How Hackers Hack, and How To Stop Them
How to Prevent Hacking
This wikiHow teaches you how to increase the security for your accounts, mobile devices, firewall, computers, and network information.
Keeping Your Accounts Secure
Create complex passwords.Your passwords to access your accounts on apps or websites should consist of a combination of numbers, upper- and lower-case letters, and special characters that is difficult to guess.
- Don't use the same password for more than one website or account. This limits the damage to you if a hacker happens to crack one of your passwords.
Use a password manager.Password managers store and auto-fill your credentials for different sites, allowing you to create a complex and unique password for each site without having to worry about entering the password itself more than once. While you should absolutely keep track of your passwords on your own as well, a password manager will help make your device much more secure.
- Highly praised third-party password managers include "Dashlane 4", "LastPass 4.0 Premium", "Sticky Password Premium", and "LogMeOnce Ultimate".
- Most browsers have a built-in password manager that stores and encrypts your passwords.
Don't give out your password.This is an obvious piece of advice, but one that bears revisiting: with the exception of some school services, you shouldn't ever have to provide a site administrator with your password for them to access your account.
- This logic applies to IT workers and Microsoft or Apple representatives.
- Similarly, don't tell people your phone or tablet's PIN or passcode combination. Even your friends might accidentally tell someone your passcode.
- If you do have to give someone your password for some reason, change it as soon as they are done with whatever they needed to do on your account.
Change your passwords often.In addition to keeping your password a secret, you should change the passwords on your various accounts and devices at least once every six months.
- Be sure not to use the same password twice (e.g., your Facebook password should be different than your bank password, etc.).
- When you do change your password, you should change it substantially. Don't simply replace one letter with a number.
Use two-factor authentication.Two-factor identification requires you to enter a code sent to you in a text message or another service to access your account after you enter your user name and password. This makes it more difficult for a hacker to access your information, even if they are able to crack your password.
- Most major websites, including popular social media networks, have some form of two-factor authentication available. Check your account settings to learn how to enable this feature.
- You can set up two-step verification for your Google account.
- Popular app alternatives to receiving a text message include Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator.
Log out of accounts when you're done with them.Simply closing the browser window isn't always enough, so make sure you click (or tap) on your account name and selectLog Out(orSign Outin some cases) to manually sign out of your account and remove your login credentials from the site.
Make sure you're on an official website when entering passwords.Phishing scams – instances in which a malicious page pretends to be a login page for a social media or bank account – are one of the easiest ways for you to get hacked. One way to spot phishing scams is to look at the site's URL: if it closely resembles (but doesn't exactly match) a reputable site's URL (e.g., "Facebook" instead of "Facebook"), it's a fake site.
Keeping Your Phone Secure
Change your phone's passcode often.The first line of defense against people attempting to view or steal your data is a strong and constantly changing passcode.
- Make sure that you substantially change the passcode each time you change it--don't just change one number.
- On most phones, you can set a "complex" or "advanced" password that includes letters and symbols in addition to the typical numerical characters.
- Avoid Using Touch ID or other fingerprint verification features. While these seem more secure than a passcode, it is actually easier to hack then a password because hackers can replicate your fingerprint with a printer.Fingerprints are also not protected by the 5th amendment, but passcodes are.
Browse using secure web apps.It may be tempting to use third-party browsers like Tor or Dolphin but synchronizing your Google Chrome account or Safari account between your phone and your computer will both prevent the need to re-enter saved passwords and protect your device from unsafe websites.
Update your devices and software on time.As soon as an update becomes available for anything from your phone's Facebook app to its entire operating system, you should apply it if possible.
- Many updates are patches to repair weaknesses and address security vulnerabilities. Failing to update your software will eventually result in an exploitable weakness appearing, which puts your device at risk.
- If you have the option to download all updates automatically, make use of this feature. It will save you a lot of trouble.
Charge your phone on reliable USB ports.These include the ports on your computer and in your car (if applicable). Public USB ports, like the ones you may see in a coffee shop, can compromise your information.
- For this reason, it's a good idea to bring an electrical outlet connector in addition to your USB cable if you're traveling.
Avoid jailbreaking (or rooting) your phone or side-loading apps.Both iPhones and Androids have security safeguards that can be bypassed by jailbreaking or rooting the respective devices but doing so opens your phone up to attacks and infections that would have previously been impossible. Similarly, downloading apps from unverified sources ("side-loading" apps) greatly increases your risk of contracting malware.
- Android phones have a built-in security suite that prevents you from downloading apps from unknown sources. If you do choose to disable this option (from theSecuritytab in Settings), you'll need to carefully verify websites from which you download apps before proceeding with the downloads.
Keeping Your Computer Secure
Encrypt your hard drive.If your hard drive is encrypted, a hacker will be unable to read the data stored there, even if they manage to gain access to your hard drive. While you've taken steps to prevent access, encryption is another method of protecting your information.
- Mac- FileVault is the encryption service for Macs. You can enable it by clicking the Apple icon in the top-left corner of your Mac's screen, clickingSystem Preferences, clicking theSecurity & Privacyicon, clicking theFileVaulttab, and clickingTurn On FileVault. You may first have to click the lock icon and enter your Mac's administrator account password.
- Windows- BitLocker is Windows' default encryption service. To enable it, simply type "bitlocker" into the Start search bar, click the "Bitlocker Drive Encryption" option, and clickTurn on BitLocker. Keep in mind that Windows 10 Home users won't have access to BitLocker without first upgrading to Windows 10 Pro.
Install updates as soon as they become available.In addition to performance upgrades, system updates often contain improvements to security.
Back up your data frequently.Despite even the strictest security, it's still possible that your data may become compromised. This may be the result of hacking, or simply computer failure. Backing up your data ensures you don't lose anything.
- There are cloud-based services you can use to back up your data. Check the security of these services carefully before joining one. While you may be tempted to go with the least expensive service, you want to make sure your data will be kept safe.
- You also can use an encrypted external hard drive to back up your data. Set up your computer to run automatic backups daily, at a time of day when you aren't normally on your computer.
Avoid clicking suspicious links or responding to unknown emails.If you get an unsolicited email, or an email from a sender that you cannot verify, treat it as a hacking attempt. Do not click on any links or give the sender any personal information.
- Keep in mind that even replying to the email will let the sender know that your email address is active and valid. While you may be tempted to send them a sarcastic reply, even this will give them information they can use to hack you.
Install or activate your firewall.Both Windows- and Mac-based computers come equipped with a firewall, which prevents hackers from gaining access to your computer. However, in some computers, the firewall is not turned on by default.
- Go into the security settings of your computer and look for "firewall" settings. Once there, make sure it is turned on and that it is blocking incoming connections.
- If you have a wireless network, your router should have a firewall as well.
Enable a firmware password.If your computer has the option available, require users to enter a password before rebooting from a disk or entering single-user mode. A hacker cannot get around a firmware password unless they have physical access to your machine, though you'll need to be extremely careful not to forget or lose the password since it is immensely difficult to reset. To create a firmware password:
- Mac- Restart your Mac, then hold downCommandand as it boots up. ClickUtilities, clickFirmware Password Utility, clickTurn On Firmware Password, and create your password.
- Windows- Restart your computer, then hold down the BIOS key (typically , , , , , or ) as your computer boots up. Use the arrow keys to select the password option, then enter your preferred password.
Disable remote access.You may need to access your computer remotely, or allow someone else to do so, such as if you've called tech support. However, you should keep it disabled by default and only turn it on for brief periods when you need it.
- If you have remote access enabled, you essentially leave an open door for hackers to get into your computer and steal your data.
Install antivirus software on your computer.Antivirus software recognizes and removes potentially harmful files and programs as soon as you download them. Windows Defender is a good choice for PCs, and it comes pre-installed on Windows 10 computers. For a Mac, consider AVG or McAfee as another line of defense on top of Gatekeeper, which is the default protection suite.
- It's also a good idea to make sure your computer's firewall program and Bluetooth function are only letting trusted connections access your computer.
Keeping Your Network Secure
Use secured wireless networks.Generally speaking, secured networks require you to enter a password before you can connect to them. In some locations (such as airports or coffee shops), you can request the password after purchasing an item.
- If the wireless network isn't secured, your computer will let you know before connecting. In some operating systems, there will also be an exclamation mark next to the network's name.
- If you have to use the internet but don't have access to a secure network, change your passwords immediately the next time you log into a secure network.
- If you have a wireless network at home, make sure it's secure and encrypted. Keep in mind that wireless routers typically aren't secure by default – you have to set this up yourself.
Download programs only from reputable sites.This methodology goes for sites you visit on an unsecured connection as well. If there isn't a padlock icon to the left of the URL address and "HTTPS" in front of the "www" portion of the URL, it's best to avoid the site (and downloading anything from it) entirely if possible.
Learn to recognize fake websites.In addition to avoiding sites without "HTTPS" and the padlock icon next to the URL, double-check the website's URL before entering your password on it. Some sites will attempt to steal your login information by posing as another site (this is known as a phishing scam); you can spot these sites by looking for extra (or missing) letters, dashes between words, and extra symbols.
- For example, a site masquerading as Facebook might havefaceboook.comas its URL.
- Sites which display dashes between multiple words in the site name itself (the words in between "www" and ".com") are generally not reliable.
Avoid file sharing services.Not only does file sharing often violate intellectual property laws, but file-sharing websites are crawling with hackers. You may think you're downloading the latest hit song or a new movie, but the file actually is a virus or malware in disguise.
- Many of these files are designed in such a way that the virus or malware hidden within won't be picked up by anti-virus software screenings. The virus won't infect your system until you try to play the file.
Shop only on secure sites.Don't enter account or credit card information on a site that doesn't have "https://" written before the "www" section of the website address. The "s" indicates the site is secure. Sites without that won't encrypt or protect your data.
QuestionI gave my computer to someone to fix it, and now they claim they can see what I'm doing from their home. Is this possible, and if so, how can I stop it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey hacked your computer, they connected the camera to some of their devices. Contact the police.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to open emails from my spam folder that I think are not spam?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but if there are instructions to "click the link" don't do it. Delete the email immediately.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I stop my mouse moving without me touching it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGet a wired mouse. Wireless mice are hackable, as they have a virtual wire and communicate through a signal that could be intercepted, whereas wired mice have a physical wire and they can't be hacked. If you are already using a wired mouse, then someone has control of your computer remotely. You should probably invest in a good anti-virus software to make sure that your computer is clean of all viruses. If this doesn't do anything, then you are better off factory-resetting your computer.Thanks!
QuestionAm I likely to get hacked while playing an online game like Animal Jam?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's possible to be hacked any time you're downloading files, but I don't think it's likely that this would happen. Just make sure any files are being downloaded from the original source on a secure website. Making sure your router and network are secure will also help reduce your risk of being hacked.Thanks!
QuestionSomeone threatened to DDOS me, have me swatted, and that I'm going to have no money in my bank account. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThis is serious, and you need the police involved.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I know when I can allow Microsoft to remotely control my computer?Aaron WyantCommunity AnswerIf they call you out of the blue, don't let them in. There are a lot of companies that will call you and say they are with Microsoft and then ask you to let them on your computer. Never do that. The only time would be if YOU called Microsoft and asked for support. (For example, if your PC won't activate with Windows 10, you call them and they will ask to log in to your PC to run a program to fix it.)Thanks!
QuestionMy disk space goes up and down and I think someone is storing things on my computer. How do I stop this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt's normal. Sometimes your computer stores some cookies, temporary files, and junk files on your hard drive.Thanks!
QuestionWhy are the firewalls easy for the hackers to break through?Aaron WyantCommunity AnswerFirewalls need to be monitored and updated. Every day, new software comes out and when you install that software, it will update the firewall. If the software opens a hole in the firewall and the firewall does not update (Windows update sometimes can help), then the hackers can get in. Even Windows can have holes in it if you don't update.Thanks!
QuestionI have repeatedly had my iPhone hacked, how do I stop this?Aaron WyantCommunity AnswerSomeone may have your wifi hot spot password and logging in from your wireless network. Maybe they are getting in from the outside because your Password on your router was never changed or even setup. Keep your phone off your networks (no wifi) until you figure it out. Also, don't connect it to your PC/mac until you know it's safe. You may need to change your phone number and all your passwords.Thanks!
QuestionMy broadband is being hacked. I've changed all the passwords and installed McAfee today. Yesterday, the router wasn't even plugged in and it was still used. What else can I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGet a new hub and change the IPs, passwords and name etc., or check on the people around you to see if they are using it.Thanks!
- There are firewalls and anti-virus software available for free on the Internet as well as many options for purchase.
- Make sure your password isn't the same as your username or email.
- Unfortunately, the only fail-safe way to avoid being hacked entirely is to avoid using technology altogether.
Sources and Citations
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