As cyber-criminals widen their attack options, anyone can become a victim. One of the most famous attacks is sending malicious messages via email or SMS. Scammers make these messages appear from trusted sources to get your attention. It could be from someone you know or a business organization.
Clicking a malicious link opens your device or network to viruses. For example, it could download malware into your system or redirect to a hacker's website where you provide sensitive information. As such, it's essential to take precautions.
Read on to find out the best options available after clicking a malicious link.
What Is a Malicious Link?
A malicious link is a dangerous website address designed to harvest your private information. Before stealing your details, phishing links initiate attacks through downloads or browser extensions. Both phones and laptops are prone to these attacks. So, it is advisable to inspect a link before clicking it.
Apart from individuals, companies, organizations, or government agencies can be the target. What the attacker wants is to compromise the organization's security network. Once a team member clicks the malicious link, the hacker could take over or access the network.
What Happens After You Click a Phishing Link?
Malicious links contain malware that may get on your device. You may not detect when or how it happened. Once you click the link or open the attachment, the virus enters your system. With the malware installed, it:
- Picks and sends your credit card details and other information to the hacker.
- Harvests and sends other malicious links to your contact list.
- Provide the scammer with unrestricted access to your device.
If the attackers get your information, you might get calls or messages that need you to take more action. In addition, once the scammer knows you are vulnerable, the attacks may reoccur in the future. So, it is critical to end conversations with the attacker or delete any downloaded file.
How Does Clicking Malicious Links Affect Your Smartphone
Like laptops, malicious links can infect your smartphone with malware. But, the attack's impact on a phone is minute compared to a standard computer. Here is what a malicious link can do to your phone:
- Apps become slow or malfunction
- A drop in speed and performance
- Frequent installation of unwanted apps
- The battery drains too fast
- Sapping of your data
How Do I Know a Malicious Link?
Understanding how these attackers operate can help you curb the menace. Remember, you should be conscious of your online activities, knowing that a single click or download can wipe off your data. Here are some tips for spotting a disastrous link:
- Incorrect grammar
- Irregular formatting of the phone number
- Suspicious emails or SMS
- Non-existent or disconnected phone number
- Copy website URLs
- Social media messages with embedded or shortened links
- Websites that need your login details
- Web pages requesting your bank or credit card information
When you suspect a link, it is best to Google the website. Then, compare the link address on the message with the one on the search results. With that, you can frustrate the scammer's efforts.
But what actions should you take if you already clicked the malicious link, exposing your device?
What You Should Do after Clicking a Disastrous Malicious link
If you made the mistake of clicking a malicious link or downloading an attachment, these steps could help:
- Go Offline
Another way to protect your device after clicking a malicious link is to disconnect your internet. Depending on your connection type, you can unplug the ethernet cable or shut down your Wi-Fi router. That ends active downloads and prevents the virus from spreading to others within the network. Once you are offline, the malware cannot send your information to the hacker.
- Shut Down Your Computer
Hold the power button for a few seconds to turn off your system. Remember, this is not a good time to sign off or initiate a restart. Once your computer is off, contact an IT expert to examine your device before powering it again.
- Run a Full-scale Security Check
Scan or audit your system with your anti-virus. When scanning, a pop-up might appear asking you to connect to the internet. If yes, ignore and continue the scan without going online. Of course, that stops the malware from completing its wreckage. Be patient until the scan ends.
If there is no threat, you can restore your online activities. But you must make sure the virus never attached itself to your device before the shutdown. If it did, your computer could start malfunctioning over time.
Besides, running a security check depends on your level of expertise. If you're not tech-savvy, we recommend you hire a professional. After the initial assessment, get anti-malware installed on your system for extra security.
- Change Your Account Details.
Malware could pick sensitive data like usernames, passwords, and credit card details. If you suspect the link, change your credentials quickly. Try to use different usernames and passwords for your online accounts. Make sure you create strong passwords and do not reuse older ones. That makes it harder for cyber-criminals to access your accounts or steal your money.
- Place a Fraud Alert.
According to an FBI's annual report, in 2020, Americans lost over $54 million to online scammers. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report is one of the best ways to protect your funds. Contact either of the three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. A fraud alert prevents someone else from opening a credit account in your name. In addition, either of the three credit organizations gets a notification when there's an impersonation attempt against you.
- Store Your Data
Once there is a malware attack, it becomes hard to recover your data. Create a backup immediately; suppose you could prevent a virus installation after clicking a malicious link. You can use a USB drive and then cloud storage when you restore the internet connection. Focus on storing sensitive data like documents, family photos, apps, and videos.
Phishing messages and malicious links have become one of the ways of launching sophisticated attacks. Though it is easy to fall prey, you still have options to protect yourself. For example, your bank or business partner may not request sensitive financial or personal information.
If you need more assistance about what to do after clicking a malicious link, contact TCS.