Assess the Damage

Once you have taken the immediate measures to limit the financial/work related implications of being hacked, it’s time to assess the full scope of the damage and act accordingly.

It may seem strange that we don’t start by actually dealing with the hacked account, but chances are that if one account has been hacked, especially if your primary e-mail was hacked, all your other accounts will be hacked soon after. If the damage has just occurred (like you could access it half an hour ago), then go ahead and try to recover the lost account directly and focus on saving the others later. If the hack happened more than six hours ago, then it’s very likely too late and my advice is that you should focus on limiting the scope of the damage!

So, here are the step by step instructions on assessing the damage:

1. Write down on a piece of paper which online services you use, such as

  • Facebook
  • Gmail/Google+/GoogleDocs/AdWords/etc (these are all interlinked)
  • Other e-mail providers
  • Blog services
  • Twitter
  • Flicker
  • LinkedIn
  • etc

2. Prioritize these based on which services contain the most sensitive information that is very important to you and/or that you don’t want to become public – write a number in front of each post

3. Identify which services use the same password as the hacked account. I suggest you mark these with a “P”.

4. Most services require that you enter an e-mail address when you register with their service. If it is an e-mail account of yours that has been hacked that means that the hackers can ask all service providers where you registered that e-mail to send a new password to your hacked e-mail account. That is why it’s important to identify the services where you used the hacked e-mail address. If you can’t remember, try thinking of which services send adverts to your hacked e-mail account. Mark these services with an “E”.

5. If you already know which accounts have been hacked, mark these with “H”.

Now you have a prioritized overview of what is most important to you and which services are most exposed (the ones with a “P” and an “E” – of course the ones with an “H” are already screwed…)


Next up – Containing the Damage