Am I hacked 1
Network hacks are already incredibly common, and their severity and frequency are increasing every year. Statistics from a joint study by Accenture and the Ponemon Institute in 2017 show the average organization experiences 130 security breaches a year, an increase of more than 24 percent annually.
In addition, a stand-alone finding by the National Cyber Security Alliance revealed that 60 percent of small to medium-sized businesses ceased operations within six months of being hacked.
Cyber criminals have different goals when staging attacks. They may be interested in valuable data that they can sell on the black market, or they may want to damage a company's reputation so badly that the resulting damage lasts for months and is disproportionately costly.
Hackers also make a big profit from their notoriety, whether through gaining recognition from like-minded criminals or whether their vile deeds fill the headlines.
The first step in stopping network attacks is identifying signs of problems. Here are five common symptoms that a hacker has broken into a network.
Ransomware messages are the most obvious signs of network attacks as they often appear on the home page of websites and restrict access to content as long as victims do not transfer a specific fee to a hacker online.
These attacks do not occur simply because an employee visits an infected website during work hours. Sometimes the problems start with a person opening an email or spam message instructing the recipient to go to a website with malware or download infected files. Often times, they look legitimate, so recipients don't think twice about acting as the email instructs. Hackers then install ransomware on the recipient's computer and use it to infiltrate the company network.
Statistics from 2016 showed a 6,000 percent increase in ransomware attacks via this type of content. It may surprise many that most of the victims paid the imposed wages that year.
How you should react:The best approach is to not pay the required amount and to get advice from an expert first. Organizations should also shut down and disconnect all infected parts of their systems to prevent further damage. You should also notify law enforcement agencies.
Ransomware messages often affect businesses of all types and sizes, and it is vital to have a plan for dealing with them if - not if - an attack occurs. Backing up data and implementing a recovery solution can drastically help companies get everything back in order after these attacks.
If a mouse cursor moves on its own, or if someone outside appears to be controlling things, that's another sign of hacking. It's a remote desktop hack. Such an attack can be frightening for everyone involved because it is so obvious that something is wrong and the equipment is not secured.
How to react: Organizations can react by immediately disconnecting all affected computers from the network, then attempting to determine the entry point and inspecting network traffic for suspicious activity. Next you should run a virus scan, log out of all programs or services on an affected computer and set up new passwords for everything.
Some network problems start with people on a victim's contact list receiving strange emails from them. These usually contain links or attachments as they can be used by hackers to harm other people who interact with these elements.
For example, a person with a hacked account may unknowingly send messages containing files to download to everyone in their contact lists. The message could say something seemingly innocuous, such as asking colleagues to "download these files from a presentation I was in".
If the recipients swallow the bait and download the files, the hacker has a greater reach because other computer users in a company infect their computers. Since they trust that the virus-infected attachment contains necessary, company-specific information, they give their consent to malware being transmitted to their systems and thus to the entire network.
These types of messages distributed by hackers can also be encountered on team communication platforms such as Slack or Skype.
How you should react: Affected parties should contact the associated services to inform them of compromised accounts. They may also find it helpful to learn password protection strategies, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or a time-based one-time password (TOTP).
Sometimes these messages don't come from hackers breaking into accounts. Instead, they occur when hackers use spoofing and phishing attempts to send email that appears to be from the person, but only because it looks so authentic.
Organizations can try to avoid these kinds of problems in the future by informing employees of types of online content that could pose risks. For example, research shows that context and curiosity are two of the most common triggers for people to click a link posted by a hacker, and relevant context is particularly irresistible.
If the content accompanying the link corresponds to a person's need or life situation, or if it just seems interesting, the ingredients are there to potentially entice a person to click and possibly contribute to a network infection. In addition, companies can train their employees on what phishing attempts look like by showing them emails that appear to be from legitimate companies but are really just trying to steal passwords or other sensitive information.
Another type of ransomware attack may not result in the messages described above. Hackers encrypt files and block access to them until the victims have paid the required sums.
Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for ordinary people to recognize encrypted files until they click on them and cannot open them. Hence, it is important to take proactive protective measures against malware problems.
Running a daily anti-virus scan is a good first step. But users should also update the associated software to ensure that it detects the latest types of malware. In addition, as mentioned earlier, they should be constantly vigilant for clicking links or downloading attachments that seem unusual. Often it is these components that give hackers access to a company network.
It is also a good idea to save important files in multiple locations. Instead of just storing files on a work computer, employees can save them on a USB drive or in a cloud-based application like G Suite. Even if hackers lock files in one place, proactive workers may have access to them elsewhere.
How you should react:As soon as files are compromised in this way, it is advisable to restore the state before the encryption attack with a full system backup (hard disk image) of the affected computer. If there are no backed up files, professional help is needed to determine if it is possible to decrypt the data without giving in to the hacker's demands.
If a browser redirects you to a different homepage than its usual one set up in the settings, or goes to strange websites when you try to use the internet, it is likely due to the intrusion of a hacker.
These problems are due to a redirect virus. The infections can appear on computers when they are bundled with downloaded software or inserted into unwanted browser extensions.
Some of the pages that appear on a computer because of this problem are similar to the actual pages. They can have almost identical color schemes, footer links, or fonts. This is because hackers hope to trick people who are not paying enough attention.
Another type of redirect virus is when people click links on legitimate pages but see advertisements instead of the real content.
How you should react:Ideally, users shouldn't try to solve the problem without fully backing up their data. Then they can use redirect detection software - some of which are free - to scan for problems and fix them.
To avoid future complications, a company's technical experts should always install software for users. It is easy for users to accept software supplements that contain redirect viruses because they blindly comply with requests and do not read anything about the installed components.
Now that you know some of the most tell-tale signs of a compromised network, you are well equipped to act on the suggestions provided. A quick response could reduce the negative impact cybercriminals have on businesses
about the author
Kayla Matthews is a Pittsburgh-based tech journalist who has written for Hacker Noon, Cloud Tweaks, Houzz, and others. She is also the owner and editor of the tech productivity blog Productivity Bytes.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest author to bring a wider variety of content to our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest authoring article are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.
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