Why Was My Social Media Account Hacked?

Having your social media accounts hacked can be a distressing experience. Not only do you lose access to your network of friends, family and work contacts but there’s also an uncomfortable feeling of intrusion, knowing that a stranger has had access to your private information. One question you may be asking yourself is: why would anyone hack your account? You’re not a celebrity, a politician or a public figure – why would anyone go to the trouble of stealing your social media logins?

Pranks and harassment

In cases where the hacker knows the victim, the hack is sometimes intended as a simple prank. Someone who knows the target takes over their account in order to post humorous messages or engage in other online horseplay. In more serious cases, an account may be taken over to harass the real owner and their contacts. The hacker can steal personal information for the purposes of stalking or blackmail, post pornographic or otherwise obnoxious material under the victim’s name or send unpleasant direct messages to their contacts in the hopes of creating division between the victim and their community.

It’s worth pointing out that even if the motivation is relatively benign, stealing someone’s social media login is still illegal in many jurisdictions.

Commercial promotions

Hacked accounts are often used for marketing purposes. Unscrupulous marketers take over accounts and post promotions for commercial websites, often selling dubious goods such as fake designer clothes and accessories.

Social account and website promotions

Some hackers use stolen accounts to help promote websites or social media accounts. Boosting the number of followers and shares that their sites and pages receive makes those platforms more valuable. They appear higher up the search rankings and receive more attention from web users.

Malware distribution

Online criminals often hack social media accounts in order to spread malicious software – viruses, worms, Trojan horses, etc. This can either be done directly, by publishing infected media on the victim’s platform or sending messages containing infected files to people in the victim’s contacts. It may also be done indirectly, by directing the victim’s contacts to an attack site or giving them a link to an infected download.

Financial scams

A hacker can easily use a stolen account to obtain money from the hacking victim’s friends or family. One scam involves the hacker pretending to be the real account owner and claiming that they’re in some kind of trouble – lost, stranded and out of cash due to theft or the loss of their wallet. The hacker provides details of an account where they can receive money; when caring friends donate funds, it all goes to the hacker. Other scams are of the familiar advance-fee type, where a person is promised a large sum if they pay a few small fees for administrative purposes. Of course, the promised money never materialises, while those small fees increase and increase.

Identity theft

A stolen social media account can be a goldmine of useful information for an attacker. Email addresses, phone numbers, personal information, clues as to the correct answers to security questions – all these things and more can be obtained from a hacked account. This makes it very easy for the hacker to pose as the original account holder and gain access to other valuable resources, such as online shopping accounts, bank details and credit card information.

Preventing social media hacks

Always keep your passwords private and change them at least once a month. Choose a strong password and never reuse passwords from different sites. Don’t leave your account logged in if you happen to use a shared computer, such as a school computer or a terminal in an internet cafe. Never save passwords on a shared computer. Use reputable anti-malware utilities and keep them up to date to prevent unauthorised access to your devices.

What to do if your account is hacked

Don’t delay – you need to take action immediately. Change all your passwords, even the ones for unaffected accounts. Report the hack to the platform on which it occurred. Check your computer for malware and try to determine how the attacker gained access to your account so it doesn’t happen again. Once you regain control of your account, tighten your security and let your contacts know that you were hacked.

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