If you're reading this and you're young, there's a decent chance that somebody has hacked into your social media account recently. Maybe they sent a lewd tweet on Twitter or posted a hilariously confusing status update on Facebook. It's possible they set up a Hangout with your worst enemies on Google+ or read all your Gmail. Regardless, this is happening more and more frequently according to a new Associated Press-MTV poll. Three in 10 teens have had their social media accounts hacked, twice the number in 2009. The vast majority of the victims knew the perpetrators--67 percent of those pranked knew the prankster, 72 percent of those spied on knew the spy--and about half of them were upset about it.
The trend seems harmless enough at face value. If anything, being the victim of a hack prompts people to pay more attention to securing their identity online. The AP-MTV poll says that two-thirds take action by changing passwords or screen names, one in four delete their accounts altogether. Then there are the celebrity hacks--often good for a yuck or two. Earlier this year, a prankster hacked into Ashton Kutcher's account during a TED conference and used the access for a little bit of cybersecurity activism. "Ashton, you've been Punk'd," read the rogue tweet. "This account is not secure. Dude, where's my SSL?" (SSL means "Security Sockets Layer," a simple shield against hacks that many believe should be the default security setting on Twitter on Facebook but is not.)
We reported last month that Twitter, for one, takes a pretty hands-off approach to what happens their users' accounts are hacked. The FBI's admits, "The truth is it's relatively easy to get into these accounts," but Twitter's standard response to users whose accounts have been attacked is to do what the teens we mentioned about are already doing: change your username, make a more secure password, if all else fails delete the account. (There are a few more tips about what you can do to protect your account here.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.