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What Information Can Hackers See if They Gain Access to My Computer?

Monday, October 17th, 2011 by | Filed Under: Security Help
 
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Chuck from OH asks:

I have always wondered what hackers could see on my computer if they ever broke in. Can they see my passwords? My Files? I’d sure appreciate some insight!

Excellent question; and one that I’m sure most people have wondered. The prospect of someone with ill intent having access to everything you store, or do, on your personal computer is a little scary. Just because you aren’t visiting questionable websites or writing anti-government propaganda doesn’t mean you want just anyone to have access to your personal life on such an intimate level. And let’s face it, most of us store a ton of personal information on our pc… whether we mean to or not.

The simple answer to your question is “yes”. Yes to all of it. However, consider the following: Hackers may be seedy individuals, but you may be able to take a little bit of comfort if you consider what most hackers are after. First, hackers generally don’t know you or care anything about your music files or the pictures from your latest parties. Hackers are in the business of attaining information that makes their time and effort worthwhile. Hackers are after your money. Not always, but almost always.

This isn’t to say that you should be comforted that they are only after your money… that’s pretty serious business, but it is good to know that you probably aren’t going to be the target of personal attacks aimed at ruining your reputation.

If you have ever received an unsolicited email or “spam”, you have been the intended target of a hacker. If you opened the email and clicked on an image or a link, you opened the door between your computer and the hacker’s. Any time your computer is infected with spyware or malware, you may be the victim of a hacker, and most likely the one who allowed him or her access. Hackers write code and create viruses that can be transmitted to your pc simply by you opening the wrong file, or clicking on a pop-up that catches your attention. Once you grant them access to your pc, the possibilities can be endless.

Viruses, malware, and adware are currently being distributed that allow hackers access to your files, passwords, photos, emails, and anything else you store on your pc. Programs exist which give hackers access to each keystroke you make. Some can even activate your computer’s webcam. These, of course, are extreme instances and are not the types of attacks that generally take place against private citizens. But still – these are the capabilities of hackers today. However, unless you are a politician, your private life will probably remain private even if you are the victim of a cyber attack.

Fortunately, you hold the power to keep your pc, your finances, and your taste in music safe. It sounds overly simple, but your best defense is strong and multiple password use. It seems like a pain to have a bunch of passwords to remember, but it makes you far less vulnerable should you ever be hacked. When you receive alerts about security subscriptions nearing expiration, don’t hit the “remind me later” button for six months - Update! Use the “spam” folder in your email accounts and make sure your protections are set to only allow email from approved senders. Resist the temptation to click on the flashy box to the right of your screen promising a flat belly without doing anything more than earning a million dollars a week while working from home. By keeping your antivirus updated and practicing safe Internet browsing, you will drastically reduce your chances of being the target of a malicious Internet user.

~Chad Stetson

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5 Responses to “What Information Can Hackers See if They Gain Access to My Computer?”

  1. K.Vee.Shanker. says:

    Hi Chad,
    Thanks for your detailed reply.I would like to add a couple to the list. Some hackers (mostly teens) are just sadists. They just spread viruses to wipe out all files of their victims.Some also use victims’ computers as ‘moles’and zombies for money laundering and spamming. This is the main reason why a hacker is difficult both to identify and to stop. So, it is not just your data.

  2. Bill Leach says:

    Chad,

    I know I’m swimming against the popular media current here but the overwhelming majority of people that you are referring to in your article are NOT hackers. In the computer world, “hackers” are literally computer experts and writers of code. The percentage of actual hackers involved in criminal activities in the western world was, and probably still is, very low.

    For example the folks that created MacAfee, TrendMicro, AVG, Norton, etc. are hackers. The people that created GNU, Libre Office, Linux and thousands of other free software are hackers.

    We really need to come up with another “catchy” term for these computer criminals so the media will have something else simple to use to refer to them!

    Great recommendations in your article however. You even have me thinking that I should take more steps to secure my computers.

  3. Vixster says:

    I have yahoo mail as does my Dad and the other day I got 2 mails from him with Hey Vicky in the subject line. Now, has someone hacked his address book (again) or mine (again)? I opened the mail, didn’t click on the link of course, but when I hovered my mouse over the senders name, it gave some completely other email address so I know it wasn’t sent from his account. As they had my name in the subject line I would have thought that they would have blitzed me with emails from all my contacts if they’d hacked me. If they got into my Dad’s then it would have been a lot of work to put contact names in the subject line. I’ve also heard say that yahoo staff sell address books… Should we both run a virus check, change passwords or just ignore?

  4. deborah says:

    I clicked on a link and evidently my PC started spitting out emails to all my contacts for about 10 minutes. My antivirus may have picked it up. Did I jepordize any of my accts. or passwords? So far doesn’t seem to be bothered. This happened several months ago now.

  5. Hayley says:

    I got my account hacked after clicking a link from my iPhone is this now hacked?also I changed my password right away but it looks to me as if I’m get emails that are like replies to what I have sent help!!

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