is a person with high IT competencies. In the development environment, a division has been adopted that divides hackers into:
white hats (people who often work as security auditors – they test IT security),
gray hats (people testing security illegally, but not receiving remuneration in exchange for the obtained data),
black hats (computer criminals who steal data).
This article focuses on illegal hackers, that is, computer criminals.
Protection of company computers against hacker attacks protects not only the sensitive data of your company but also the private data of employees and customers. Statistically, over 60% of computer attacks are related to the errors of users who inadequately secure their equipment or use solutions that open the way for hackers to access. Using the preventive solutions available and knowing how to recognize the “symptoms” of a hacker attack early can protect your business from problems. How to recognize hacking on a computer and what to do in such a situation?
How to recognize an attack – symptoms of hacking a computer
You can be oversensitive and run a full computer scan every day, and although sometimes such actions will be advisable after conducting a risk analysis, they will not always prevent a hacker attack on business computers. Therefore, it is worth training yourself and your employees in advance about the characteristic symptoms that may accompany attempts to break into the company’s computer network and which need to be reacted quickly to avoid the consequences of a hacker attack. You do not have to place the responsibility on your employees for acquiring extensive knowledge in IT security – just take care of basic information about warning signals and their recognition.
One of the first and clearest symptoms of a computer hack is antivirus alerts. Although hackers can bypass them, never ignore the warnings that antivirus sends. For this reason, always make sure that the antivirus program is efficient and up-to-date in the company. This is your first barrier against hackers.
Another common signal of a potential computer hack is when the hardware suddenly slows down. Computers can perform poorly if they are not cleaned and updated regularly, but their performance should not drop suddenly causing everything to stutter. The infected equipment works much slower, although at the same time it works very intensively, which can be seen, for example, after a heavy load on the disk or operating memory. If on your computer you have nothing open except a text file, and e.g. the CPU is running at 100% power, something may be wrong.
A very suspicious problem indicating a possible break-in on company computers is disappearing files and folders or the appearance of new folders, files, and applications. As a rule, nothing happens on the computer by itself – if the user does not remember deleting files and they suddenly disappear from the screen, the problem could be serious.
Hackers attacking computers usually have two purposes: to extract data and confidential information from work computers or to gain access to a mailbox, bank passwords, and important, private, and corporate login data. Noticing any suspicious activity in this area, i.e. disappearing e-mails, spam sent by us, accidental transfers from a bank account, problems with logging in to e-mail, and company applications should raise suspicions. It happens that hackers, after downloading data, send information that the data on the computer has been encrypted and demand a fee to regain access to it. You need to react quickly and decisively to such actions – sometimes paying a ransom for the recovery of locked data may be necessary, but it is better to avoid such a scenario and protect yourself against the possibility of data interception by outsiders.
How to protect yourself against hackers?
One of the most important rules for protecting corporate data is regular backups. There is nothing worse than losing data as a result of a hacker attack and finding out that despite strenuous attempts by the best IT specialists, data is no longer recoverable. Backups are the basis for the operation of the company and private computers. As IT specialists say, computer users fall into two groups: those who do backups and those who will start when they lose all important files once.
Backup is also the best tool to restore data after a hacker attack. It often turns out that after a computer is infected, it is necessary to delete all data and files and completely reinstall the operating system, preferably on all company computers.
Of course, dedicated antivirus programs and implemented protection solutions, including those monitoring every visited website and downloaded, installed application, protect against computer hacking. Make your employees aware of the credible origin of the application or file before downloading anything – many hacker attacks reach computers through virus files with invoices that seem to resemble those from mobile or internet network operators.
What to do when your computer gets infected?
Despite the attempts, it was not possible to avoid hacking the company computers. What now? A hacker attack should first of all be reported to an IT specialist or supervisor, and even to the relevant institutions responsible for cybersecurity. Any, even a minor attack on corporate or private computers should not be underestimated.
Preventively, after suspecting a hacking attack, we must change all passwords to e-mail boxes, bank accounts, and social profiles from the level of equipment completely unrelated to the infected one. The help of IT specialists in cleaning the equipment and preparing it for safe operation again will be necessary in this case.