Suspect Your Computer Has Been Hacked? Do These 5 Things Now!

Suspect Your Computer Has Been Hacked? Do These 5 Things Now!

In Cybersecurity by admin

As leaders in K-12 education, the security of your school’s digital environment is paramount. Vigilance against cyber threats protects school operations and ensures compliance with strict student data privacy laws such as FERPA and New York State Education Law 2-D.

The initial reaction when you suspect your computer or network has been compromised is to panic. However, swift response to any signs of compromise can prevent minor issues from becoming major crises, safeguarding your institution’s legal standing and the trust of your community.

 In today’s article, we’ve consulted our cyber security experts on the top signs of an affected computer and the five steps you must take as soon as you notice your network has been compromised to prevent irreversible damage.

Recognizing the Signs of a Compromised Network

A compromised computer system or network often exhibits clear signs of distress. According to cyber security research, breaches often remain undetected for an average of 277 days. During this time, malware, viruses, and other malicious tools can wreak significant havoc. Key indicators include:

  • Noticeably slow performance of computers or networks,
  • Frequent system freezes or crashes,
  • Unexpected pop-ups,
  • Locked user accounts,
  • Sudden or unusual file changes,
  • Devices operating irregularly, such as continuing to run post-shutdown,
  • Abnormal activity in user accounts.

Should any of these signs emerge, it is crucial to engage your IT team immediately. They can discern whether these are symptoms of a cyber-attack or just technical issues needing routine troubleshooting.

5 Immediate Actions to Take

If you suspect a cyber attack, the following steps are critical:

  1. Isolate the Network: Immediately disconnect the affected systems from the network to prevent further spread. Do not turn off or reboot the devices, as this could trigger additional malicious processes, potentially leading to severe data loss.
  2. Contact Your IT Department: Your IT professionals are essential in quickly assessing and containing the breach. They can determine the breach’s scope and impact and begin mitigation efforts. Avoid resolving the issue alone, as this can exacerbate the problem.
  3. Consult Legal Counsel: Given the legal implications of data breaches, particularly concerning student data protection under FERPA and NY State Ed Law 2-D, consulting with an attorney is advisable. They can guide you on compliance with relevant laws and coordinate with specialized counsel if needed.
  4. Secure Access Points: While the IT team manages the breach, start changing passwords and securing accounts, particularly those involving sensitive or financial information. Enable multifactor authentication where possible to enhance security.
  5. Monitor Financial Transactions: Check the school’s financial accounts and transaction systems for irregular activities. This includes vendor payments and payroll systems which are often targeted in cyber-attacks.

In addition to these immediate steps, prepare to communicate effectively with all stakeholders, including staff, students’ families, and possibly the media, depending on the breach’s severity. Notifying law enforcement and following specific protocols for data breach incidents will also be necessary. By prioritizing these actions and adhering to legal standards for protecting student data, you can manage cyber threats effectively, minimizing damage and maintaining your school’s integrity and trust.

If you need a reliable, trustworthy cyber security team monitoring your business, start with a FREE Cyber Security Risk Assessment. These assessments are designed to thoroughly examine your network to pinpoint any vulnerabilities and map out a plan to fix them. It is much more cost-effective to prevent a cyber-attack than to fix one, so book your assessment today by going to or calling 212-334-6481.