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How To Protect Yourself From Hackers (2024 Guide)

Protecting yourself from hackers involves using the right tools and following best practices for account and device safety. Learn what to do to stay safe.

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      How Do You Prevent Hacking? 

      Data breaches, leaked passwords, and devious new scams have empowered hackers more than ever — putting nearly everyone’s devices, data, and online accounts at risk. 

      If cybercriminals gain access to your online accounts, they can search for sensitive information like your banking details or passwords, impersonate you and scam your followers, and even empty your bank account or use your linked credit cards for fraud. 

      According to recent studies [*]:

      In the past year, account takeover fraud — in which hackers take over your email, social media, or online banking accounts — has increased by 354%. 

      The good news is that with a proactive approach to your online security (and the right tools and know-how), you can shut down 99% of all hackers. 

      In this guide, we’ll explain the biggest hacking risks in 2023, how to protect your devices and accounts, and what to do if you’ve been hacked.


      How Do You Get Hacked? 7 Risks and Vulnerabilities

      Hacking occurs when cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to your devices, data, or online accounts — enabling them to find and exploit your personal and financial information.  

      Hackers have a multitude of tools and techniques to target you. While some online scammers use malware and device vulnerabilities to gain access to your data, others target human vulnerabilities through phishing scams and other social engineering techniques. 

      In other words, hackers can either hack your device or they can hack your identity.  

      Here are the biggest hacking risks facing Americans today:

      • Weak or leaked passwords (especially after data breaches). Online services store everything from your passwords to your Social Security number (SSN), bank account details, and credit card numbers. If you use weak passwords or your credentials are compromised in a data breach, this can give hackers access to any sensitive personal data you’ve entrusted to an online account.  
      • Phishing emails, texts, and other messages. Fraudsters impersonate well-known organizations and send messages that trick you into giving up sensitive information, clicking on malicious links, or calling scammers directly. 
      • Fake websites that steal your credentials. Many scams seek to redirect you to fake websites in hopes that you'll enter your passwords or payment details. These malicious sites often mimic login pages for your bank, or companies such as Amazon and Walmart.
      • Vulnerabilities in outdated software. Software updates patch security flaws and vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. The longer you delay an update, the longer your web browsers and operating systems remain at risk.
      • Malicious apps and other viruses on your phone, tablet, or computer. Malicious apps may contain malware that steals your information, spyware that runs surveillance on your online activities, or viruses that can disable your device security.
      • Data entered over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Hackers can access your home network’s router — or spy on you when you use public Wi-Fi (such as at coffee shops, hotels, or airports). Once a network is infiltrated, any connected devices can be compromised.
      • Oversharing online. Any information you share online can be used to hack you. Cybercriminals can extract information found on public social media accounts, in Google searches, and via your online footprint to tailor their attacks or guess your passwords and security questions.

      The bottom line: Hackers have more ways than ever to target you. Unless you don’t use the internet, there’s a good chance that your passwords and sensitive information are available to hackers. Try Aura free for 14 days and shield yourself from online scammers

      17 Ways To Prevent Hacking and Protect Yourself From Hackers

      1. Use strong and unique passwords
      2. Store your passwords in a password manager
      3. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)  
      4. Use an authenticator app for 2FA
      5. Make sure you have a secure backup email and phone number
      6. Learn to spot the warning signs of a phishing scam
      7. Don’t click on links in suspicious emails
      8. Use Safe Browsing tools
      9. Keep your software updated
      10. Use a virtual private network (VPN)
      11. Secure your devices with digital security tools
      12. Encrypt your messages, files, and emails
      13. Don’t jailbreak your phone
      14. Update your social media privacy settings 
      15. Scrub your personal information from online sources
      16. Delete old or unused accounts and apps
      17. Set up fraud and identity monitoring alerts

      Hackers rely on the expectation that you will slip up, leading to an opportunity for them to gain access to your devices and data. But with a few proactive steps and some regular monitoring and updates, you can keep yourself — and your personal information — safe. 

      1. Use strong and unique passwords for every online account

      Your passwords are the first (and sometimes only) line of defense between hackers and your online accounts — including your social media, banking, and email accounts. By using strong passwords for each account, you make it more difficult for hackers to access your data (and identity). This helps minimize the damage they can do if your passwords get leaked. 

      When it comes to using strong passwords, you need to follow a few best practices:

      • Longer passwords are better. Passwords should be a minimum of 10 characters, and include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Many cybersecurity experts recommend using a passphrase that is hard to guess — such as L0rD0fth3R1nG$!.
      • Don’t reuse credentials across accounts. Make sure each account has its own unique password. This way, if one account is compromised, hackers won’t be able to access others.
      • Avoid easy-to-guess alternatives. Hackers use automated tools to test common variations of your passwords, such as adding 123, !!!, or ABC. Avoid using a single password with add-ons, and opt for a totally unique password instead. 
      ⚠️ Find out if your accounts, identity, or finances are at risk — for free. Aura scans the Dark Web, data breaches, public records, and more to warn you if you’re at risk. Try Aura free for 14 days and get a personalized privacy and security scan right away, along with 24/7 support.

      2. Store your passwords and sensitive files in a password manager

      A password manager not only securely stores your passwords and makes them available to you when you need them (so you don’t have to memorize them all) — it can also warn you if your accounts are at risk.

      For example, Aura’s secure password manager and vault store all of your credentials, sensitive information, and files in a single place — and can warn you if your accounts were impacted by a recent data breach. 

      Best practices for using a password manager:

      • Turn off auto-complete. Many devices, browsers, and password managers offer an auto-complete password option for convenience, but it comes with risks. For example, Bitwarden's autofill feature leaked password information to untrusted sources [*].
      • Avoid your browser or device’s built-in password manager. While it may seem convenient to store passwords this way, it can give scammers access to all of your personal and financial information if your computer or phone is stolen.
      • Scan the Dark Web. Leaked or compromised passwords often end up on hacker forums on the Dark Web. Aura’s free Dark Web scanner can tell you if your accounts are at risk and need to be updated. 

      3. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)

      When you enable 2FA on an account, two separate forms of authentication are required for you to log in. Usually, this includes your account password, along with either a one-time password sent to your phone, email, or another device — or facial recognition, a fingerprint scan, or other biometrics. 

      According to Google, enabling 2FA can cut your chances of getting hacked by at least half [*].

      Examples of how to enable 2FA:

      • Set up 2FA for your Google Account. Open your Google Account and select Security. Then select 2-Step Verification and follow the steps. 
      • Set up 2FA for your Apple ID. In your iPhone Settings, select your name/account. Then select Sign-In & Security and Turn On Two-Factor Authentication.

      💡 Related: How Does Two-Factor Authentication Work?

      4. Use an authenticator app (instead of SMS) for 2FA

      By default, most accounts send 2FA codes via SMS text messages to your phone. But this can actually leave you vulnerable to hacking if scammers used a SIM swap attack to take over your phone number. 

      An authenticator app — such as Okta, Authy, and Microsoft or Google Authenticator — can make your accounts much more secure. Instead of receiving a code that is sent to your phone number, you need to sign in to your authenticator app and use a custom code to which only you have access. 

      To use an authenticator app, first download the app of your choice; and then set it up by using the same steps that you took to enable 2FA on your online accounts (but choose “authenticator app” as the delivery method). 

      5. Make sure you have a secure backup email and phone number

      Backup emails and phone numbers can be crucial for account recovery and identity verification. Many online accounts allow you to set up a backup email or number that you can use to regain access to an account if it gets hacked. 

      Backup email and phone numbers can also limit your exposure in the event of a breach. A leaked or hacked alternate email address doesn't cause the same harrowing consequences that a leak of your main account does. For an alternate phone number, consider a burner phone or an online phone number, such as one from Google Voice.  

      🤔 Pro tip: Easily create “email aliases” with Aura. Aura’s all-in-one digital security app can create aliases to use when signing up for new online accounts. This protects your primary email account from hackers. Learn more about how Aura keeps you safe online

      6. Learn to spot the warning signs of a phishing scam

      Phishing scams are the number one type of scam reported to the FBI each year [*]. Fraudsters use emails, text messages, calls, and social media messages to impersonate people and organizations that you know, and trick you into giving them money or information.

      But while fraudsters are always finding new phishing techniques, almost every phishing scam follows a similar pattern. 

      How to spot a phishing scam:

      • Check the sender’s “from” name, phone number, or profile. Any unsolicited message is an instant red flag. Make sure that it came from either an official email address (for example, the company’s official phone number listed on its website, or a verified social media account.
      • Look for signs of urgency, threatening language, and unbelievable offers. Scammers try to get you to act without thinking by scaring you with fees, fines, and jail time — or even offering prizes and giveaways. Consider any urgent or threatening language a huge warning sign of a scam. 
      • Scrutinize the details. Most phishing scams look legitimate at first glance — but, upon closer inspection, you will notice that they include poor or outdated logos and design elements, broken English, and strange grammar or formatting.

      💡 Related: How To Prevent Phishing Attacks

      7. Don’t click on links in suspicious emails, text messages, or social media DMs

      Phishing emails and direct messages (DMs) often include malicious links that could download malware on your device or take you to a fake website. Always hover over links to see where they’re taking you — or log in to your accounts directly by using the company’s official website or mobile app. 

      For added security, make sure you have antivirus software installed to scan attachments for viruses. 

      💡 Related: What To Do If You Click On a Phishing Link

      8. Use Safe Browsing tools to warn you of fake websites

      Safe Browsing tools use advanced technologies to identify and block fake websites, malware-laden links, and phishing scams. Along with preventing you from visiting these sites, Safe Browsing tools can also help protect your online privacy by blocking pop-up ads and intrusive site trackers

      Many browsers come preloaded with Safe Browsing tools, or you can opt for an all-in-one provider, such as Aura. 

      9. Keep your software updated, and enable auto-updates

      Malware, ransomware, and other viruses take advantage of security vulnerabilities in your apps or device’s operating system (OS). Enabling auto-updates ensures the shortest window of opportunity for hackers to take advantage of outdated apps. 

      How to enable auto-updates on your devices: 

      • On Android: Open the Google Play Store, and tap on your profile icon. Then, tap on Settings, Network Preferences, and finally, Auto-update apps.
      • On iOS: Open Settings, and then tap on General. Navigate to Software Update, and tap on Automatic Updates, and then on Download iOS Updates.
      • On Windows PC: Search for Windows Update Settings, and then select Advanced Options. Ensure that Automatic is selected in the drop-down menu. 
      • On MacOS: Open the Apple menu, and choose System Settings. Then, click on General and Software Update; next, turn on all relevant automatic update settings. 

      💡 Related: Can Someone Hack My iPhone? How To Tell & What To Do

      10. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when on public Wi-Fi

      Public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously easy to hack, which means you need to be especially careful when entering passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data while outside of your home network. 

      A virtual private network (VPN) can hide your data from hackers and anyone else who could be spying on you — both at home and when you’re using public Wi-Fi. 

      🛡 Get 360° safety against cybercriminals, hackers, and scammers. Aura’s all-in-one app includes a military-grade VPN, powerful antivirus software, and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered tools to protect you and your family from scammers. Try Aura for free.

      11. Secure your devices with digital security tools

      With more online threats out there than ever before, almost everyone can benefit from a comprehensive digital security provider that works across all of their computers, tablets, and mobile devices. 

      For example, Aura combines antivirus software, a VPN, password manager, AI-powered scam call blocker, and online privacy tools with award-winning identity theft and fraud protection, 24/7 U.S.-based White Glove support, and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance. 

      💡 Related: What Is Digital Security? How To Stay Safe Online

      12. Encrypt your messages, files, and emails

      Encryption scrambles your data; so even if hackers access your files, data, or messages, they can’t see it or use it against you. Only a device or individual with the decryption key can access the information inside.  

      How to encrypt messages, files, and emails:

      • How to encrypt emails. Some email services offer end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default, while others offer optional encryption. Depending on your account, you may need to use third-party encryption, such as Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) or Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). 
      • How to encrypt files. Encrypt files by using BitLocker on Windows devices and FileVault on Macs. You can also use third-party services, including some password managers. 
      • How to encrypt messages. Several messaging services offer end-to-end encryption, such as Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp.

      13. Don’t jailbreak your phone, and only download apps from official app stores

      Jailbreaking your device sidesteps your factory software and safety restrictions. This gives you the freedom to download any apps you want — but it can also forfeit your device’s built-in protections. 

      For added security, make sure you stick to downloading apps from the official Apple App Store and Google Play store, as they’re more likely to have undergone safety and security reviews before being posted. 

      💡 Related: How To Get Rid of Viruses on iPhones and iPads

      14. Update your social media privacy settings 

      In an age of oversharing online, scammers use social media to extract information about their victims to help inform and customize hacks and scams. Practice better cyber hygiene by sharing less, and protect your information on social media by tightening up your privacy settings. 

      You can quickly review the account information for the social media sites you use regularly like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

      💡 Related: How To Properly Set Up Your Social Media Privacy Settings

      15. Scrub your personal information from online sources and data brokers

      Your personal information is likely circulating all over the internet, giving hackers and scammers ammunition to exploit you. By removing your private data from the internet, you make yourself less vulnerable to attacks.  

      How to remove your personal information from online sources:

      • Opt out of data broker sites. You can manually opt out of data broker websites that collect and sell your information, or you can let Aura do it for you with its automatic data broker opt-out.
      • Remove information from Google search. If your personal identifiable information (PII) shows up in a Google search and puts you at risk, request to have it removed from the search results. 
      • Delete information from websites. To remove information from a website, contact the site owner or administrator. Visit the Contact Us page or a Whois Lookup for contact details.

      16. Delete old or unused accounts and apps

      The more online accounts that include your personal information, the greater your risk is of falling victim to leaked or sold data. 

      Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to bulk-delete your online accounts (and fully deleting your account and data can be difficult and time-consuming). Instead, use your password manager to remind you of what accounts you have, and then manually delete any you don’t regularly use.

      17. Set up fraud and identity monitoring alerts

      Hacking can show up in different ways. But one of the most obvious warning signs that you’ve been hacked is if you receive notifications stating that your bank account or identity have been compromised. 

      Along with regularly reviewing your bank account and credit statements, you should sign up for identity monitoring and alerts, including:  

      • Banking transaction alerts. Many online banking apps allow you to set up activity alerts via text or email. Contact your bank to learn more, or have Aura instantly scan your connected accounts for suspicious transactions.  
      • “Self Lock” your myE-Verify account. Lock your SSN on the E-Verify site to receive alerts if scammers use your identification for work-related fraud. Aura can also monitor your SSN across the Dark Web, public records, and other places it might appear if scammers have gained access to it.
      • Identity monitoring. Aura also monitors your most sensitive accounts, passwords, and personal details, and warns you about signs of fraud in near real-time. Your Aura watchlist can include everything from your SSN to your passport number, full address, health insurance card numbers, and more. 
      🥇 Don’t settle for second-best protection. Aura’s all-in-one solution has been rated #1 by, Forbes,, and more. Try Aura for free today.

      What To Do If You Think You’re Being Hacked

      If you think you've been hacked or victimized by cybercrime, you need to act quickly to minimize the damage that hackers can cause. 

      Here’s what to do:

      • Regain control of your accounts, and change your passwords. If hackers have locked you out of your online accounts, you need to follow the service’s process for regaining access (usually by clicking on “forgot my password” located on the login screen). Once you’re back in, follow the steps above to update your account with a strong, unique password, and enable 2FA.
      • Freeze your credit with all three bureaus. Block hackers from taking out loans or opening accounts in your name by freezing your credit immediately. Contact each of the major credit bureaus individually — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — and initiate a freeze that only you can lift. 
      • Disconnect compromised devices from the internet, and run antivirus software. A hacked or malware-infected device could exploit other devices on the network. Take your device offline right away, and scan it with an antivirus program. After cleaning the device, run a second scan before reconnecting it.  
      • Contact your bank and any other impacted company. If your bank accounts or credit cards were compromised, contact your bank's fraud department and report the situation. They will investigate the issue and close out any impacted cards or accounts. You should also report fraud to other affected companies as well, which might result in charge reversals occurring faster than they would via the bank.  
      • File an official report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI. Contacting the FTC is an essential step to investigating fraud and identity theft. Depending on your situation, visit or to file your complaint. You might also want to file a police report or submit a report to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
      • Consider signing up for identity theft protection. Don't wait for hackers to break into your accounts or devices. Get identity theft protection to monitor your sensitive information and accounts in real-time and alert you to any suspicious or fraudulent activity. 

      The Bottom Line: Hackers Are Getting More Sophisticated – Aura Can Help

      Hackers have become very adept at breaking into online accounts, and new schemes and technologies emerge daily. In fact, nearly a quarter of all Americans have been victims of account takeover fraud [*]. 

      Defending against these increasingly sophisticated attacks requires a comprehensive cybersecurity approach. Not only do you need to protect your devices, accounts, and online information — you also need to stay up to date on the latest scams and threats. 

      Aura takes the weight off your shoulders with a single, easy-to-use app and website that provide round-the-clock access to advanced digital security tools, award-winning protection, 24/7 U.S.-based customer support, and up to $5 million in insurance coverage for you and your family. 

      Keep your devices and data safe from hackers. Try Aura free for 14 days.
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