There are nearly 2.9 billion monthly active users on Facebook worldwide. In the United States alone, there are approximately 307 million monthly active users – this is roughly 93% of the US population.
Unfortunately, the world’s most popular social media platform can be a target for hackers looking to take advantage of Facebook users. With data breaches (such as the 2021 breach of over 530 million user accounts) and poor security measures in place, your Facebook account may be vulnerable, which can have further repercussions.
If your Facebook account has been hacked, this article can help you identify the necessary steps to take to secure your account. If you have not yet been the victim of Facebook hacking, we will provide you with the vital steps to secure your account and lessen the likelihood of hacking in the future.
What does it mean for my Facebook to be hacked?
When we’re talking about being hacked, we mean that your account has been compromised, or accessed by someone who is not you or otherwise authorized by you to access your account.
There are two primary ways this can happen:
- There is a data breach that exposes your information (such as the 2021 breach we mentioned in our intro), or
- Your account has inadequate password security.
In the first case, there isn’t much that you can do to prepare. To avoid the consequences of data breaches, stay aware of them and respond quickly if your information is affected.
In the second case, you may need to change how you handle the security of your account. When we talk about inadequate password security, that can mean using the same password for multiple accounts, using too simple of a password, sharing your password with people you cannot trust or non-secure channels, or not changing your password regularly.
How do I know if I’ve been hacked?
Depending on the motive behind your account being hacked, this can look like a lot of different things. Generally, signs are changes to the account you didn’t authorize, strange messages or friend requests, links to applications you had not linked your account to, or any other activity that you have not authorized. Another sign that your account may have been hacked is if you can no longer access your account.
How Hacking Can Hurt
Beyond the inconvenience it can cause, there are several ways that having your Facebook account hacked can affect your life:
- When your Facebook account is compromised, other accounts may be compromised as well. Often, people use their Facebook accounts to log into other platforms, such as Instagram, Goodreads, or other third-party apps and websites. When your Facebook account is compromised, it is possible that those other accounts will be compromised, too, meaning you will have to address every account that is accessible through your Facebook account.
- Being hacked can have a negative impact on your information security. While you may have stringent privacy settings, if someone has access to your Facebook account, they could have access to private information such as your phone number or address. We recently talked about the importance of privacy, which can go into greater detail on the consequences of your privacy being violated.
- If you have a card or other payment method linked to your Facebook account, that information is compromised. Just like any other sensitive information, if you have payment information linked to your account, for Facebook Marketplace or Facebook Ads, a breach to your account means a breach of your financial information, meaning you will also have to address the financial information that has been accessed when attempting to secure your account.
- Depending on the severity of the hacking of your account, your account may be difficult or near impossible to retrieve. The processes to regain access to your account can be a bit complicated (don’t worry, we’re about to get into it). Depending on how deep the hacker has gone in taking your account over, it may be difficult for you to retrieve access.
- A compromised social media account can compromise your reputation as well. Although some hacks are obvious to your Facebook friends, or some hacks are caught early enough to not cause much damage, some can go further and have an impact on your reputation online. Particularly if you are a public figure or use your Facebook profile for professional purposes, this can be extremely damaging and difficult to repair. As Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
What should I do if my Facebook has been hacked?
When it comes to securing a hacked Facebook account, there are several steps to take. First things first: can you still log in?
If you can, change your password immediately. To do so, go to your account settings, to security and login, and click on “Change Password.” Enter the old password, choose a new (and extremely secure!) password, and save your changes.
If you are able to access your account, there are still several steps ahead. But if you are not able to access your account, you’ll have to request a password reset. To do so, enter the email address or phone number associated with your account, and you will receive an email with instructions for resetting your password.
If this does not work, it is likely that the hacker has changed the email address and/or phone number associated with your Facebook account. If the hacker did change the email address associated with your account, you should have received a message saying so to the original address. This message contains a link that will let you reverse the change, so try this as soon as you are aware of a potential breach. If this doesn’t work, you can try alternative options, such as providing Facebook with proof of identification consistent with the profile, or report the breach to Facebook (which you should do anyway).
If you are able to access your account and change your password, the next step is to review the devices that have access to your Facebook account. This can help you determine which device the hacker is accessing your account through, and allow you to remove any unauthorized devices from your account. If you see a device you do not recognize, press the three dots in the upper right-hand corner and select the “Not you?” option.
Once you have removed any unauthorized devices, check the email addresses and phone numbers Facebook has listed for your account. Same as with the devices, if there is anything there that is not your or that you do not recognize, remove it.
Next, review the applications and third-party websites linked to your account. You can do so by going to your settings and finding the “Apps and Websites” section. Sometimes, these apps provide a pathway for hackers to get access to your account in the first place, so remove any connections that you do not recognize, do not trust, or no longer use.
Once you have completed these steps, or if you are unable to access your account, you will want to report the breach to Facebook. You can answer these questions according to your experience, providing Facebook with valuable information to help the website keep its platform secure, as well as handling other kinds of breaches, such as those to pages you run or if you are no longer able to access your own account.
How to Keep Your Facebook Account Secure
If you have recovered your account, or you want to avoid being hacked in the first place, to can take these steps to keep your Facebook account secure.
1. Stay on Top of Your Account
While it may seem obvious, the best way to avoid a breach, or minimize the impact if your Facebook account is hacked, is to stay aware of your account. Keep track of the contact information on the account, the devices authorized for the account, the applications and third-party sites that you use with your Facebook account, messages and friend requests, and any other information that may be targeted by a hacker.
The more familiar you are with this information, the more likely you are to notice a change or inconsistency, regardless of how subtle it may be, ensuring that you can act quickly in the event of a breach.
2. Leverage Your Security Options
Facebook has several security and privacy settings available for you to apply to your account to keep your information and account from falling into the wrong hands. Familiarize yourself with these settings and apply the settings that make the most sense for you (these may not be the default settings).
In a world increasingly more defined by how we conduct ourselves online, applying strict security settings may not seem necessary, but these settings exist for a reason and can protect your account from being compromised.
3. Change Your Password Often
Obviously, if you experience your Facebook account being hacked, you should change your password (how many times can we say it?). But even if your account has not been compromised, you should be sure to 1) not use the same password across multiple platforms, and 2) change your password regularly.
If you use the same password across multiple platforms, one breach could turn into several, as one compromised password can affect multiple accounts. By using different passwords, and changing them regularly, not only is it harder for hackers to access your accounts, but that can also keep you safer from data breaches, rendering old data no longer relevant to your accounts.
4. Do Not Share Your Password
We touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating: do not ever share your password with anyone. While it may come across as a bit paranoid – “I don’t care if my best friend knows my password!” – the more people that know something, the more likely it is for that information to spread.
There is no reason to share your password. If you have shared your password, or experience a moment where you need to, make sure to chang it immediately.
5. Turn on Two-Factor Authentication
Facebook offers the option for you to utilize two-factor authentication, which means you will have to verify account logins on multiple devices. Thus, hackers attempting to access your account will not be able to without access to your phone or authentication app.
Other security features you can employ to keep your Facebook account more secure are receiving a notification whenever a login is attempted on your account on an unknown device and identifying a few friends that can report your account as hacked if you lose access.
The thought of a hacker accessing your Facebook account can be scary, but there are steps you can take to secure your account and do what you can to prevent this from happening. As more of our lives move online, it is vital to protect your information and keep your online security a priority.