How would you realize that one or more of your Internet accounts—email, social media, financial—have been hacked? (Some prefer the terms “compromised” or “breached”—you may hear them from support techs.) Unfortunately, there’s no telltale warning sign because “hacked” could mean any number of things. Here are some possible indications:

However, attackers will also try to fool you into thinking an account has been compromised to get you to enter passwords or financial information on a website designed to steal data. Don’t assume you’ve been hacked just because you received a phishing email saying so or because you see unexpected notifications claiming your computer is infected. No legitimate entity will ever send such email, and the only notification about malware you should ever see would come from anti-malware software you installed.

(Speaking of malware, dealing with that is a topic for another day—we’re focusing on online accounts in this article. Nonetheless, if one of your accounts has been compromised, it’s also worth scanning your Mac with the free version of Malwarebytes or VirusBarrier Scanner, just in case.)

First off, don’t panic. It’s important to take a deep breath, document everything you see with screenshots (press Command-Shift-5), and move quickly to regain control over whatever accounts were hacked and prevent others from falling prey to the attacker.

When you suspect an account has been compromised, try to verify the problem. Do the following:

If you find evidence to suggest that one or more of your accounts have been compromised, follow these steps:

Security breaches are stressful, we know, but it’s imperative that you deal with them right away. The longer you wait, the more damage the attacker can cause, including stealing your money, impersonating you, scamming your friends and family, and compromising your employer’s systems. We’re here to help.

(Featured image by SJ)

Social Media: If you notice strange behavior in your online accounts, you might have been hacked. It’s imperative that you act immediately to verify the breach, change passwords, lock accounts, and alert support personnel. We provide steps here.