I was hacked… and what you can do if it happens to you

When I started The Fountain Avenue Kitchen nearly five years ago, I never considered how a website about food would turn into a treasured gateway to so many wonderful people. Recently, it also served as a stark reminder of the dangers lurking in the virtual world. I was hacked.

We hear so much about scams, viruses, and hacking these days.  Jeff Rossen’s Today Show feature “Rossen Reports” and WGAL anchor Brian Roche’s “On Your Side investigations are two good examples of public services designed to educate people and expose the ever-evolving methods employed to steal personal information, money, and even identities.  Yet when armed with a little tech savvy and some common sense, it’s easy to think we can dodge disaster.  

I first became aware that something was wrong when offensive posts began appearing on my Fountain Avenue Kitchen Facebook page.  The posts were cleverly constructed so that I couldn’t see them.  Soon after, I began receiving emails indicating that unrelated accounts were being logged into from distant locations. I also noticed an unfamiliar charge on my PayPal account. In one case, a legitimate email informed me that someone in Kosovo had removed me as an administrator from my kitchen Facebook page–and within a couple of hours, the whole page (which nearly 70,000 readers had “liked” and regularly visited) was gone.  It seemingly vanished without a trace.

In the blink of an eye, someone seemed to have access to all of my accounts, and I knew I needed help. I reached out to the firm who assisted me with a recent website redesign. They contacted the tech guru they lean on when a challenge is beyond their scope. He couldn’t help, but he knew someone who could. I was directed Snap Computer Solutions in Ephrata, PA, and was lucky enough to get instant action from Tim Worrell. It took several days to iron out the mess, but Tim alleviated all my concerns and set me up with the proper tools to protect myself going forward.

Interestingly, the only thing that couldn’t be restored was my Fountain Avenue Kitchen Facebook page. Frustrated that this was a riddle he could not solve, Tim went to great lengths over the course of the following 10 days to retrieve it from the black hole that seemingly devoured it—and was successful!

There’s certainly no shortage of cautionary tales describing the potential dangers linked to the Internet age. However, my personal experience illustrated a dearth of clear answers once bamboozled. First and foremost, whom do you call when you’re in over your head? As stressful as these experiences can be, I reminded myself that things could be far worse–and there was great comfort in finding someone who had the expertise to restore my privacy and protect me from future intrusions.

Once Tim identified all the threats through a detailed scan—there were 28—he made sure I had enhanced software to protect my computer, instructed me to set up a two-step verification system for various accounts, and updated my backup system. With Tim’s help, the latter tasks took mere minutes. Even better, the frustration I typically associate with these tasks was lifted.

So if this ever happens to you, I’m more than happy to connect you with my new friend Tim.  (This is in no way a sponsored post by the way. I will mention that he’s a really nice guy with a wife and mother who love to cook. 😊)  He can do all his work remotely, which adds to his ability to handle problems quickly and conveniently.  

 

I also asked Tim for a list of his best Internet security tips to keep us all safe, and this is what he had to say:

  • Antivirus Protection and Firewall Security: Having an up-to-date antivirus and an active firewall is the first line of defense for Internet security.
  • Beware of Phishing Scams: Phishing scams are illegitimate websites and emails that look legitimate; scammers use these to get users to enter their personal information. These scams can be avoided by not entering personal information in an email message you don’t know the recipient, avoiding entering person information in a link that was opened from your email, and being sure the website you are visiting is legitimate
  • Create Strong Passwords: Strong passwords should have at least six charters and include one capital letter, a number, and special characters.
  • Backups: If your computer is by chance infected with a virus, or you have a hardware/software failure, you will be able to get your files back.

 

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Comments

    1. Ann Post author

      So true, Barbara, and I’ve heard stories with far more dire consequences than mine. I’m lucky the situation wasn’t worse.

      Reply
  1. Sylvia Weaver

    Ann, I have used LastPass (password management software) for a number of years as a way to have very strong passwords without driving myself nuts. That or another password management system might be helpful to your readers to help foil the hackers. I’m sorry you had to go through this – it’s a wake-up call for all us.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Such a great suggestion, Sylvia. Thank you for taking a moment to mention…and it is a wake up call for sure!

      Reply