8 Actions You Should Take if You Think Your Mac Is Hacked | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

Detecting that your Mac has been hacked is difficult. That’s because good hackers aim to remain stealthy while stealing your data or causing problems on your computer. There are certain signs, like remote access indicators, weird programs you didn’t install on your Mac, and so much more.

If you’re suspicious, we have a list of things you could do to curb or stop further nefarious actions on your Mac. However, their effectiveness will vary depending on how the hacker accessed your Mac in the first place.

The internet is the major way hackers can access your Mac. Through the internet, hackers can conduct the following, for example:

Most of these problems could be caused by connecting to public Wi-Fi, like a café or an airport. When you suspect your internet might be unsafe or an attack is underway, turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from System Settings immediately. As an extra measure, you should consult our privacy tips for using your Mac in public.

Disconnecting from Wi-Fi might be a temporary fix. While offline, you should try to weed out the root cause and install preventative measures.

macOS also uses indicators to let you know if an application has access to your camera or microphone. It also notifies you when someone is remote-accessing your Mac. If you think you’re being spied on while using your Mac, disconnect from the internet and follow our guide.

2. Change Your Passwords and Login Information

A more permanent solution to getting hacked is changing all your sensitive passwords. And if you didn’t have a password, now is a good time to fix that.

Here’s a list of the passwords you should change on your Mac:

  1. User account password: Change the login password for your administrator account. It’s also your Mac’s keychain password, where you may have saved other passwords and credit card information.
  2. Wi-Fi password or router login credentials: Put a stronger, harder-to-guess password if you have admin access to the Wi-Fi network. Also, secure your router and Wi-Fi network by changing the default credentials for your router’s website interface (it’s typically “admin”).
  3. Apple ID password: An Apple ID is the key to your Apple devices. Change it to ensure no one can access your devices and iCloud information.
  4. Passwords for email and online accounts: Change passwords to your email, social media, banking, and shopping services. You don’t want to find out a hacker has access to that with an unpleasant alert.

Changing this will help prevent further unauthorized access, protect your personal information, and stop any ongoing hacking session that is using your credentials. But keep your Mac disconnected from the internet while you do this, and try doing the online password changes from your phone or any other device.

3. Enable Lockdown Mode as an Emergency

Privacy & Security panel displaying Lockdown Mode on macOS 13

macOS comes with an emergency protection mode you can use if you suspect you might be a target of a sophisticated, deliberate hacking attempt. It’s called Lockdown Mode, and you can enable it from the Privacy & Security panel in System Settings.

Apple introduced this security feature alongside macOS Ventura. So, if your Mac is running an older macOS version, you won’t be able to take advantage of it.

Lockdown Mode will disable message attachments, links, and link previews, stop FaceTime calls and invitations from people who are not on your contact list, turn off shared albums, and stop complex web-browsing features that might put you at risk.

4. Back Up to an External Drive, Reset, and Update

macOS 13 announcing that an update is available

You should regularly back up your Mac for several reasons, but at the core of it, it will protect your data if you ever lose your Mac or you need to perform a reset.

Once you suspect your Mac has been hacked and you disconnect from the internet, you must back up your Mac to an external drive using Time Machine.

Once the backup is complete, you should factory reset your Mac. This will remove third-party apps and any malware or spyware you could have downloaded onto your Mac. And when macOS is done re-installing, you should update it before loading your information back into it.

Apple frequently releases bug fixes and security patches for macOS with its updates. But better security is one of the many reasons you should keep your Mac updated.

5. Protect Your Files With FileVault Encryption

Another great macOS privacy and security feature that can help you is FileVault. It’s a built-in encryption feature that protects your internal hard drive. It works automatically once you turn it on, encrypting all the information on your drive and decrypting it on the fly after you enter your Mac’s user password.

So, not only would it be impossible to access your drive remotely without your user password, but a stolen Mac will equally be useless unless the hacker can decrypt FileVault.

You can turn on FileVault in the Privacy & Security panel of your Mac’s System Settings.

6. Use Antivirus to Weed Out Malware and Check Login Items

CleanMyMac X Malware Removal section

Antivirus programs can proactively stop malware and consistently scan your Mac for problematic software. What’s great is that you can download some antivirus applications on your Mac for free. A good antivirus tool will monitor your Mac in real-time and on-demand, then alert you when there’s a suspected security breach.

Once you get a good antivirus app, you should next check your Mac’s login items to see if there are any suspicious programs. You’ll find all the processes that run once you log in and in the background from there. Go to System Settings > General > Login Items and remove any suspicious programs you don’t need.

7. Review Your Firewall Settings

Firewall options in macOS System Settings

A firewall is an effective network security tool for stopping hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in your network. A macOS firewall can act as a barrier, controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic, thereby defending you against unauthorized access and remote exploits.

You can access firewall settings in macOS from System Settings. Head to the Network section from the sidebar and click Firewall. Once you’re in, toggle Firewall on and click Options to review what applications and services can allow incoming connections. You can also block all incoming connections from that window.

8. Consult a Cybersecurity Expert or Apple

Try contacting a cybersecurity expert if you find yourself or your business a target of multiple cyberattacks. They would know what measures you should take depending on the nature of your problem.

If you don’t want to take such a formal drastic action, you can try to contact Apple Support or visit a nearby Apple Store. They can search your hardware for trackers like keyloggers and disable some features on your Mac that hackers can exploit.

Be Cautious With Your Mac in the Future

Don’t ever see yourself as too small a target of cyberattacks. Hackers often spread their net as wide as possible to see what they can hook. If you’re in the clear after following some of the advice here, a little preventative action can go a long way to stop it from ever happening again. Install antivirus software, be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, and use a VPN while browsing the web.


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