If there is such thing as the ten commandments of internet use, then ‘Don’t thou click on suspicious links’ definitely makes it in the top five. Still, this is the rule that is probably broken the most. Whether it’s the curiosity that lies in all of us or a slight lapse in our better judgement, we’ve all committed the sin of opening a link from an unverified source. In defense, hackers are constantly coming up with new plans to get people to fall for their schemes and consequently spread a virus.
Disguising the message as a believable advert is a popular trick, but they are also keen on taking over your social media or email account and spreading the infected messages under your name. Nevertheless, if you do happen to accidentally run into a phishing link – even if it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere – here’s what you need to immediately do.
Conduct an Extermination
First things first, disconnect your computer, phone or tablet from the internet. Pull out the Ethernet cable, switch off the Wi-Fi or just open your system’s connection tool to terminate the internet access. This is a vital step since most malware or viruses rely on the net to stay in touch with mother base and send back stolen data or to infect other parts of your device. Some spyware is even capable of reproducing itself after being deleted so long as the internet is active.
After ensuring that the threat is isolated, back up your most important documents because it’s time for a full-scale fumigation. Launch the system in safe mode, boot up your trusty antivirus software and perform a deep scan. Delete everything that it deems dangerous and then run an anti-malware program too, just to be on the safe side. If you lack any substantial antivirus software when the accident happens, then you should still keep the machine offline and download the installer from another source and use a thumb drive to port the installation files over.
Secure Your Credentials
Be sure to pay attention to the antivirus software while it exorcises the device, as professional services provide some form of description or explanation as to what each virus does. For example, if it states that the malware on your computer is meant to steal login data, then your first act should be to change your credentials. This would be the perfect opportunity to ramp up the difficulty of your passwords by creating complex chains of characters and numbers instead of a weak attempt like combining your nickname with your gaming tag. And if you worry about forgetting all these new login credentials, use a password management program to keep them organized and secure.
Of course, the situation is a bit different should the accident happen while you are at work. Most companies have a strict policy that needs to be followed during a security breach. Turning off the computer is still a good idea but be sure to notify the IT department or computer specialist right after that. You’ll probably receive a scornful look but at least they’ll take care of the issue for you. Nevertheless, don’t keep the phishing in secret because jeopardizing company secrets is far more condemning than simply making a mistake.
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