There has been a lot of news over the last few years about people’s Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts getting hacked, and it seems to be an increasingly common occurrence as more people “go social.” It may not be something you’ve seen or experienced yet, so you may not know how to look for the signs.
Signs Your Account is Hacked
You may not know for sure if your account was hacked, especially if this is something you haven't seen or experienced yet, but there are tell-tale signs of a hacked account. Here’s a few indications to keep an eye out for:
- Unexpected posts from your account
- Unexpected private messages sent from your account
- Unexpected email notification from the site stating that you recently made changes to your account
- Other behaviors you didn't make or approve (liking, friending, following, unfollowing, or blocking, for example)
Keep in mind that unexpected posts can sometimes happen due to a new app you’ve installed, which you’ve (inadvertently?) given permission to post to your account. These can usually be pretty easy to spot, as the post or tweet usually mentions the app pretty blatantly. If you don’t want this to happen, revoke the app’s permissions or uninstall the spammy app.
How Accounts Get Hacked
You might be wondering how social media accounts get hacked in the first place. There are a variety of ways people can get into your account, including:
- Poor password hygiene
- The site being hacked
- Another site, third-party app or service being breached
Are you using the same username and password on multiple sites and apps? If you use poor password hygiene, it increases the danger of being hacked due to malware or a breach of third-party sites. If just one of those sites gets hacked, it increases the odds of your other accounts being hacked as well.
What to Do if Your Account was Hacked
If you see that your account was hacked, there are a few things you’ll need to do:
- Scan your computer for malware
- If you find malware, remove it and follow procedures for recovering from identity theft
- Change your password on the hacked site
- Revoke permissions for any third-party apps and services
- Change your password on any other sites where you used the same username and password
- Report any spam or scams that have been sent out from your account to the social networking site, so they can help stop it from spreading
- Notify friends and family (especially if the hack was due to malware, or unexpected messages or posts include potentially-malicious links)
- If you cannot follow any of these steps because your account details have been changed, you will need to contact support for the website that provides your account so that you can regain control
If you have been hacked, take heart knowing you aren't alone. A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 21 percent of people have had their social media or email accounts hacked. The real numbers may be significantly higher, as many people don't know to look for symptoms of hacking. By taking a few security precautions, you can significantly decrease the odds of it happening again, especially as sites themselves become more savvy about protecting their users.