Spyware Invasion: What to Do when You Have Been Hacked

If you want to prevent having your personal files exposed then you should read what to do when you get hacked…

Hey, it could happen to you. I know. I am professional PC technician and it happened to me. Yes, I write how-to articles and tell all my clients the same things: be careful of “freeware” programs, watch where you download stuff, change password frequently, etc. All the rest but despite my best efforts I got jacked!

It happened innocently enough. I was doing some work for a client and was trying to convert some music and video files into a more portable format. But all the good software was only had “paid” versions and I wanted to save myself some money. So I logged into some geek forums and started nosing around.

One guy recommended this little “freeware” program he had used to good success. So I clicked on his link and surfed over to a software directory I had never used before and downloaded it. The program was running fine, when I noticed that my hard drive was being hit really hard, with its activity light going nuts.

So I quickly stopped the program and uninstalled it. But within a few days I got emails from eBay complaining that I was sending out “spam” emails to other users all across the eBay system. When I logged in, I realized that “someone” had used my user name and password to fraudulently send messages selling some kind electronic gear from a seller in Poland!

Dang! I had been hacked!

What Not to Do…

Don’t panic. You have to remain calm so you access the damage and take the appreciate action. Running around downloading this and that “fix-it” software program can only make worst. Take a breath and get a grip…
…What To Do

I immediately took my PC off the Internet (I turned off my cable modem), then restarted and entered Safe Mode (hit F8 after the PC logo). I ran both of my anti-spyware and anti-virus programs for a deep scan of my PC. I found several Trojan Horse programs, which I removed.
Then I manually searched the “Program Files” folder to see if I could find any strange programs (don’t do this unless you know what to look out for). I then used the Windows “Add/Remove Programs” module and got rid of thing suspicious.

After I was sure had scrubbed down my computer and was clean, I logged back online and entered my eBay account. I changed by password and then changed the password for PayPal also. I tried to remember every online account I had visited over the last several days. Oops, my bank!

So I contacted my local bank and changed the password for their account too. Was this strictly necessary…hmmm, I wasn’t sure, but I could recovered from a shut-down eBay account a heck of alot faster than I could from empty checking account!

So after changing passwords for any websites I was working on and any other accounts, I could settle down and figure out what I had done wrong. I routinely use anti-virus and spyware killer software. I have a good firewall installed and I seldom download “freeware” from unknown sites, but I got in a hurry and I overrode my own rules. Being cheap was alot more than the few bucks the software would have cost once I tallied the “price” downtime and lost productivity.

But it could have been worse. I didn’t lose any money or my identity!