Whether WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Pinterest: Celebrities aren’t the only ones to use one or more social media channels to share their lives.
According to Statista (paywall) around 4.76 billion of us around the world now (2023) use social media — with no end in sight to the expansion.
It goes without saying that cybercriminals also benefit from this widespread use, and it’s a sad fact that they’re always finding ways to hack our social media accounts — and worse still if you’re the one whose account’s been hit by a hacker.
Read on to learn what the warning signs are that your social media account’s been hacked, what you can do about it, and — above all — how you can strengthen your protection.
What are the warning signs that your social media account’s been hacked?
The red flags that one of your social media accounts might have been hacked can vary, but the tell-tale signs are mostly clear:
- Suddenly, you might find yourself following a lot of strangers on your Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or TikTok account and liking or even commenting on their posts.
- Other people’s posts, pictures, videos, stories, or reels suddenly appear in your own profile or on your pinboard that you didn’t publish yourself.
- Messages are sent on your behalf.
- You can no longer access your social media account — even though you’re absolutely sure you’re using the right password. You know for sure that nothing’s wrong technically.
- You’ll be text a request to use the security code to reset your password or to log in — but you know for certain that it wasn’t you who input an incorrect password.
- An unusually large number of ads appear in your profile that don’t even remotely match your interests.
- You’ll be notified that someone’s logged into your account with an unknown device.
Steps to take if your social media account has been hacked
If one of your social media accounts has been hacked, you still have a few options to salvage your account. However, don’t delay if it’s happened to you.
- Change log ins for the affected social media profile.
- Also change the password for the email account that is stored in the profile.
- Message your contacts, or better still, tell them in person about the suspected hack.
What can I do if I’m locked out of my social media account?
If someone has logged in to your account without authorization and changed your password, it’s highly likely that this person will also change the email address that you would use to recover the password. In doing so, from that point on your social media account is actually in someone else’s hands.
In many cases, your only option is to contact the platform’s support team. The following links will help you:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hacked
- Instagram: https://help.instagram.com/149494825257596
- WhatsApp: https://www.whatsapp.com/contact/?lang=en&subject=messenger
- YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/76187?hl=en
- TikTok: https://support.tiktok.com/en/log-in-troubleshoot/log-in/my-account-has-been-hacked
Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to get rapid assistance via the various social networks’ support pages. That’s why we recommend reading our blogposts, where you can learn in more detail about what you can do if your WhatsApp or Instagram accounts have been hacked.
- Check them out to discover what your options are if your Instagram account’s been hacked.
- Or what to do if your WhatsApp account’s been hacked.
How can I shield myself from having my social media accounts hacked?
There are several ways you can increase your protection against your social media accounts being hacked, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be completely protected even if you do.
Turn on automatic updates
If you rarely use your social media apps and have not set them to update automatically, you may miss security updates — and practically send hackers an invite to read your data. App, software, and operating system updates are generally recommended, as they almost always plug security holes that appear over time.
Secure your smartphone
If you don’t lock your smartphone, anyone can access it without you knowing and take over your social media accounts in just a few taps. All it takes is a momentary lapse of concentration, and bam: Your smartphone’s in someone else’s hands.
There are now many ways you can lock your smartphone (PIN, iris scan, fingerprint), although how you turn on these features differs depending on what make and model smartphone you have. These features are there to be used, so be sure to do just that.
Beware of phishing emails
Be careful and pay close attention to the details if you receive an email from any of your social media platforms — it could be a phishing email. If you follow the links sent in it and log in, hackers could easily get your access data. It doesn’t bear thinking about what will happen if you use the same password for all your accounts.
Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA)
With online banking, you’re used to having to authenticate yourself in two steps, such as by using a TAN generator, a mobile TAN, or other method. The good news is that social media platforms are now actively offering 2FA to better shield your accounts.
However, this also requires that you check your email regularly, because you’ll also be alerted if someone tries to log into your social media account from an unknown device.
Use a password manager
If you use the same password for other accounts, change it to be on the safe side. You’re probably already familiar with what a secure password should look like: It should contain at least one number, one capital letter, and one special character — and you should use a different password for each of your accounts. But who can remember a bunch of different passwords?
Well, help is at hand in the form of a digital password vaultlike Avira Password Manager. Using one can save you a whole bunch of hassle: You only need to remember one master password, and this useful tool can generate all your other passwords for you. Avira Password Manager can help you improve the online security of all your online accounts — and strengthen your social media accounts’ protection in the process.
Get a VPN
From quickly checking your Facebook account on the train, watching a YouTube video, messaging via WhatsApp, or posting on Instagram: Many of us use social media apps on the go and might even use public Wi-Fi hotspots to save data.
It’s precisely for these situations that we recommend using a VPN— or virtual private network for short.
Avira Phantom VPN, for example, is a reputable VPN that offers you online privacy and can help better protect the data you send and receive online — and in doing so your social media accounts. Best of all, you can enjoy this protection even with the free version, with a data volume of 500 MB per month. Alternatively, you can opt for the premium version, which offers an uncapped data allowance.
How do hackers hack my social media account?
Cybercriminals employ a wide variety of methods to hack your social media accounts, some of which we’ve already mentioned. The good news is that you can close many of the potential attack entry points yourself without needing to be an IT whiz.
- If you use a simple, weak password for all your accounts, you’re making it very easy for hackers to hijack not only your social media accounts. This is where a digital password vault like Avira Password Manager can help.
- Typically, public Wi-Fi hotspots are not very well secured, which is something that cybercriminals know they can exploit. By using Avira Phantom VPN, you can use a VPN to better shield all the data you send and receive online.
- Apps that don’t get updated start to develop security holes over time, which online scammers often uncover very quickly and use to harm you. As such, make sure you keep your apps updated.
Phishing emails are an extremely common method that hackers use not just to hack into your social media accounts. Yet despite all the media warnings, we still fall into their trap if we’re not paying full attention.
Learn more about what phishing is all about and how you can protect yourself from this hacking method in our blogpost on phishing.
The impact of having your social media account hacked
Social media hacking can have a variety of negative impacts for those affected, including existential ones. One side effect that may just seem annoying can be that your social media channels are literally flooded with inappropriate ads.
But cybercriminals can also use your social media accounts to post illegal or pornographic content or sensitive political opinions on your behalf. They might even send your social media contacts messages containing malware on your behalf, which in many cases are just clicked or tapped on, leading to the malware spreading further.
Hackers also often target your social media account to steal your personal information, opening up even more options to do further damage. This can include selling your personal data on the dark web, especially since the trade in user data is very lucrative. Or they might be after your online banking credentials or seeking to target the company you work for.
Either way, social media hacking is an infringement of your online privacy, which in the worst case can even lead to a loss of your online identity.
Which social media account gets hacked the most?
Building on the statswe mentioned at the start, Facebook ranked first among the largest social networks and messenger services in January 2023 with around 2.91 billion global monthly active users (MAUs), closely followed by YouTube with 2.56 billion users. Third place went to WhatsApp with 2 billion users, with Instagram being the fourth most popular social media channel in the world with over 1.4 billion MAUs.
Given their prevalence, it’s easy to see why cybercriminals have been attacking our social media accounts on a large scale for a long time now — although, some social media platforms’ user profiles are compromised more often than others.
According to data presented by the Atlas VPN team, Instagram users suffered the most from account takeover in 2021. In total, 84% of account takeover victims reported that their Instagram accounts got hijacked by scammers. The data is based on the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) snap survey of individuals who reported being victims of a social media account takeover in 2021.
Has my social media been hacked? ›
You might have been hacked if: your social media account has posts you didn't make. you can't log into your email or social media account. your Sent folder has messages you didn't send or has been emptied.What happens when your social media account is hacked? ›
Your social media account can be hacked in a number of ways, such as through a phishing scam or by downloading a malicious app. Once a hacker has access to your account, they can do a lot of damage, like stealing your personal information, posting offensive content or contacting your friends and family.What steps should a person take after his or her social media account has been hacked? ›
The best course of action is to first check if you're still able to access your account through other devices like your laptop or another phone. If you're able to—change your password immediately. If your password has been changed, try sending a new password to your linked email address.How do you know if your Facebook account has been hacked? ›
- Your email or password have changed.
- Your name or birthday have changed.
- Friend requests have been sent to people you don't know.
- Messages have been sent that you didn't write.
- Posts or ads have been made that you didn't create.
You get signed out of your online accounts (social media, email, online banking, etc.), or you try to log in and discover your passwords don't work anymore. You receive emails or text messages about login attempts, password resets, or two-factor authentication (2FA) codes that you didn't request.How does your social media get hacked? ›
Phishing and other forms of social engineering
About half of hackers gain access through phishing links, when users click on a link in their direct messages on Instagram, according to Lee. “The links are usually in direct messages that appear to be from one of the victims' Instagram followers,” he says.
- Password reset emails. ...
- Random popups. ...
- Contacts receiving fake emails or text messages from you. ...
- Redirected internet searches. ...
- Computer, network, or internet connection slows down. ...
- Ransomware messages.
In total, 84% of social media account takeover victims reported that their Instagram accounts got hijacked by scammers. Instagram, which has over 1.4 billion monthly active users, is the world's fourth most popular social media channel.What does it mean to be hacked on social media? ›
Your social media account is hacked or hijacked when someone gains unauthorized access to it. This usually means they have found out your password and have logged in to your account, likely then changing the password to block you from logging in.What is the first thing you do when you get hacked? ›
Step 1: Change your passwords
This is important because hackers are looking for any point of entry into a larger network, and may gain access through a weak password. On accounts or devices that contain sensitive information, make sure your password is strong, unique—and not easily guessable.
Should I unfollow a hacked account? ›
If you see this then that user has been hacked and you should unfollow or block them immediately. It all starts once someone you may know DM's you on Instagram saying ” Hey can I send you a link.” That being someone you follow and may trust you may not think nothing of it.What happens if you reply to someone who has been hacked? ›
Responding to infected emails can also reveal your location, which cyberattackers use to locate the server and attack your network. You also may share personal details in your response. Cybercriminals only need a few pieces of identifiable information to hack your accounts.What is the first thing you do when you get hacked on Facebook? ›
Here's What To Do! As soon as you see any indication that someone has hacked your Facebook account, start by changing your password and tightening your security settings. It's also a good idea to inform your friends and followers that your account was compromised, and report the incident to Facebook.Will Facebook disable my account if it was hacked? ›
We may disable or delete your account if it appears to have been hacked or compromised and we are unable to confirm ownership of the account after a year, or if the account is unused and remains inactive for an extended period of time.Can Facebook recover my hacked account? ›
If you believe your account has been compromised by another person or a virus, please click the "My Account Is Compromised" button below. We'll help you log back into your account so that you can regain control.Can hackers see you through your phone camera? ›
Can hackers watch through your camera? If a hacker installs spyware on your phone then there is a good chance they will be able to access your camera and turn it on/off as they please. They may also be able to access any photos or videos you have previously taken.What do hackers look for when they hack? ›
While passport information sells for the most amount of money, Social Security numbers are the most valuable to hackers, as these can be used for tax fraud, opening credit accounts, and other malicious activities.How do hackers see your password? ›
Malware on your computer
With the help of a kind of spyware known as a keylogger program, you are tracked while typing on the infected device. By recording your keystrokes, the hacker can steal your passwords and other sensitive data and use it to access your accounts, including email, social media and online banking.
Your hacked Facebook account might also send unwanted emails, change your profile information, or even change your email address and password. These are all bad scenarios and things you'll want to avoid. Another common Facebook hack sends messages over Messenger to your friends, encouraging them to click on a link.How often is social media hacked? ›
On average, 1.4 billion accounts are hacked monthly on social media platforms.
How do people get hacked on Facebook? ›
Hackers can also access your Facebook account via fake apps you have unknowingly installed on your phone. In 2022, Meta reported that an estimated one million users may have had their accounts compromised by hackers using malicious apps that were available on the App Store and the Google Play Store.Can hackers see your screen? ›
Can a hacker access my computer camera, microphone, and screen? Yes. Cybercriminals use malware like spyware to remotely access and control your camera, microphone, and screen. In fact, malicious actors often use camera and microphone recordings to blackmail people.How do hackers find you? ›
IoT Search Engines
Using yet another IoT search engine like Shodan and ZoomEye, hackers can find devices connected to the internet, geolocation, port/operating system, services/host, and IP address. They can also check if those systems use default login passwords.
Keylogger programs enable hackers to spy on you, as the malware captures everything you type. Once inside, the malware can explore your computer and record keystrokes to steal passwords. When they get enough information, hackers can access your accounts, including your email, social media, and online banking.What is the safest social media? ›
Although both Instagram and Snapchat have some robust parental control features, we chose Instagram as the better option for online safety. Here's why: Instagram has parental control features where you can supervise your child's account, including who follows your child.Why do hackers hack your social media accounts? ›
For information The last reason someone will hack your social media is to steal information from you. This can be your password itself so that they can steal it and use it to try and sign into accounts you have with banks and online retailers. This can be information about your place of work.What are the most common social media attacks? ›
Social media threats are common. The top five social media security threats are phishing, social engineering, information disclosure, fake accounts, and malware.Is it normal to worry about being hacked? ›
It's OK to be worried, but the real benefit comes when you use those primal feelings that are trying to protect you and use them to empower yourself by learning how to manage your information online.Why does it say you have been hacked? ›
When you are hacked, your computer has been infiltrated by someone. You may or may not know them. Either way, someone has accessed your account/system without your knowledge. That is being hacked.What does being hacked look like? ›
Frequent pop-up windows, especially the ones that encourage you to visit unusual sites, or download antivirus or other software. Changes to your home page. Mass emails being sent from your email account. Frequent crashes or unusually slow computer performance.
What are 4 things to do when you get hacked? ›
- Step 1: Immediately change your passwords.
- Step 2: Quickly assess the situation.
- Step 3: Create fraud alerts for your credit.
- Step 4: Go back and set up 2-factor authentication.
- Step 5: Monitor your accounts closely for a while.
- Use strong passwords. You're at a greater risk of being hacked if you use basic passwords for your important accounts. ...
- Enable two-factor authentication. ...
- Avoid linking accounts. ...
- Train your team. ...
- Never leave your laptop or mobile phone unattended. ...
- Phishing emails. Phishing emails are designed to get you to click a malicious link or divulge private information. ...
- Spam emails. ...
- Fake websites. ...
- Through social media pages. ...
- Advert hijacking. ...
- Fake software. ...
- Trojan horse malware.
Things like malicious software, 3rd-party apps, weak passwords, and in-app scams are a few ways an Instagram account can be hacked. If you notice unusual login activity or weird account activity, your Instagram account may have been hacked.What happens if you respond to a hacked Instagram? ›
There is no way for you to be hacked if you simply respond to an Instagram DM. However, it is possible to be hacked through an Instagram DM if you click any suspicious links that leads outside the app and into another website.Can a hacker see your messages? ›
Spyware can be used by anyone, not just hackers
The app can be installed remotely on an iPhone if you have the proper iCloud credentials. For Android phones, someone will need to install it on the phone directly. Once that's done, your messages and more can be intercepted.
Should I delete my email after it's hacked? No, don't delete your email, even after it's been hacked. This is because most email providers will recycle old and deleted email addresses. If you're concerned, stop using your email for sending or receiving messages, but don't delete it.Can someone hack my iPhone through text messages? ›
Phishing emails and smishing texts via SMS or WhatsApp are among the most common types of fraud. Your iPhone could be hacked if you reply, call the numbers, or click on any malicious links.How long does it take for Facebook to review your hacked account? ›
Based on our experience, the average recovery process takes around 1-2 weeks, but it'll be worth it. Hacked accounts are far more likely to get hacked again.How do I get my Facebook account back? ›
- Go to the profile of the account you'd like to recover.
- Click below the cover photo.
- Select Find support or report.
- Choose Something else, then click Next.
- Click Recover this account and follow the steps.
Can you tell if your Instagram has been hacked? ›
To check if someone else is using your Instagram account, log into the Instagram app, then go to Profile > Settings > Security > Login Activity. Check your Instagram "Login Activity" to see if anyone else has accessed your account.Which social media is most easily hacked? ›
According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, based on the Identity Theft Resource Center survey, Instagram users suffered the most from account takeover in 2021. In total, 84% of social media account takeover victims reported that their Instagram accounts got hijacked by scammers.Which is the most hacked social media site? ›
It found that Facebook accounts are most lost to hackers, with 67,940 hacking-related searches every month. Facebook has suffered several serious data breaches in recent years. In 2021, it was reported that a data breach on the site exposed the personal data of 530 million users.Can someone hack your Instagram through messages? ›
Can you be hacked through Instagram DM? There is no way for you to be hacked if you simply respond to an Instagram DM. However, it is possible to be hacked through an Instagram DM if you click any suspicious links that leads outside the app and into another website.How long does Instagram take for hacked account? ›
How long does Instagram take to recover a hacked account? The recovery process looks different for everyone, but you should expect this to take a couple of weeks on average (a minimum of 5-10 business days).Does Instagram care about hacked accounts? ›
The medium answer is: Instagram doesn't care about you, your account, or the fact someone has hacked it and is now in direct violation of copyright laws because they are using your images without your consent. Now, here's the long answer.What scares hackers the most? ›
Getting hacked. Hackers and crackers are extremely paranoid about their online activities; it would be the ultimate embarrassment to get hacked themselves.What accounts get hacked the most? ›
Online privacy experts say Facebook, Instagram and Spotify are the most commonly hacked account types in the United States. Hackers use leaked credentials to break into accounts or steal login details via phishing emails.Which social media has the most fake profiles? ›
- Facebook: 1.3 billion fake accounts (Q4 2022)
- Twitter: 90,822 fake accounts (Q4 2021 – note that this data is older than the other platforms provide. ...
- TikTok: 50,963,108 fake accounts (Q4 2022)
- E-commerce websites. Often hackers can find vulnerabilities within an e-commerce website, especially ones using common coding or shopping cart software. ...
- Small businesses. ...
- News outlets. ...
- Healthcare. ...
- Government. ...
- Financial services. ...
- Non-profit. ...
- Online retailers.
What apps are most likely to be hacked? ›
|App||Search term||Data Points stored per app|