3 Signs Your Computer’s Been Hacked (and How to Fight Back)
On a list of the top 50 things you need to do, tending to your ‘computer security’ (whatever that is), most likely ranks at the bottom of the list or, it might not even make the list at all!
And this is where we take a wrong turn.
Running a practice means we’re spending time on our computers, making notes, updating patient files, dealing with billing, creating treatment plans and scheduling appointments. But in the middle of all this busy work, you suddenly notice a security update notification come through, but you’re too busy to deal with it. Maybe later, right?
In time, you start noticing your computer isn’t acting normally. It seems to be a bit out of breath, sluggish and moving with less snap and enthusiasm as normal. You’re not sure what’s going on, but you know something isn’t right.
Here are three indicators that your computer may be under siege:
- Things keep popping up. Malware, aka malicious software, can have a significant impact on your computer. It can add shortcuts to your browser, surprise bookmarks, and spammy messages – all designed to get you to click on them. And when you do, even more damage can be done…like stealing your passwords, hacking your contact list, chewing up memory, and installing even more malware on your computer.
- Unusually slow computer performance. One of the side-effects of malware is the familiar sloooooowwwww down. If you start noticing that your device is sluggish or constantly freezing or crashing, it might be infected.
- You’re using WAY more data than normal. If your computer use hasn’t changed but you’re noticing that your data usage is spiking, this is a red flag. Often, infected devices will have programs running in the background that dramatically eat up your bandwidth. So, keep an eye on your data usage.
Once you realize that your computer is compromised, you’ll want to jump on the issues and start addressing them right away. This may require the help of a professional IT person to get it all sorted out so it doesn’t happen again.
But in the meantime, there are a few key things you can do to make sure your important patient and business information stays safe.
Keeping Your Computer Secure
Here’s the simple fact: If you treat your computer like you would a patient – using preventative care – you won’t have to deal with the headaches caused by these malicious hackers.
#1 – Choose complex passwords.
In last week’s blog, I shared some ideas on how to make your passwords hack-proof. This is one of the easiest ways to protect your devices. But if remembering complicated passwords feels like a bit much, try out a password manager.
Password managers are like a book of passwords, but that book is locked by a master key that only you have. They not only store your passwords, but they help you create strong, unique ones that are virtually hack-proof. There are many password protectors available but so far, I’ve had great success using LastPass.
#2 – Regularly check for updates.
I know it’s tempting to skip those annoying updates – they always seem to come at the most inconvenient times, right? They take time and often require restarting your computer. After all, you’re busy! But ignoring them is not the best strategy when it comes to protecting your computer.
To make sure you don’t miss a single update, turn on the automatic updates feature. And just to make extra sure, schedule a reminder on your calendar to manually check on them every month.
#3 – Use a safe browser.
Secure browsers can stop third-party tools, like cookies or even malware, from collecting your business and personal information, the websites you’ve visited, and so on. To guard yourself against online surveillance, consider using only a highly secure browser like Brave.com.
Once you have these safeguards in place, you’ll want to stay vigilant. Make sure to let your staff know what they should be watching for so everyone can keep an eye out for technology that’s starting to misbehave.
Prevention Is the Best Remedy
The key to protecting your computer is NOT to ignore it when the signs of dysfunction start showing up. I know it’s not the most glamorous or satisfying part of your job, but remaining diligent when it comes to securing your patients and your practice is so important.
We’ve just scratched the surface here, so for more of the nitty-gritty details, check out this week’s podcast. It’ll give you even more tips on securing the important information you’ve been entrusted with.