Have i Really Been Hacked? 10 steps to dealing with security breaches

The fear of being hacked is a common concern among personal users. With an overwhelming number of reports and queries about potential hacking incidents, it's crucial to address this issue head-on. This guide aims to demystify the process of determining whether you've been hacked and outlines practical steps to safeguard your digital presence.


Have You Actually Been Hacked?

First and foremost, it's essential to distinguish between genuine hacking incidents and mere technical glitches, which are often mistaken for cyberattacks. Slow internet, unexpected device behaviours, and other technical gremlins could lead to suspicions of being hacked. However, these issues are frequently benign and can be resolved with a second opinion from someone tech-savvy, not necessarily a security expert.

Real or Phantom Threats ?

Consider the case of a TV that turns on by itself at midnight — a situation that might seem ghostly to some. In reality, it could be attributed to a feature like wake-on-LAN acting up, not a spectral hacker. Before jumping to conclusions, evaluate the evidence of hacking critically.

Understanding Your Adversary

Knowing the likely profile of potential hackers can help you assess your risk level more accurately. While it’s less common for individuals to be targeted by sophisticated cybercriminal groups or nation-states, personal disputes or grievances (e.g., from a disgruntled ex-partner or neighbor) are more probable causes of personal cyberattacks.

Steps to Take If You Suspect You’ve Been Hacked

If you're convinced that your digital security has been compromised, follow these steps to mitigate the issue:

1. ✅Verify the Hack: Sometimes, what seems like a hack is just a technical issue. If your internet is slow, devices are acting strangely, or there's an unexpected activity, get a tech-savvy friend or family member to take a look before assuming it's a hack.

2. 👤Consider Who Might Hack You: More often than not, hackers are someone you know, like a disgruntled ex or neighbor, rather than anonymous nefarious teams or nation states. Knowing the likely profile of the hacker can help tailor your response.

3. 🏠Build a Segregated Network: This is where costs may incur. If possible, get a new internet line or at least a new IP address. Factory reset your current router or, ideally, get a new router. When setting up, change the router's password immediately. Ensure no external ports are open to the internet. Tools like RoboShadow's Vulnerability scanner can help check for exposed ports.

4. 🛀Secure New Devices: Any device you connect to your new network should be clean. That means factory resets and new installations only. Install the bare minimum software needed.

5. 📱Mobile Device Security: If you use a smartphone, factory reset it as well. If you're especially concerned, consider changing your phone number and SIM card.

6. 🍿Limit Social Media: On your new clean network, avoid installing social media apps if possible, as they can be a vector for personal information leakage.

7. 💤Network Device Isolation: Adjust your router settings so that devices on your network cannot communicate with each other, a process which may involve using a network switch. This strategy prevents a hacker from moving laterally within your network if they gain access to one device, significantly enhancing your network's security.

8. 👨‍👩‍👦Slow Device Reintroduction: When you're confident your new network is clean, you can begin to reintroduce other devices. Factory reset them and update their firmware before connecting. Change passwords for any accounts connected to the devices.

9. 👨‍💻Hire a Professional: If suspicions persist, it’s prudent to hire a cybersecurity expert. You can find qualified individuals on platforms like PeoplePerHour, Upwork, or Fiverr, often at reasonable rates. They can help you by setting up a honeypot to confirm if someone is attempting to hack you and by implementing enhanced logging on your devices to track unauthorised access attempts.

10. 📈Monitor and Respond: Keep an eye on your network with the help of security tools and professionals. If you detect hacking attempts, you'll be better positioned to respond and protect your personal data. You can use tools like RoboShadow’s online Vulnerability scanner or the RoboShadow Android app 'Network IP Port Scanner' to check for exposed ports and ensure network security.

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* Honeypot =  a deliberately vulnerable computer system designed to attract hackers, allowing their methods to be studied and monitored without risking actual data or network security.* 

Final Thoughts

Understanding whether you’ve been hacked and taking appropriate action doesn’t require expert knowledge but does demand a methodical approach to evaluate risks and implement security measures. While individual users might feel overwhelmed by the technical aspects, the principles outlined here aim to empower you to protect your digital life effectively.

Remember, not all unexpected tech behaviours are signs of hacking. By critically assessing your situation, understanding potential threats, and taking proactive steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a cyber victim.

Posted by Jacob Grimwood

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In my role as a Marketing Coordinator at Roboshadow, I blend creativity with strategy to enhance our brand, bringing a fresh perspective to our digital presence. Like any good marketer, I'm taking this opportunity to plug our YouTube channel! Have a look into our educational cybersecurity videos on the RoboShadow YouTube channel.

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