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Computer hacking is where people gain unauthorised access to information that is held on a computer. This can range from guessing someone's password to a 'global cyber security threat known as a 'ransomware attack.'

Ransomware can take two forms - it will either encrypt the files on a computer or lock a user's screen. In both cases the user will need a key in order to use the computer again. Of course the hacker will require payment for this, the amount demanded will vary and there is no guarantee the key will be provided.

You can minimise the risk of being infected by ransomware by taking the same precautions necessary to guard against malware in general. You should have good access control by keeping an eye on permissions used on shared computers and have a back up of your data.

Below is list of do's and don'ts when picking a password - remember the harder it is to guess, the less likely you are to be hacked.

  • Don't reuse an old password
  • Use a different password for each website
  • Don't use dictionary words
  • Avoid dates of birth and other personal information that can be found online
  • Avoid patterns such as '1234', 'ABCDE '
  • Mix lower and upper case letters, and symbols
  • Make sure you have installed the latest security updates and
  • Do not set your browser to remember your password

If you have been the victim of this or any other form of computer hacking, there are a number of organisations you can contact. Please see the websites in related information for further guidance.

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Answers in this FAQ section are provided by the 'Ask the Police' website. Produced by the Police National Legal Database (PNLD) team, 'Ask the Police' is an official police site approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). All FAQ answers are © PNLD.