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Am I Being Hacked?

I get frantic calls from people pretty regularly who truly believe they are being hacked. Most of the time it is the wife who thinks her tech-savvy ex-husband is hacking her. Some guys call too who think they are being tracked.

Most likely you are not being hacked or at least your phone or computer isn’t being hacked. This is why I say your phone most likely isn’t being hacked. Exploit broker Zerodium announced that its bug bounty for zero-day (previously undisclosed) exploits now tops out at $1.5 million for Apple’s new iOS 10. One team of hackers claimed last years $1 million dollar prize. Andriod is $200,000. So your ex or some random person is hacking your phone when they could be getting 1.5 million if it was an iPhone to prove they can hack a phone. Surely they would take that money over just messing with you unless you really believe someone would give up that kind of money just to harass you.

The FBI sued Apple because they couldn’t access an iPhone, if the FBI can’t access a phone in their hands. Your ex, or husband or the random guy from India isn’t getting on your phone either.

Emails get hacked a lot, I’ve had mine hacked multiple times. All you can do is change the password or worse case makes a new email address.

What to do if you think you have been hacked?

  1. Wipe the device, the phone, the computer back to factory
  2. Change your passwords to be more complex and try not to use the same one for everything (I use three different ones) Use a password keeper program like KeePass, LastPass, Dashlane or many others to store your passwords securely. One way to make a complex password is turning a meaningful sentence into a password. For example, “This little piggy went to market” turns into “tlpWENT2m.” Notice that not only does this password use the letters from the sentence, but it uses both uppercase and lowercase characters and replaces “to” with “2.  Have a password on your computer as well.
  3. Enable login notifications so you know when some one signs into your account from new computers and locations. Gmail and Apple do this by default and it is becoming more common.
  4. Use two-factor authentication, iCloud does this by sending a code to your phone that needs to be entered, more sites are allowing this or even requiring this. So a hacker would need access to your phone to the time-sensitive code. After some time passes the code will expire. However, you need to enter that code in order to proceed to your email.
  5. When you go to a site that uses credit cards or needs you to login with a username and password then make sure it is secure. In Chrome is shows secure with a lock and will have https:// the s stands for secure.
    6. Browser extensions – browser extensions in Google Chrome or Plug-ins for Firefox is where a lot of bad things happen to people like adware infections but many are good too. For Google Chrome you can use HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger and an AdBlocker . There are being good security minded extensions.

    7. Have good security, like AVG Internet Security or Kaspersky, something that has a good firewall. Though McAfee and Norton are not good programs in my view for adware and malware detection, their firewall is still decent. I like to use hitman pro, Malwarebytes, AVG on a Windows computer. Malwarebytes, Sophos and Onyx on a Mac computer.

    8. An apple is probably the hardest device to hack, though they do get adware, malware and viruses nowadays, to actually hack your phone or computer is worthy of 1.5 million if they can really do that. So after a factory reset to make sure they are no trackers or spy apps and you do the following things listed here then I can say with certainty that you won’t be getting hacked by some random person. It would take some very high level and probably a team of people to get in.Windows and Andriod are more susceptible to hacking. Most involve trojans leaving a back door. However, if you follow all the steps above then your computer is fine.

    9. Enable touch ID or finger print for computers, so unless I have your finger then I’m probably not getting in. Also setup a passcode, 4 digits at least or more. So a hacker would need to have your phone or computer in person and at that your finger too.

    10. For the super paranoid you can encrypt your hard drive using Microsoft Bit-locker if you are running a version of Windows that is compatible with it. http://www.pcworld.com/article/2308725/encryption/a-beginners-guide-to-bitlocker-windows-built-in-encryption-tool.html Remember your password, when people forget it I can’t help you recover it. It is gone.

    11. Only in extreme paranoia would I recommend replacing the device with a new one, if you have a cheap phone, maybe upgrade to a smart phone.

    12. I was subscribed to LifeLock before and it did alert me when my Yahoo account was hacked, this is another option.

There is a difference to your email or facebook account being hacked and your computer being compromised. You could throw your computer in lava and some one still can hack anything that is online of yours. It isn’t tied to your computer. Often times people will see attempts at someone getting to your email and think they must have a bug in their computer which isn’t true at all. Yahoo has been hacked multiple times and because of that people were able to hack my other accounts.

Remember all things are hackable, even the government’s best computers are hacked, major companies like Yahoo have been hacked. Trust me they have hundreds of the thousands if not millions of dollars in safe guards with firewalls and cyber defense and if they can still be hacked then your $500 laptop running $100 or less worth of security software is not going to keep you from all things. I say that but also it is very hard to hack someone. I have been doing computer repair for many years and I can’t think of how to hack someone. I would need their device at my hand to even have a chance. It is not easy to hack, if I highly doubt I could hack a computer and this is what I do for a living. It is very unlikely someone’s ex can do it as well, if you follow all the steps above.

Paranoia can’t be fixed

I’ve turned down more and more of these I think someone is hacking me jobs because I’ve have learned that these people are not dumb at all but they know just enough to scare themselves. They look over everything for anything that can confirm they are being hacked and almost of their evidence is purely normal everyday stuff. I can’t remote into a person’s computer without them installing remote software like team viewer or logmein. Sure I can setup remote desktop support but I need to be there in person and setup port forwarding on the router. Even I can’t hack someone easily.

Stuff like having a public or all users profile, a migrated user profile ( common after big upgrades ). Seeing a new wireless network in your area, looking at event logs which everyone has scary looking stuff in there. The XPS printer that everyone has. Windows comes bundled with apps and some computer brands add their own, people believe they are being hacked by one of the apps on the computer. Some of them are very normal like Powershell or Edge, Xbox or Office.

I have wiped every computer, ipad, phone clean and made it as secure as possible and within weeks they are calling me saying they are being hacked again. I’ve setup $300 routers and they insist hackers go right through it. What made me stop taking these jobs was I had multiple people turn around and accuse me of hacking them. I’m not hacking anyone, I don’t have time for that and if I did / could I have some people in mind and they are not on that list. In all the years I’ve done computer work only my email and Instagram have been hacked but never had my computer or phone hacked. Even then it wasn’t really hacked, my password was hacked from yahoo, not my computer and was put on a public website and other hackers used that as my username and password were the same all over the internet. A big no-no and that is why I have multiple passwords now for different websites.

If you follow all the safe guards and still think you are being hacked it just simply and bluntly comes down to paranoia and trust issues. Something as a computer tech I can’t help. I’ve had people tell me they think their husband is in the mafia and they are tracking their every move and they travel around the world and are followed and of course I’ll wipe their devices clean and make sure they are good to go and in time I’m asked if I’m helping so and so hack into their computer since I had access to their machine.

One person has called me once a month saying they have gone to almost every computer store in Nashville and they are still being hacked. I know they have called me 4 times, never responding to text and never leaving a voice mail because they are so concerned they are being tracked. They see so many stores, they forget they have already talked to me. This person will talk for at least 30 minutes on all the evidence proving she is being hacked and none of it sounds like she is being hacked to me.

One person said her son was being stalked by this woman in England and she wanted me to prevent her from calling or emailing him. That is impossible especially as she can change her number or a different email address. She claimed he went to Germany and the girl walked up to him there and she knows her is. I had to tell her this isn’t about hacking like she thinks it is, the boy is talking to the girl and they are intentionally meeting up. Who has the money and time to just randomly meet someone around the world?

Not saying people are crazy for thinking they are being hacked but some people are just crazy. It is normal to be concern about being hacked, it is normal to want to be as secure and safe as possible. It is not normal when you are buying brand new computers every few months and changing your phone numbers because you truly think you are being hacked when computer store and tech after tech including myself have assured you that you are not.  Just like a hypochondriac thinks they have an illness they don’t actually have, my job is not to take your money and have you refuse to accept anything different.

It only takes time before I’m accused of being in on it too and it is because of that I avoid most hacking jobs. With over 650 clients, only 5 people believe they are constantly being hacked and I can’t change their mind.

Follow the steps listed above and you will prevent 99.9% of all legitimate hacking situations.