Archive for the ‘Hackers’ Category

Information theft is a crime like any other. It’s invasive, terrifying, and overwhelming. You find your contacts compromised, your identity used, your name degraded. It affects your health in terms of stress and anxiety when hackers steal your information. But the thing these crooks steal the most of is our time. Dealing with the fall-out of hacking can take days of effort. The thing that held me up most when I fell victim to a phishing scam was that I didn’t know what to do. When my initial attempts to regain control of my accounts failed, I had no idea how to fix things. The crooks had stolen the keys and locked me out. It was a powerless feeling. I had to get up to speed fast, and the way I did that was by ringing the police and getting their advice, which was helpful. Then I spoke to my eldest sister – aka the fount of all wisdom – and lastly, I went to see an I.T professional.

In the afterword of being hacked, being virtually locked out of my accounts, and spending four days fixing the mess, I guess the silver lining is I am more aware of cyber safety.
I am far more security conscious. As a writer, my natural reaction is to write about it. We need to protect ourselves from the dirty rotten scoundrels of this world by sharing our stories. There is strength in numbers and power in information and networking.
It’s times like these when a blog comes in real handy. Last week, I shared a hacking checklist and the warning signs to watch out for in my first post, Dirty Rotten Hackers, Part 1. This week, let’s talk about how to prevent it from happening to you.

Prevention:
*If in doubt about those emails and messages that seem like phishing, run them by a site like http://www.moneyhelper.org.uk/en/money-troubles/scams/types-of-scam
Or try those sites found on your police website like those offered by our New Zealand police force. https://www.cert.govt.nz/individuals/explore/scams-and-fraud/?topic=scams-and-fraud

*Unfortunately, when it comes to phishing emails, while you can not stop them altogether, there are some things you can do to mitigate these emails from coming through to you. Firstly you can block the senders. The following page has some information on how to stop particular email addresses from being able to email you:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/block-senders-or-unblock-senders-in-outlook-on-the-web-9bf812d4-6995-4d19-901a-76d6e26939b0

*You can also change the rules on your email spam filter to catch these types of emails. You can find information on how to update your spam filter here:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/change-the-level-of-protection-in-the-junk-email-filter-e89c12d8-9d61-4320-8c57-d982c8d52f6b

*Become more aware of how to stay secure online https://www.cert.govt.nz/individuals/guides/get-started-cyber-security/
*Look up the best password managers available. Some are free, some have monthly fees, but all offer a safe place to store all your passwords.
*Log in and log out each time you use online accounts
*Remove the “shortcuts” to your accounts from your desktop
*Do not click on links or attachments. When in doubt, phone the people/company involved.

*Marketing gurus will tell you that you should get your domain and set up a branded email (MyName@MySite.com). Never use that email address to set up an account. If the domain registration expires, anyone who registers the domain will receive your emails. Go into your accounts and replace any MyName@MySite.com with, say, a Gmail account. (Thanks for the tip, Nate Hoffelder)


Here’s to halting the scammers and hackers in their tracks. How do we do that? By talking about it, as I have done through these posts.


Stay safe, everyone, and let’s foil the bad guys by staying one step ahead.

Keep Creating!
Take care,
Yvette Carol
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‘One day, you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through, and it will be someone else’s survival guide.’ ~ Bene Brown

Last weekend got off to a bad start. At 8 am Thursday, I woke up to find I was locked out of my Outlook and Facebook accounts, and dirty, rotten hackers had taken virtual control of my life. It seems I learned nothing from being scammed (by phone) back in 2016. I had fallen victim to a phishing scam. Gherkins!

Unfortunately, I am not alone. Hacking and scamming can happen to anyone anywhere. These jerks can take our money, ruin our credit rating, scam more people through us, and then they will sell our details to those people who compile sucker lists. One hour after changing the password to one of my accounts, I was alerted by my provider that there had been a new attempt to hack into the same account. Thursday morning, the suspicious activity came from Nigeria, and by Thursday afternoon, the suspicious activity had skipped countries to Australia!

Four days later, however, and I had restored peace on all fronts. Let me tell you how I did it, with a hacking checklist of the steps to take to recover control of your accounts. But, first, let us have a brush up on the signs to watch out for whenever you are online, so you can avoid getting hacked or scammed in the first place.

Three red flags to watch out for:


*First Red Flag: They will say they are from a big reputable company because you are more likely to take them seriously. Microsoft is one of the most commonly-used covers. Scammers called me on my old landline and told me they were calling from Microsoft in 2016, and then the hacking event last week came apparently from Microsoft Customer Service.
*My Tip: Find the local phone number. Every country, even little old New Zealand, will have a landline for a branch of a giant corporation like Microsoft, and you can ask them if the request for action you have received is bonafide.

*Second Red Flag: They want you to act immediately.
*My Tip: Anything can wait till the next day. If they have given you a deadline to act by, wait until morning. If you pass the deadline they have given you, and nothing happens, then you will know they are dirty rotten hackers.

*Third Red Flag: They always want money, sooner or later. The request might not come first or second, it might be months down the track, but as soon as they ask for money, you can smell a rat. In my case, they did not request money from me but from all my friends and contacts, who they asked to purchase $300 Amazon gift cards on my behalf.
*My Tip: As soon as they request money and you smell that rat, trust your instincts and ask for proof of identity. If they are your friend, ask how you know each other, where did you first meet? Or ask to speak to them by video face-to-face call. Then, see how fast they run.

Hacking Checklist:


*Call the police. Yes. Information theft is a crime, and you need to report it. It will not only grant you as the victim support and guidance, but it will also help the police protect others. In New Zealand, the police encourage us to email a report to the police as well, via the site https://www.cert.govt.nz/individuals/
*Find the phishing emails and forward them to the police, as this helps keep them up to date with cyber-crime. Then block the senders.
*Call the bank. Alert them to your situation, ask them to put a hold on your credit card until you have had your computer cleaned of viruses and malware.
*Contact all the people on your friend lists to alert them to your situation.
*Tell your email provider about the scam.
*Change your online passwords to ones that are long and strong. Make sure you create a unique password for each account. Enable two-factor authentication.
*To recover your Facebook account, follow the steps by visiting https://www.facebook.com/hacked Report the problem to Facebook.
*Take your computer to IT professionals and check your system for malware. It is the only way to be 100% certain you are free. I backed up all my files then had my laptop wiped clean and reset.
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In these ways I was able to reclaim control of my virtual life. I hope this post helps someone else! I will share Part Two next week with some of my tips on cyber security.


Stay safe, everyone! Let’s foil the bad guys by staying one step ahead.

Keep Creating!
Take care,
Yvette Carol
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“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind!” – C.S. Lewis.