YouTube account hacked: why it happened and what to do?

Anton P. | October 06, 2023

Getting your YouTube account hacked is an unpleasant experience, to say the least. For professional YouTube content creators and influencers, it could amount to losing the means of living.

There are steps you can take when your YouTube account gets hacked or to prevent it from happening. You can learn to protect your account by better understanding how malicious actors hack them.

YouTube account hacked: learn how to get it back.

Why do hackers hack YouTube?

Gaining access to your YouTube account might have been a side effect of hacking your Google account. However, hackers might have ill intentions related specifically to your YouTube channel:

  • To demand ransom. The hacker might demand money in exchange for giving your account back.
  • To spread malware or scams. YouTube channels with large followings attract hackers as a means to reach broad audiences. The hacker might then try to scam your audience or spread malware.
  • To spread banned and offensive content. For example, hackers might use your account to spread racist or anti-semitic propaganda.
  • To sell your account. Finally, the hackers might auction off your account on the dark web to the highest bidder. Depending on the number of subscribers, hacked accounts sell for as much as $4000.

How do YouTube hacks happen?

Hackers might get your YouTube account details by using social engineering to get you to download malware. The risk of infecting your device increases if you visit suspicious sites or follow links on phishing emails.

Alternatively, hackers might use a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack to steal your personal data. MitM attacks involve hackers working their way into the middle of an insecure connection between a device and a network. Such attacks can happen when using public WiFi without a VPN.

Of course, there is always an old-fashioned method of shoulder surfing when people simply physically watch you enter your credentials.

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How to know if your YouTube account is hacked?

Usually, you will suspect that your YouTube account has been hacked by one or more of the following signs:

  • You are locked out of your account, and your last password no longer works.
  • There are videos on your channel that you have never posted.
  • You notice changes in your channel or video descriptions. For example, hackers could edit them to include suspicious links.
  • Your profile picture has been changed without your knowledge.
  • Your account has left comments that you have never written.
  • You receive strikes from YouTube for violating terms of service, for example, posting inappropriate content.

YouTube account hacked: what to do?

If your YouTube account has been hacked, there are two possible routes. One is available if you can still log into your Google account, the other - if not.

Change your Google account password

If you can still log into your Google account, change your credentials as soon as possible. Do this:

  1. Sign into your Google account.
  2. In the Security tab, under How you sign in to Google, select Password.
  3. You might be prompted to re-enter your current password.
  4. After that, enter and repeat your new password. Press Change password.

This password change should terminate hackers' sessions and require them to sign in again. They will not get back in without the new password.

Recover your YouTube account

Unfortunately, most hackers will change your password immediately after hacking your account. If you can no longer access your account, you can recover it with one of the previously set-up recovery methods.

For example, here is how you recover your YouTube account using a recovery email or phone number:

  1. Go to the Google account recovery page.
  2. Select the highlighted words Recover your Google Account or Gmail.
  3. Enter your recovery email address or telephone number.
  4. Input the verification code you receive by phone or email.
  5. When prompted, input your new Google Account password.

Now you have changed your credentials, and thus, the hacker should be logged out of any active sessions. Once again, without the new password, they cannot log back in.

If you have no recovery methods set up, unfortunately, there is little you can do. Your last resort would be trying to contact Google support directly.

Protections against YouTube account being hacked

In cybersecurity, the best fix is always prevention. Here are the steps you can take to protect yourself from having your YouTube account hacked.

  • Set up two-factor authentication. Then even if hackers get your password, they cannot log into your account without the second uniquely generated authenticator.
  • Be sure to set up recovery methods in case you do have your YouTube account hacked.
  • Note your YouTube user ID and channel ID. You can find them on your YouTube account by pressing Settings and then Advanced Settings. YouTube support might ask for these numbers to recover your hacked account.
  • Make a copy of your YouTube channel. Use a different email to create a spare YouTube account and make it private. Upload all your content on it. In case of having your YouTube account hacked, this channel will allow you to keep your work. You can then advise your audience to move to this channel.
  • Follow general online security practices. These include scanning all downloads, using strong passwords, and keeping an eye open for phishing attacks.
  • Always use a VPN. This goes especially for when you connect to public WiFi. But it is best to form a habit of always having your VPN on. This will improve your protection from malicious actors intercepting connections and sniffing traffic.

Following these simple tips will help you protect yourself from the dire effects of a YouTube account being hacked.

Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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