This has left many people rightly concerned, and as a professional IT consultant I’ve been asked many times what the best thing to do is.
Here then is some simple, practical, and hopefully helpful advice on dealing with the clean up.
To start with, check to see if your details have been stolen by visiting this site. If you’re on any of these lists, it’s best to act quickly. If not, maybe it’s time to refresh those passwords anyway.
If you use a web-based email service, change your password for that before going any further. That way anyone snooping on your emails won’t be able to read them anymore, which could be useful when you change the other accounts.
Next, grab a pen and some paper, or your favourite computing device if you prefer, and make a list of all the sites you think will need updating. When that’s done, choose a new unique password for each site.
For some password tips, have a look at this handy article from Sophos.
Whatever you choose to do, be creative and make sure each of your passwords is different, even if just a little, for each site.
Got your list? Excellent! Now it’s time to go through to each site, log in with your existing password, and change it to your shiny new one. Sounds easy enough, and for most people this should work fine. If your old password doesn’t work, it may be that someone has used your details and already taken control of the account. Don’t panic though, as most sites are properly run and will have a way for you to contact them. Just send them an email, or for banking sites phone them, explain the situation, and someone will be only too happy to help.
Phew! Almost there! You’ve changed all your passwords, no-one has emptied your bank account and your Facebook status is set to relieved. So why I am still waffling?
Well, there’s still the pesky matter of your email address suddenly becoming much more popular. In a separate series of articles I’ll discuss some of the more common phone and email scams, but as a general rule you should treat any emails claiming to come from such places as your bank, the IRS, a delivery company and so on with a healthy dose of suspicion. If in doubt delete them, don’t even open them, and definitely don’t open any attachments or click on any of the links in those mails.
If your email service has a spam filter, make sure it’s turned on. These filters used to be appalling, but in recent years have become indispensable in filtering the truly bad mails so make the most of them. Unless, of course, you really want all those wonderful offers of marriage and medical enhancements, in which case you’ve probably been reading the wrong article.