Your friends and family say you’re spamming them with random links. You can’t access your email account anymore. It looks like even your Facebook, Twitter and other social network accounts have been hacked, too. So what is there to do?
You probably got your email hacked, and it happens most often than you’d be tempted to think it does. The bad news is that someone else took over your account, and there will probably be some damage. The good news, however, is that you can possibly take it back by following a few simple steps.
Take back what’s yours
Taking your account back is usually a fairly simple thing to do. In case you’re dealing with one of the popular companies – Yahoo, Apple, Google – you should be able to answer a few personal questions and regain control.
Alternatively, you will have the option of receiving a text message or email on another one of your accounts. This one will include a code that you have to use for verification on one of the typical “Account Recovery” pages.
Scan your computer with a good antivirus
One of the main reasons why we get hacked is because of a virus that made its way into our computer. That can be due to you clicking on the wrong link, downloading a file that you shouldn’t have, transferring music or movies from a friend’s USB stick, installing damaging applications and so on.
No matter what caused the trouble, you should make sure that you’re getting rid of the virus as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may start resetting passwords and taking your accounts back and by the time you’re done, you’ll have them hacked again.
A good option is to download an antivirus in case you don’t have one already installed. Go for reputable companies such as Norton, Panda, Kaspersky, McAfee, Symantec, etc. Once you’ve installed the tool, it’s recommended to do an in-depth scan that will go through all of the files on your computer. By following the instructions afterwards, you will be able to get rid of the detected bugs.
De-authorize all tools and applications
Since we mentioned possible damaging applications in the previous paragraphs, I think it’s important to take a look at everything that might be causing damage from this point of view. First of all, you should go to your Control Panel, and then choose Programs and Features.
Once you found the list of apps and tools that you installed, all you need to do is go through all of those that don’t look familiar to you, or you’ve never used in the past. Click on the Uninstall tab on the right and you’ll be safe to go.
Apart from the ones that you installed by mistake, there are also some others that Facebook, Google or Twitter gave permission to. By using something called OAuth, most social media networks authorize third party tools to use your account information without having to ask you for permission. Go to your setting on Facebook and all other networks you have a profile on, and then de-authorize the apps that look suspicious.
Reset all of your passwords
Only after having got rid of all possible causes of the damages, you’re ready to change the passwords of your accounts. It doesn’t make much sense to do that first because you don’t know if your computer is safe enough yet.
Once you’ve eliminated all bugs and apps, you can go into your email account and change the password. In case you had to recover your Facebook and Twitter, as well, it might be good to also change those passwords. Stay away from simple ones that include your name, the name of the networks or the typical “123”/”1234” sequence! The longer and more personal the password, the more difficult it will be to detect.
Warn your friends about it
Your family and friends have probably been receiving messages from you while the account was hacked. Whether these are links to suspicious websites, files to download, images to click on or they ask for personal information such as bank accounts data, suggesting that you forgot it, they are quite dangerous.
For this reason, a key step to take is to let everyone know that you got your email hacked. This way, they will be aware of the situation and avoid being too trustful. Knowing you, they may be tempted to click on everything you send or give out information that you requested. Make sure that you do this as quickly as possible, so that you diminish the damage that might be caused.
Check the settings of your account
Another thing to look out for is changes that have been made to your account as a result of it being hacked. Once we regained access to our email, we tend to forget the fact that someone else had access to it just a couple of minutes before. That person could have deleted important information, sent emails to your contacts or changed some data such as your signature.
For this reason, we recommend going to your account settings and checking if the signature and “away” email are the same as before. By simply adding a link or attachment to these ones, the hacker could continue destroying other people’s computer while having you as an ally. In case you find a random link in there, delete it and rewrite the message as it was supposed to appear.
Take a look at your credit cards
One of the main reasons why people hack accounts is money. The methods they use tend to vary a lot – you may have sent your bank account details to someone via email, you may have saved your password in a note you sent to yourself or they may have tried to ask your family for these details while pretending to be you.
Especially if they also attacked your PayPal account or you noticed that something weird happened with your bank account, it’s time to keep an eye on your money. The moment you see a certain amount flying away from your credit card, you should contact the helpdesk and make sure you block that card and get a new one. It doesn’t typically happen, especially if you detect the hacking real quick, but it’s always worth double-checking.