Data Protection
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Why Would Anyone Want to Hack Your Social Media Accounts?

Here are steps to take to help you learn how to protect yourself while online.

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Cybercriminals often target individuals, especially social media users. According to the New York Post, hackers attack 160,000 Facebook accounts daily.

It's easy to go about your day without considering cyber security. That is until you or someone you know becomes a hack or data breach victim.

The first step in learning how to protect yourself online is to figure out why somebody would want to hack your social media accounts. We’ll overview the most likely intentions.

1. To Inflict Damage

a photo of a woman in shock looking at her computerHackers can inflict damage on your life if not careful.iStock

Some hackers use their abilities to exact vengeance for real or imagined injustices. They can make life difficult for their enemy in several ways. Hackers might:

  • Lock computers and mobile devices
  • Encrypt or erase information
  • Publish private information or media files, also called doxxing
  • Bombard victims with unsolicited emails, including spam and phishing attempts
  • Access social media accounts to spread offensive or fake information

Hackers can also stalk their targets. Many cases of sexual assault and homicide have stalking as a common precursor.

Numerous states have adopted various anti-stalking laws. But now it can happen online as well. Cyberstalking is the practice of harassing someone via the Internet.

Here's one real-life example.

In September 2017, authorities in California arrested a 21-year-old man for breaking into the home and bedroom of a 13-year-old girl. Johnathan Ward scoured her Instagram and other social media posts to get her address.

Here are a few things to do against cyber stalkers:

  • Your first defense against cyberstalking is to limit the information you provide about yourself. Don't give out personal information, set up secure browser settings, and use a virtual private network. For example, if you live in Europe, you might want to use a USA VPN to encrypt your data. It will transit and route it through a secure proxy server located on another continent.
  • Use a pseudonym in social media groups and forums. Create an anonymous email account.
  • Print and save all messages if someone is harassing you online. Give law enforcement copies of the messages and perpetrator information.
  • Never disregard cyberstalking. Cyberstalking incidents can become real-world stalking.

2. To Impersonate

a photo of a woman in bed staring at her smartphone.Hackers can steal your data and impersonate you online if not carefuliStock

The Internet presents a grave threat due to the ease with which malicious actors can steal identities.

Before the advent of the Internet, fraudsters couldn't pose as a bank or business and trick victims into giving them money. Scammers used letters and telephone calls. But nothing has come close to the power of the Internet.

The process of making a website that resembles the site of a bank, store, or government organization is quick and easy. Criminals can buy domain names almost identical to legit ones. It's the first step to fooling people into thinking a site they're browsing is authentic.

Phishing attempts trick users into giving up their personal information by posing as a reputable organization. For instance, fraudsters may send a message that looks like it's from a well-known bank. They can claim that you must change your password immediately as their system has been compromised.

The message instructs you to visit your bank's website by clicking the provided link. But it is a fake one managed by the criminal. That's why it's a scam: the criminal wants your login details for your banking website, and they're using a fake website to get them.

Two-factor authentication is your only hope in this scenario. Two-factor authentication can prevent compromised accounts caused by stolen or leaked passwords. With 2FA enabled, an attacker cannot access your account if they only have your username and password.

3. To Steal Data

a photo of a man on a computer staring into a computer screen.Don't let hackers still your steal your data.iStock

Data theft is a common goal of cyberattacks. In many cases, thieves target individual accounts in the hopes of gaining access to valuable information such as:

  • Confidential information that criminals will likely buy
  • Embarrassing pictures or sensitive medical data used for blackmail or extortion
  • Information that the hacker can exchange for a ransom
  • Passwords to hack into other accounts
  • Trade secrets that criminals could use against your company
  • Travel documents providing information that criminals can use to plot a home invasion

Store private information you don’t want to be exposed to in secure cloud storage. Better yet, pick cloud storage services that automatically encrypt your data.

4. To Steal Money

a photo of a woman on her smartphone depressedHackers can also steal money if not careful.iStock

It's essential to be cautious online, especially while using social media. Hackers who gain access to your social networking credentials may also attempt them on your banking sites.

Don't reuse your passwords. Create strong and unique passwords by using a password manager.

Criminals can also use your compromised account to scam your contacts. The perpetrator assumes your identity and claims they have been robbed while abroad and need funds transferred to them so they may get home safely.

You may be oblivious to the attack or locked out of your social network account. You'll later find out from your friends or the police, but the hackers would already have done the damage.

Final Thoughts

You spend most of your days online. You shop, order meals, connect with friends, stream movies, play music, plan trips, and more. But you may be unaware of how open you are about your private life to strangers.

You may say you have nothing to hide, which may seem reasonable. But it's the point of view of someone who doesn't realize the inherent vulnerability of online life.

Hackers can target anyone, including you. If they only get a chance, they’ll steal your identity, money, and sanity.

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