How to Protect Your Accounts from Getting Hacked
By Lorena Schott | October 25, 2022
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.
How to Keep Your Social Accounts Secure
- Use strong passwords. That means at least 12 characters. Making a password longer is generally the easiest way to make it stronger. Consider using a passphrase of random words so that your password is more memorable, but avoid using common words or phrases. If the service you’re using doesn’t allow long passwords, you can make your password stronger by mixing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And don’t reuse existing passwords from other accounts. If one of those accounts gets hacked, a hacker can try that same password to get into your email or social media account. For more tips, check out this Password Checklist.
- Turn on multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires a password plus something else — say, a code from an authenticator app — to prove it’s really you. This protects your account even if your password is stolen.
- Protect your information. Think twice when someone asks you to put in your username and password. Never give them out in response to an email. If the email or text seems to be from your bank, for example, visit the bank website directly. Don’t click on any links or call any numbers in the message. Scammers impersonate well-known businesses to trick people into giving out personal information.
- Install and update security software, and use a firewall. Set your security software, internet browser, and operating system (like Windows or Mac OS X) to update automatically.
- Get well-known software directly from the source. Sites that offer lots of different browsers, PDF readers, and other popular software for free are more likely to include malware.
- Don’t treat public computers or a friend’s phone like it’s your own device. If it’s not your computer or phone, don’t let a web browser remember your passwords. Avoid going to personal accounts — like bank accounts or email — from anywhere besides your own personal devices. And make sure to log out of any accounts when you’re done. Limiting where you put your personal information reduces the chance that your information will get hacked. Also always avoid logging into your personal accounts when you’re on public Wi-Fi because it’s usually not secure.
By following these tips, you will minimize the risk of becoming a victim. Then you’ll avoid all that hassle and negative consequences caused by a hack.
About the Author
Lorena Schott is a native New Mexican that brings a wealth of experience to the WESST team. Before joining WESST in 2009, she worked for Intel where she was acknowledged for her establishment of Intel’s centralized on-line system, rewarding and recognizing employees worldwide.