So what does being "hacked" mean?
By definition hacking is the unauthorized access to or control over your computer for some illicit purpose.
The most important part of this definition is the "unauthorized access". This means someone accessed your computer, without your permission, and has taken it over for some illicit purpose. Unfortunately I have yet to receive a call from a customer who has actually been hacked. What is instead happening is the customer is responding to a phone call, an email or a pop-up on their computer, speaking with "someone" on the phone, granting them access to the computer via a remote support connection, and then giving them the computer pin and password when asked. That not only gives them authorized access to your computer, but in essence, you just opened your front door and invited them inside to roam through your house and see or take anything they want.
Most of the initial contacts were fraudulent messages from "Microsoft" (or Dell or Apple) stating that your computer had been compromised and they needed access to assist you.
As stated on Microsoft's website, "Microsoft does not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information, or to provide technical support to fix your computer. Any communication with Microsoft has to be initiated by you."
At best, they are trying to get you to pay them to "fix" a problem that doesn't exist. Worse case scenario they are to steal your personal or financial information. Allowing them to remote into your computer to perform a "fix" may lead to them installing malware, ransomware, or any other unwanted programs that can steal your information or damage your data or device.
However these scammers reach out to you, just remember that no legitimate computer or tech company is going to send an unsolicited email or make an unsolicited call notifying you of an issue with your computer or asking for personal or financial information.
Here are some helpful tips to remember:
- Don't rely on your caller id as it is easy to spoof a number to make it look as if a company you know is calling.
- No Microsoft errors and warning messages will ever include phone numbers.
- If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Support, hang up. Microsoft does not make these kinds of calls.
- If you see an error message with a phone number, DO NOT CALL THE NUMBER or click on any links
- When in doubt, don't give it out. DON'T click any links or call any numbers in the message or give the caller remote access to your computer or any personal information like passwords or account numbers.