Hacked? Here's what to do next

Bank card fraud, website hacks, and ransomware all have first-step actions to take when you uncover the infiltration. Here's a look at some steps you can take to mitigate havoc.

Hacked, unlocked, unsafe.
Credit: Thinkstock

Having just experienced my second bank-card hacking of the year (and it's only April), my thoughts are with the charmer who did it. The devious lothario spent over $400 on blooms last week. Lucky girlfriend.

In the earlier incident, a presumed-globetrotter for whom I had bought a wad of cheap hotel rooms in mid-winter Moscow is more of a distant memory. Long gone, along with the 31 snail-mail letters that I received from my bank on the subject over the subsequent few months.

As I eagerly await the next avalanche of scintillating flower-purchase related correspondence, it's probably not a bad idea to review just what one should do in the case of a hack. Here's a look at what I've learned.

Personal bank hacks

Do two things when you notice funds missing from a bank account.

First, immediately call the phone number on the back of the bank card to start the ball rolling on getting the money back—the bank will want to stop the card, too.

And secondly, read the tens of bank letters that you'll likely get.

Statements

One of the letters you receive will require a signature, along with the stolen amounts circled in pen on bank statement copies, and then returning by a certain date.

It's important not to do as I did, and just throw these heaps of, admittedly important-looking, incoming correspondence away, or the bank will think you've given up over time, and will claw refunds back.

Prepare for a war of attrition with the bank. Don't forget that banks think the money is theirs, not yours.

Enterprise-level hacks

Unlike fraud with a personal bank card, where the bank handles the card-stop when you call them, the first thing to do after an enterprise-level hack is to change all passwords, according to experts.

Prioritize accounts which have administration privileges, and those with access to sensitive information, Danvers Baillieu of secure communications provider Hide My Ass told Sean Hargrave of the Guardian.

Email

Start with email accounts, because that's where all of your account password resets are sent, says Bonnie Cha, writing about hack prevention methods in Re/code.

Websites

You should move on to the "unsavory" elements, like a website redirect to pornography, after password changes, Baillieu reckons. Makes sense: do that after securing your perimeter.

He advises that you keep website hosting phone numbers at hand for this purpose.

Ransomware

Immediately pull the PC from the network in the case of ransomware, says Andrew Tang of MTI, speaking to the Guardian. The key to handling ransomware, according to experts, is to stop it from spreading.

Tang says to then shut down the computer, and even unplugging it if it won't shut down via prompts.

Preparedness

"Not having a plan of any kind is the most common regret among business owners once they have been attacked," say IT experts, according to Hargrave.

I can remember my first meagre, innocent hard-drive failure, which caused me to start performing backups—so good advice: get a plan organized.

Create a new account

But the best tip of all may well come from the junior bank customer service representative I've been working with. In a goodbye email to me this week, on her last day working at the bank, she said: "If the fraud continues to happen, I would definitely consider opening up a new account."

She doesn't say whether she means at a different bank. I'll take it as read.

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