Rarely a day passes by without someone‘s account being broken into. While many data breaches and their perpetrators get away without being noticed, breaching certain types of platforms might not be so easy to get away with – for example, social media giants like Gmail provided by Google, Facebook, and Twitter are very quick to alert you regarding unauthorized access from an unrecognized IP address.
However, the data breach of your social media accounts isn‘t that far-fetched – are you aware of the things you should accomplish once you are made aware that they‘re at risk?
Assessing the Damage
The first thing we should probably do once we‘re made aware that our social media account(s) have been broken into is to assess the damage. This can be done by completing a couple of basic steps outlined below. Start from contaminating the damage:
- Once you‘ve been made aware of unauthorized access to your account by Google, Facebook, or Twitter, and are absolutely sure the access has not been authorized (perhaps you‘ve accessed the account using a VPN? That could also trigger the alert), reset your password. Use a stronger password than you‘ve used before, and consider using a password manager to generate and store all of your secure passwords.
- Consider turning on two-factor authentication: two-factor authentication kicks in once someone enters in your username (or email) and a password when logged in – once two-factor authentication is active, the person has to enter a code sent to your phone to confirm your identity. That way even if someone has your password, they‘re unlikely to gain access to your account in the future.
- Assess the damage. What has been accessed? If you‘re evaluating an inbox, do you see any sent emails? If it‘s a Twitter or a Facebook account, are there any DMs, tweets, or messages that have been sent out? To who? What did the contents of the messages look like?
If you see that unsolicited emails or messages have been sent, evaluate their number – for bigger numbers, a public statement of „Unfortunately my account has been hacked, all messages and emails that were sent during the time range of [time range here] can be ignored. Thank you!“ style will help, and for smaller accounts or smaller number of messages sent, simply contacting the person and explaining the situation should do the trick.
If you see that someone has posted a message or two to your feed or timeline, review it, report it to the platform if possible, and delete it.
Finally, review the settings of the account – are they changed? Is your email and password left unchanged? What about your privacy settings? Is everything OK? Double check and revert any suspicious changes.
Finally, check if there is a possibility to only allow logins from a specific location – that‘s not a sufficient security measure in and of itself, but it will certainly help if anyone tries to access the account, but does not know where you live.
Once the damage has been assessed and contained (two-factor authentication further strengthens the security of your account), it‘s time to ensure a breach is unlikely to happen in the future:
- One of the most frequent reasons accounts are being breached (no matter whether they‘re social media-related or not) is the re-use of passwords. What are the chances that the account you‘re evaluating damages on has re-used a password? Are there any chances you could remember what kind of other account has had the same password in the past? If yes, that‘s the most probable source of the breach. If not, proceed to step #2.
- If you‘re sure you didn‘t reuse a password, think of the other manners your account could‘ve been accessed – if you‘ve found yourself working in a coffee shop, what were the chances of someone looking over your shoulder? Did you open a suspicious-looking email in the past (think about phishing attacks?) – evaluate all possibilities.
- What kind of social media platform is it? Google, Twitter, Facebook? Each social media platform has its own measures to deal with accounts that have been broken into and the steps you should take next will directly depend on the platform that is being used.
- What kind of account has been broken into? Is the account crucial for you, or is it a throwaway? Is it possible that you‘ve considered the security of the account as something that is „in the second place“ so to speak? If yes, that‘s the problem; it‘s not necessary for all of your accounts to have two-factor authentication in place, but all accounts should be secured with a strong enough password to prevent unauthorized access and their owners should follow general security measures.
Once you‘ve worked through all of the steps specified above, there are not many things you can do to further increase your security other than following security measures outlined by institutions like CERT, your local government, etc. – follow the given advice and you will be on a good path!
Other Things to Consider
The advice given above should help further the security of your online accounts – however, to be safe, you should also consider other things. One of those things is the usage of data breach search engines such as the one provided by BreachDirectory – the BreachDirectory data breach search engine helps individuals and companies assess their likelihood of being exposed in a data breach, and the BreachDirectory API offering lets users implement the power of the data breach search engine into their own infrastructure. By knowing the extent of their exposure in data breaches, people can react to upcoming threats quicker, and take appropriate action in regard to data breaches that have happened in the past.
The power of the data breach search engine is free for everyone to use, however, those who want to further the security of their company and their employees elect to use the API because:
- The API allows people to search for accounts in bulk and thus, secure their team within seconds.
- The API allows people to have an unlimited amount of requests.
- People who have chosen to use the reseller plan also have the ability to resell the API to secure other companies, educational institutions, and individuals.
All in all, the data breach search engine and API provided by BreachDirectory can not only help secure social media accounts by alerting people once their account is at risk but also help quickly and easily assess the likelihood of identity theft at the present moment. We hope you‘ve enjoyed reading this blog and it helped you stay safe in cyberspace, follow our Twitter and LinkedIn for future updates, and until next time!