It's every social media user's worst nightmare: logging in one day to find your profile pic changed, your bio filled something odd, and your feed flooded with spammy posts you didn't share. Your account has been hacked!
Unfortunately, social media hacks are rampant. In 2019, the number of hacks targeted at social media platforms increased by 43%. Even mega-platforms like Facebook have had their fair share of problems with hackers. In 2021, the platform suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of over 530 million users.
Getting your cherished Instagram or Twitter account hacked can make you feel violated and anxious about what the hackers are posting in your name. But don't panic. While being hacked is frustrating, the good news is there are steps you can take to regain control.
In this article, we will explore what to do if your social media account gets hacked and how to get it—or them—back.
The Signs of a Hacked Social Media Account: Red Flags to Watch Out for
Recognizing the signs that your social media account might have been compromised is a crucial first step toward safeguarding your online persona and privacy. The ability to identify these red flags promptly, allows users to take swift action, curbing potential harm. Here are some signs to watch out for.
Unexpected Account Activity
The most obvious red flag that can alert you to a potential breach of your account's security is unexpected activity. This might be apparent through posts, comments, or likes that you did not make. In more severe cases, you might notice changes to your profile picture or bio.
Changes in Password or Email Address
If you receive notifications about changes made to your account's password or email address, but you haven't initiated those changes, it's a strong indication that your account has been compromised. Hackers often change these details to prevent you from regaining control of your account easily.
Receiving Security Notifications
Social media platforms are becoming more proactive in helping their users combat cybersecurity threats. One way they do this is by prompting the users with notifications about unusual login activity, particularly logins from unfamiliar devices or locations. While these notifications can sometimes be false positives, like when you're logging in from a new smartphone or while traveling, they should never be ignored.
Friends Reporting Suspicious Activity
Friends or followers may reach out to inform you of odd or uncharacteristic behavior stemming from your account. This could range from spammy links being sent privately or posted publicly to abusive messages or suspicious requests. If you receive such reports, it's vital to consider the possibility of a security breach.
Difficulty Logging In
If you experience difficulty logging into your social media account, even with the correct credentials, it could be a sign that your account has been compromised. Hackers often change passwords or enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent you from regaining control. If you encounter any login issues, follow the platform's account recovery process immediately.
Steps to Take if Your Social Media Account is Compromised
Here are some steps to take if your social media account gets hacked.
Change Your Password
The first thing to do in case of a hack is to change your password immediately. It is important to choose a complex password that consists of a combination of alphanumeric characters and symbols. This password should be unique and not a variant of an existing one. If possible, make use of password managers which can generate and store these complex passwords and help strengthen your account's defenses.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication is a robust security measure that provides an extra layer of defense for your account by requiring the user to provide two or more forms of authentication before logging in. It might involve sending a verification code to your registered phone number or email address, alongside the normal password entry. This prevents unauthorized access, even when your password has been compromised, making MFA an important security measure to implement.
Inform Your Contacts
Let your friends, family, and followers know that your account was hacked. This will prevent the hacker from impersonating you and potentially scamming your contacts. Advise them to be cautious of any suspicious messages or requests coming from your account.
Review and Revoke Third-party Account Connections
Many social media platforms allow you to link various third-party applications or even other social media accounts, and these links can sometimes serve as an access point for hackers. Once you regain control of your account, it's crucial to review these connections and revoke any suspicious or unneeded ones. It's also important to examine the permissions given to remaining connections, ensuring they have access to only what they need.
Contact Customer Support
If all else fails, or if you're unable to access your account to make the necessary changes, reach out to the social media platform’s customer support team. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have guidelines in place to assist users whose accounts have been compromised. They can help secure your account and investigate the hacking incident further. They may also provide important advice to prevent future security breaches.
Common Social Media Hacking Techniques You Should Know
Here are some common techniques hackers use to access people’s social media accounts.
Brute Force Attacks
One of the simplest yet surprisingly effective hacking techniques is the brute force attack. This simply involves a hacker systematically attempting every possible password combination until the correct one is identified. Given that many individuals often select easily guessable passwords or reuse the same passwords across multiple platforms, brute force attacks often yield success for cybercriminals.
Phishing remains one of the most prevalent hacking methods. Hackers lure victims into revealing sensitive information or login credentials through fraudulent emails, texts, or disguised websites that appear legitimate. The trickery typically involves urgent demands or enticing offers that provoke unsuspecting users to share data impulsively.
Here, hackers use malware to register every keystroke made by a user. Then they use this data to discover passwords or other sensitive information. This usually happens when victims download malicious software disguised as a harmless app or email attachment.
Account takeover occurs when a hacker gains unauthorized access to your social media account. This can happen through various methods, such as stealing your login credentials or exploiting vulnerabilities in the social media platform itself.
Social engineering utilizes psychological manipulation to convince individuals to provide confidential data. This differs from phishing as it often includes a personal element: hackers may pretend to be a known contact or a trusted organization to gain the victim’s trust and consequently obtain the desired information.
To sum it up, it's crucial to protect your social media accounts from potential hacking. Hacks are a real risk in our connected world, but being ready and knowing what to do can help a lot.
By following the steps and tips in this article, you can protect your social media accounts, reduce the risk of falling for cyberattacks, and quickly regain control of your social media account if it ever gets hacked. Always remember that vigilance and proactive security measures are your strongest allies in the ongoing battle to protect your online presence.