Finding out one of your accounts has been hacked can be pretty stressful — more so if it’s one you actively use to chat with friends, make purchases, or store files.
Instead of reacting emotionally, it’s important at this early stage to focus on minimizing consequences. Rescue your money and data, protect your friends from scammers, regain control of your account — generally, reverse or at least halt the damage. We will tell you what steps to take.
If you can’t sign in at all
In many cases, users first learn they’ve been hacked by suddenly becoming unable to log in to an account. That’s because in many cases, the first thing hackers do is change the password, locking out the victim and gaining complete control over the stolen account.
Don’t panic: You can still do plenty. Take a deep breath. It is important to do everything quickly and prioritize your actions.
- Try resetting your password. If you act quickly enough, the attackers may not yet have had time to disassociate your e-mail from your account.
- Warn as many people as possible that your account was hacked. Get in touch with friends and loved ones. Post a message on social networks. If people know your account was hacked, they will be less likely to fall for the scammers’ tricks if attackers start sending requests in your name, for example telling everyone in your address book that you have an emergency and desperately need cash.
- Call your bank or other financial service if the scammers hacked an account in a payment system or one with an associated credit card.
- Scan your computer using antivirus software to make sure that it is free of any malware that could be used to steal account passwords.
- Make a list of the most important services associated with your hacked account. Recall all of the services that you log in to using this account as well as any that send password reset e-mails to this account.
- Try logging in to those services and unlinking them from the hacked account.
- Change the passwords for the associated accounts as well as for any services for which you used the same password as for the hacked account. (It is also worth changing the security questions for other services if they are the same ones you used for the hacked account. Better yet, you should also set up two-factor authentication.)
- Contact account service support and try to restore access to the affected account. See the instructions for Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Twitter.
What to do if you receive notification about suspicious activity
Many online services warn users if their accounts are used to perform certain significant actions. The actions may include changing your password, linking a new phone or e-mail address to the account, and logging in from a new device or location. If you didn’t perform those actions and still received such a message, then you should be concerned.
- Try to log in to your account, but not using any links in the notification. Phishing messages seeking login credentials can look a lot like official account notifications. The best practice is to manually enter the address in your browser or open the app.
- Check your login history if the account allows it, and if you see any unfamiliar devices or places on the list, immediately log out all other users.
- Check all of your account details including e-mail address, phone number, and security questions.
- Change your password. Make sure that it is strong and substantially different from the old one. If you are afraid that you will forget your new password, use a password manager to safely store all of your passwords.
- Change the password in all accounts where you used the compromised one, as well as in accounts associated with the compromised login (for example, accounts at all online stores where you logged in using a hacked social network login).
What to do if you receive a ransom letter from hackers
Sometimes, attackers get in touch, claiming to have gotten into your account, infected your computer with terrible malware, recorded a compromising video using your webcam, copied your messages, or the like. The malefactors typically threaten to publish the collected data if you don’t pay a ransom.
In fact, it is unlikely that anyone hacked your device. Scammers have been known to send extortion letters in all sorts of circumstances, including to the addresses in some spam database. If you want to play it safe, go ahead and change the password for the account that was allegedly hacked — it’s not a bad thing to do that every so often anyway. Again, if you are afraid that you will forget your new password, install Kaspersky Password Manager, which will remember everything for you.
How to avoid falling victim to hackers
Of course, it’s best to keep scammers out of your accounts to begin with. Therefore, even if you are not the victim of a hack, make sure your accounts are protected: