Securing Your Home Network and PC After a Hack

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It can happen to anyone, perhaps you fell for the 'Ammyy' Scam, were clickjacked, got hit with ransomware, or your PC contracted a nasty virus. No matter how you were hacked, you're feeling vulnerable. What can you do now to prevent it from happening again?

Here is how to recover from a hack and to better secure your network and your PC to help prevent future incidents.

Isolate and quarantine

To recover from a hack, one of your first actions should be to isolate your computer so the hacker can't continue to control it or use it to attack other computers (especially, if it has become part of a botnet). Do this by physically disconnecting your computer from the internet. If you believe your router may have also been compromised, then you should disconnect it from your internet modem as well.

For notebook PCs, don't rely on disconnecting via software, as the connection could show that you've turned it off, but in fact it is still connected. Many notebook PCs have a physical switch that will work to disable the Wi-Fi connection and isolate it from the internet. Once you have severed the hackers' connection to your computer and/or network, you begin cleaning out your system, ridding it of compromising software.

Consider resetting your router to factory defaults

If you think that someone may have compromised your internet router, you may want to consider performing a factory default reset. This will clear away any compromised passwords, remove any firewall rules added by hackers that gave them doorways into your systems, and other potentially weakened defenses.

Before you perform the factory reset process, make sure you locate the factory default admin account name and password from your router manufacturer's user manual or support website. You'll need this to get back into your reset router and reconfigure it. Change the admin password to a strong password immediately after the reset (and make sure you remember what it is).

Obtain a different IP address from your ISP if possible

While not a necessity, it might be a good idea to see if you can obtain a new IP address. Note the current IP address assigned to you from your internet service provider (ISP). You may be able to do this yourself by performing a DHCP release and renew from your router's WAN connection page. A few ISPs will give you the same IP you had previously, but most will assign you a new one. If you are assigned the same IP address, contact your ISP to request a different IP address.

Why is a new IP better than the one you had previously? An IP address is essentially your address on the internet, and it's where a hacker can find you. If a hacker's malware was connecting to your computer by its IP address, a new IP would be akin to moving to a new address (and not leaving a forwarding address!). This doesn't protect you from future hacking attempts, but it will frustrate attempts by the hacker to reestablish a connection to your computer.

Disinfect your computers

Next, rid your computer of the malware that the hacker installed or tricked you into installing. This process is discussed in great depth in our article: I've been Hacked! Now What? Follow the instructions in the article to help you protect your important files and cleanse the infected computer.

If you have multiple computers on your home network, you will want to disinfect them all, as malware can propagate throughout your network, infecting other systems that have been connected to it.

Bolster your defenses

Protect your network and computers from future threats by following steps to develop a defense-in-depth strategy that will make it harder for your system to be compromised again.

Patch and update operating system and software

Your anti-malware software is only as good as its last update. Make sure your protection software is set to automatically update. By doing this, your protection software will always have the latest defenses against new hacks and malware without you having to remember to routinely run a manual update. Periodically check the date of your anti-malware's definitions file to make sure that it is up to date.

In addition to your anti-malware and virus software, check to see if your operating system needs to be updated. Just like with anti-malware software, your operating system gets updates that thwart weaknesses discovered that hackers exploit to gain access to your computer. The same goes for applications you use—automatically updating these helps keep your software secure with little effort from you.

Test your defenses

You should test your firewall and consider scanning your computer with a security vulnerability scanner, and possibly running a second opinion malware scanner to ensure your defenses are as secure as possible and that there aren't holes in your virtual walls.