3 things to know to protect your info from hackers

A small business owner said he woke up one day and he was locked out from his own life.

"It's the idea that you are fighting a robot and can't get any human connection and can't get any help or support," Michael Daleo said.

After days of receiving no help from his provider, he turned to IT forensic investigator Colman Ryan.

"The short story is I was blacklisted," Daleo said. "I literally woke up one day and my email locked me out. I couldn't send or receive (messages) and I am, somewhat, computer literate and I thought this would be an easy problem to fix, right?"

Unable to connect with his clients for almost a week, Daleo said he felt powerless and frustrated. It turns out his problem is a common one.

This month, the FBI released its Internet crime report for 2019, which showed online crimes cost our country a mind-boggling $3.5 billion. Half of that came from business email compromises. The FBI said business email scammers have become more sophisticated, so the threat has evolved and is growing.

Daleo tried to get help from his provider, but he said they only gave him a website with steps he could take that ultimately did not help. So, he then turned to a professional.

For 30 years, Ryan has helped Houstonians solve their cybercrime problems. He said this year's target is your router.

"As far as locally you have attackers out there using wide range WiFi equipment," Ryan said. "You can be compromised. You may not see anyone out on the street, but it's an invisible crime. It's out there."

Ryan said some red flags to know if your router has been hacked are:

1. Your bill suddenly goes up because you're going over your data usage and you don't usually

2. There are a large number of devices connected to your router that you don't recognize

3. Your device is sending people spam or you get blacklisted from your email or websites

Now, hackers don't need to be near your router or devices to break past your firewall and steal your information, and it can happen with no warning.

"Most routers the default username is 'admin' and the default password is 'password' or admin," Ryan said. "On a lot of the carrier routers they use the same username and password across all the routers, this can be extremely dangerous for businesses and that's where I am seeing a big problem."

Ryan said businesses are vulnerable because routers save five years' worth of history, meaning every single device that's connected to a business's router could be hacked. Ryan says people in apartment buildings are especially vulnerable. It's less work and more damage to hit an entire apartment complex at once than individual homes.

"If they get control of that router, they get behind that firewall and they get control of all of your devices," Ryan said.

Simply put, a hacker can use your router's IP address to pull up your website history. If you went to your bank's website for example and entered your account information they would be able to get that information once they've hacked your router.

The best thing to do is change your password, keep your devices updated and Ryan says if you are hacked, the easiest thing to do is exchange your router for a new one with your provider. That will flush your system and the hacker.

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