You log in to your favorite social media site and notice a string of posts or messages definitely not posted by you. Or, you get a message that your account password has been changed, without your knowledge. It hits you that your account may have been hacked. What do you do?
This is a timely question considering that social media breaches have been on the rise. A recent survey revealed that 22% of internet users said that their online accounts have been hacked at least once, while 14% reported they were hacked more than once.
So, how should you respond if you find yourself in a social media predicament such as this? Your first move—and a crucial one—is to change your password right away and notify your connections that your account may have been compromised. This way, your friends know not to click on any suspicious posts or messages that appear to be coming from you because they might contain malware or phishing attempts. But that’s not all. There may be other hidden threats to having your social media account hacked.
The risks associated with a hacker poking around your social media have a lot to do with how much personal information you share. Does your account include personal information that could be used to steal your identity, or guess your security questions on other accounts?
These could include your date of birth, address, hometown, or names of family members and pets. Just remember, even if you keep your profile locked down with strong privacy settings, once the hacker logs in as you, everything you have posted is up for grabs.
You should also consider whether the password for the compromised account is being used on any of your other accounts, because if so, you should change those as well. A clever hacker could easily try your email address and known password on a variety of sites to see if they can log in as you, including on banking sites.
Next, you have to address the fact that your account could have been used to spread scams or malware. Hackers often infect accounts so they can profit off clicks using adware, or steal even more valuable information from you and your contacts.
You may have already seen the scam for “discount – sunglasses” that plagued Facebook a couple of years ago, and recently took over Instagram. This piece of malware posts phony ads to the infected user’s account, and then tags their friends in the post. Because the posts appear in a trusted friend’s feed, users are often tricked into clicking on it, which in turn compromises their own account.
So, in addition to warning your contacts not to click on suspicious messages that may have been sent using your account, you should flag the messages as scams to the social media site, and delete them from your profile page.
Finally, you’ll want to check to see if there are any new apps or games installed to your account that you didn’t download. If so, delete them since they may be another attempt to compromise your account.
Now that you know what do to after a social media account is hacked, here’s how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
How to Keep Your Social Accounts Secure
- Don’t click on suspicious messages or links, even if they appear to be posted by someone you know.
- Flag any scam posts or messages you encounter on social media to the respective platform, so they can help stop the threat from spreading.
- Use unique, complex passwords for all your accounts. Use a password generator to help you create strong passwords and a password manager can help store them.
- If the site offers multi-factor authentication, use it, and choose the highest privacy setting available.
- Avoid posting any identity information or personal details that might allow a hacker to guess your security questions.
- Don’t log in to your social accounts while using public Wi-Fi, since these networks are often unsecured and your information could be stolen.
- Always use comprehensive security software that can keep you protected from the latest threats.
- Keep up-to-date on the latest scams and malware threats.