I've been Hacked! What to do?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Peneloppe' writes:

" I have been hacked by someone I know through my IP address, and this is easy for him since he is a hacker. I have Kazpersky anti virus but still he has been able to tag all my conversations through Internet because he gets my IP addresses all the time. Before he used Trojans because he had access to my PC (not anymore). He has shown me files and files of all my conversations. At this point don't know what to do! Please I need help and want to report him to put an end to this never ending story. I am tired of him trying to have control over my personal life. "

My response:

I've received countless emails involving supposed hackers and some of the stories sound like they came straight from a movie. I won't comment on what a hacker can and cannot do, or whether the person causing you all the grief is simply masquerading as a hacker.

What I can tell you is this:

If you honestly believe you've been hacked, there is something you can do to prevent it from occurring again.

That said: there are a number of approaches to take to clean your system -- but, by far the most simplified approach is to backup, format, and reinstall Windows. This is the only sure fire way of undoing the damage, especially if a rootkit was installed to your system because they are difficult to detect and remove. More info on rootkits here.

How to Remove a Rootkit / Spyware / Virus Infection / Ensure a Clean Install

1) Unplug or your Internet connection. If you have a wireless connection, disable it.

2) Backup your entire computer onto an external hard drive or DVD recordable; verify the backup after it's been recorded; set it aside. If you backed up onto external hard drive, safely unplug the unit and shut it off. Note that your backups may contain viruses / Trojans / spyware, etc and you will need to scan / clean it later.

For backups, I recommend Acronis True Image: you can also use True Image to backup / make a disk image of your system after it's been cleaned (and avoid reinstalling everything again!) More info on True Image:

Acronis True Image Review

3) Power off the PC. Turn it back on. Insert your Windows CD and boot from it. Format your hard drive and reinstall windows. If you don't own a Windows CD and have a "restore disc", use that.

4) Download / Install the latest service pack using the Internet (or from CD if you have it). Below are standalone versions: Note: Do NOT use an unsecured, wireless network under any circumstances or you could be hacked / compromised again.

XP Service Pack 3 Standalone Download

Vista Service Pack 1 Standalone Download

5) Download all windows updates: Start -& Windows Update after service pack has been installed.

6) Download / install the latest antivirus, scan your computer and enable real-time protection. Free antivirus:

Top 8 Freeware Antivirus Reviewed

7) Download / install the latest versions of all your software you previously used: don't install anything from CD as it may have an exploit, allowing you to become 'hacked'. Rule of thumb: always use the latest versions of software. Also note: do *not* reinstall anything that was previously backed up as it may be infected. Only download / install software that comes from a trusted web site (such as the manufacturer).

8) Scan your backups using the latest antivirus to ensure they are not infected. If you used True Image to backup your material, you can mount the image by right clicking the image file choose 'mount'. This will enable you to use the image backup as if it were a hard drive via My Computer.

Note you cannot remove an infection from CD or DVD media because it is read-only media after it's been written to. Alternatively: you may be able to copy an infected file to the hard drive and have your virus cleaner clean it that way.

Hope that helps. This is list is not at all exhaustive but will surely put you in the right direction.

Additional Tips

For additional Security tips, be sure to download my Top 10 PC Security Essentials: a free report:

Top 10 PC Security Essentials

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