You get a flood of messages from family and friends. They are getting emails from you with seemingly random links, or messages with urgent pleas to wire you money. It looks like your email or social media account might have been taken over. What do you do? For starters, make sure your security protections are up-to-date, reset your password, and warn your family and friends.
How You Know You’ve Been Hacked
You might have been hacked if:
- family and friends are getting emails or messages you didn’t send
- your sent messages folder has messages you didn’t send, or it has been emptied
- your social media accounts have posts you didn’t make
- you can’t log into your email or social media account
In the case of emails with random links, it’s possible your email address was “spoofed,” or faked, and hackers don’t actually have access to your account. But you’ll want to take action, just in case.
What To Do When You’ve Been Hacked
- Update your system and delete any malware
Make sure your security software is up-to-date. If you don’t have security software, get it. But install security software only from reputable, well-known companies. Then, run it to scan your computer for viruses and spyware (aka malware). Delete any suspicious software and restart your computer.
Set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS) to update automatically.
Software developers often release updates to patch security vulnerabilities. Keep your security software, your internet browser, and your operating system up-to-date to help your computer keep pace with the latest hack attacks.
- Change your passwords
That’s IF you’re able to log into your email or social networking account. Someone may have gotten your old password and changed it. If you use similar passwords for other accounts, change them, too. Make sure you create strong passwords that will be hard to guess.
- Check with your email provider or social networking site about restoring your account
You can find helpful advice specific to the service. If your account has been taken over, you might need to fill out forms to prove it’s really you trying to get back into your account.
- Check your account settings
Once you’re back in your account, make sure your signature and “away” message don’t contain unfamiliar links, and that messages aren’t being forwarded to someone else’s address. On your social networking service, look for changes to the account since you last logged in — say, a new “friend.”
- Tell your family and friends
A quick email letting your family and friends know they might have gotten a malicious link or a fake plea for help can keep them from sending money they won’t get back or installing malware on their computers. Put your family and friends’ email addresses in the “Bcc” line to keep them confidential.