Keeping you safer online

How did you get hacked?

  • You downloaded an email attachment that infected your computer or smartphone.

  • You download “free” anti-virus (or other) software that looked useful but was actually dangerous.

  • You used a public Wi-Fi network to check your email or surf the web.

  • Your password was stolen when you logged in to a crook's webpage that appeared real.

  • You use the same password on more than one account and that password got stolen.

  • You’re not using an anti-virus and anti-malware program on your computer.

What are signs you've been hacked?

  • An anti-virus message appears on your computer screen taking you to a page that demands your credit card information.

  • New, unknown programs appear on your computer as it boots up.

  • You can't log into your accounts using the correct password.

  • Your friends receive spam email or see bogus social media posts from you.

  • The navigation bar on your web browser suddenly displays an extra row.

  • Ads appear in the middle of the screen, interrupting the web pages you visit.

  • Your computer mouse moves around the screen when you’re not using it.

  • Your computer slows to a crawl — much slower than usual.

  • Charges appear on credit or debit card statements and bill collectors call about purchases you didn't make.

How do you fix this right now?

  • Act fast. If a work computer is affected, notify IT immediately. If your personal computer is involved, follow these steps:

  • Using a computer, tablet or smartphone that has not been infected, log into your online  accounts — particularly email, banking and social media — as well as your home’s Wi-Fi network and change the passwords. Make the new passwords are at least 12 characters long.

  • Consider purchasing and using a password manager (such as 1Password, Dashlane, Keeper or OneLogin) to ensure your passwords are varied and safe.

  • Do a web search for free anti-virus software (such as McAfee, Avast, Bitdefender, Norton or Trend Micro). Download and use the software to scan and repair your personal computer.

  • Then consider purchasing a license so the anti-virus software automatically scans and protects your personal computer moving forward.

  • Using social media and email, alert your friends and colleagues not to accept invitations or open email attachments from you.

  • Check your email — including the spam folder — to check for new retail, email, social media and other accounts that have been set up in your name. You will need to keep checking on this regularly for months.

  • If a new account has been set up, visit the account and click “forgot password”. If you receive an email with a link to change the password, enter the account and delete it.

  • In your web browser’s settings, clear “cookies”, “browsing data” and “browsing history”.

  • Do you own a smart electronic device that’s connected to an app (such as a baby monitor, video doorbell, smart lock, home security camera and thermostat)? Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s safe. Look up instructions online about how to change the device’s default password.

  • Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website to learn about preventing ID theft following a hack.

  • Consider freezing or locking your credit at the three major credit reporting bureaus. Do a web search to learn the pros and cons of those two choices.

  • If you don’t yet have a web account with the Social Security Administration or the IRS, establish yours so no one else can claim it.

  • Make sure your personal computer automatically makes safety backups of its hard drive either using an external hard drive attached to your computer or online using a cloud-based service (such as Carbonite, OpenDrive, Backblaze or Acronis).

Your safety is important to us! 


Click the image to the right to download and print this roadmap to follow if you get hacked.

Aware Force _ Been Hacked.001.jpeg

News about popular web browsers: here are examples why you should always use the newest version of a web browser.

Google is offering a new plug-in for its Chrome browser called “Password Checkup” that alerts users when they try use a password that has been stolen.

The upcoming version of Firefox will prevent those annoying video ads from playing automatically.

Apple is about to remove the “Do Not Track” setting on its Safari browser because, instead of protecting privacy, it allowed some web advertisers to track users’ online behavior more closely. Apple will soon replace “Do Not Track” with an option called “Motion & Orientation” that is designed to do a better job protecting users’ privacy.

To make sure you're using the latest version on your personal computer: If you use Chrome, open the browser's "Preferences" and Chrome will update automatically. For Firefox, open "Preferences", go to "General" and select "Check for Updates." Apple's Safari browser is updated whenever you update the Mac operating system. For Microsoft Edge, click the Windows "Start" button, then choose "Settings", then "Updates and Security" and then "Check for Updates." By the way, Microsoft advises you shouldn't use its once-popular Internet Explorer browser on your personal computer anymore.

While surfing the web on your smartphone, a message suddenly takes over the screen informing you that you've won a contest.


There is no way to close the page. Your only choice is to click a button to learn more about the prize. The message may even display information about your location.

What should you do? Don't click the button. If you do, the next page could instruct you to install software that will damage your phone. 

Instead, quit out of your phone's web browser. Then go to your phone's "settings", scroll and select the phone's web browser (for example, Safari on an iPhone or "Internet" on an Android device) and clear the browser's history

You may now safely resume browsing the web on your phone. 

In the upcoming edition of Aware Force:
We'll help you identify your riskiest online behaviors.

Cyber Cartoon: Jon Adams/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

February 2019 b • Edition #64

Original content and design © 2019 Aware Force LLC

Aware Force trademark © 2019 Aware Force LLC