Helping the hacked

A local computer specialist says if your computer hasn’t been hacked, it probably will be at some time.

“It is not if you get hacked but when you get hacked. People get overconfident in their safety level,” said Dave Moses, owner of Dave Moses Technology Services, Hollidaysburg. “Even if you are walking in downtown Pittsburgh with a gun, you can still get mugged.”

Hacking means that someone does not have access but has gained access to your computer and is typically malicious to the device and all the data on it, said Kirk Durbin, security engineer at Reclamere Inc., Tyrone.

Hackers can get into your email and send out information using your contact list.

“There are a million ways to do it and a million new ways every day. If I don’t have your email address, I can’t affect you, but I can get your email from websites you have visited. Almost anybody can find your email address, and there is no way around it,” Moses said.

Curiosity can lead to getting hacked.

“The most vulnerable link is the one between the keyboard and the chair,” Durbin said. “Humans are curious; curiosity can get your computer hacked. People click on a link and have malicious software downloaded to your computer.”

There are signs that your computer has been hacked.

“You may notice your computer slow down and act flaky. Programs may not start; your computer may not update any more. You may go to Google, and it may direct you to another search engine,” Durbin said.

“If pornography and gambling sites start popping up, you are infected,” Moses said.

Moses and Durbin have different opinions on what to do if you believe your computer is infected.

Moses said you can save a lot of money if you can take care of the problem yourself.

“You should try to clean it by using Malwarebytes, Combofix and AVG; that is the best antivirus out there. You need to do that from the safe mode of your computer. It is a special diagnostic mode you can boot a computer into, but a lot of people are not comfortable doing that. If that doesn’t work, bring it in,” said Moses, who said he repairs 40 to 60 personal computers a week.

Durbin suggests a different approach.

“The first step is not to panic. You need to stop and get control of your emotions, look at the process and devise a solution,” he said.

“People think they can fix the problem on their own or have a buddy who can fix it,” Durbin said. “The best thing is to stop and try to find a company like Reclamere that can walk you through the steps to save data and not lose information. Take it to a professional who knows what they are doing.”

Computer owners can take steps to prevent their computer from being hacked.

“Put Malwarebytes on it, use AVG antivirus or the antivirus of your choice. Make sure you use the most effective combination to keep your machine clean,” Moses said.

“As a computer user, you have to pay attention to what is up. You can’t keep haphazardly clicking on things and go from website to website. People kind of forget that,” said Joseph Harford, Reclamere founder. “People have had their bank accounts drained of cash. That has happened to both people and businesses. You really need to pay attention. The Internet is a nongoverned arena.”

However, people should not be afraid of the Internet.

“Be cautious and pay attention. If something is strange, get professional advice. You should be as concerned with the security of the device and the data on that device as you are with the wallet in your pocket,” Harford said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.