Status update: 'I've been hacked'

Whether it's checking in at a strip club on Foursquare or seeing your relationship status changed to 'single' – having your social media hijacked can have dramatic consequences, as Tim Walker explains.

My friend Clive is a serial frapist. I'm calling him Clive so as to protect his identity. (His real name is Sebastian.) At university, Clive was often caught typing text messages to random girls – "I think I love you", or something similar – from somebody else's phone, which Clive had picked up after they left it lying around. Clive's excuse? It was "banter". As time has gone on, and social-networking technology has become more sophisticated, so have Sebastian's methods. Sorry, I mean "Clive's" methods.

Recently, for instance, when Fenton the runaway labrador retriever became a YouTube hit, Clive waited until a week after the clip's popularity had spiked, then hacked a friend's Facebook account and posted the status update, "Fenton!", to make this friend seem like a lame, belated bandwagon-jumper. When Facebook Places allowed users to tag their friends in certain locations, Clive began falsely placing his Facebook fraternity at incongruous and/or embarrassing venues. As an act of revenge, one of his victims then tagged Clive at a strip club, Spearmint Rhino, which Clive happened not to have attended on the evening in question, though he is a regular. (Just a bit of banter, Clive!)

This sort of thing is known colloquially as "Frape", or "Facebook-rape". For reasons of taste, I'll simply refer to it as "hacking" for the remainder of this article – but it is certainly a form of violation, however minor.

Facebook has allowed us to curate our lives and our personalities for public view. Most of us are meticulous in our editing: we de-tag unflattering photographs, take time composing each status update and choose our "likes" or our "groups" with one eye on posterity, thus presenting to the world our ideal selves. If your Facebook account is hacked, the incident isn't over in a moment, like most practical jokes. It requires post-prank damage control: you may have to write a delicately worded apology to certain friends or family members. It could make Christmas very awkward.

In an astonishing act of betrayal, the girlfriend of a friend of mine – let's call her Belinda (it's Jess) – opened my friend's laptop to find that he was still logged into Facebook, and "liked" a series of celebrities he had recently professed to hate: Cheryl Cole, Jamie Oliver, Professor Brian Cox. How anyone could hate Professor Brian Cox is a mystery, but then, not everybody wants to broadcast their physics man-crush to the web. Finally, as my oblivious friend (who preferred to remain anonymous) finished a lengthy rant about the awfulness of a television commercial for the parcel-delivery firm UPS, Belinda "liked" UPS and wrote a status update under his name: "I'm loving the new UPS ad!"

To their credit, Clive and Belinda's attacks are smarter, and funnier, than those of the average Facebook hacker. Most of the hacks I was told about, after I invited my Facebook friends to relate their sorry tales, involved young men hijacking other young men's accounts. Unable to think of any mature jokes, they mostly made crude announcements on behalf of their victims, claiming they were now gay and open to offers. When my brother's account was infiltrated and his status updated to "I've come out of the closet, and it feels so gooooooood!!! [sic]", a friend of ours spent a fortnight working up the courage to ask whether it was true. (It was not – but, if it was, I would be totally cool with that.)

In some cases, a lewd status update could cause genuine long-term harm, not least to a person's career. Think of those stories of Facebook users whose employers have sacked them for their inappropriate party pictures and then imagine the potential effects of an inappropriate status update.

Similarly, a company's image can take a hit if its carefully monitored social-media activities are disrupted by an errant employee in possession of the correct password. Last year, Vodafone fired a fellow who posted an obscene tweet on its official Twitter feed. This year, a hijacker on Fox News's feed falsely reported that Barack Obama was dead. In October, hackers gained access to the Twitter account of the Thai Prime Minister and posted criticisms about her handling of the county's devastating floods.

Of course, these crimes are rarely, if ever, defensible. But sometimes they can be gratifying. Last week, one particular Facebook hack was shared widely on Twitter. The status update, from the victim, explains that he fled from a taxi after refusing to pay the fare: "I forgot my phone in the cab. And now [the] cab driver is teaching me a lesson by writing this post. Even though I was being [an] extremely rude, clumsy bastard, the cab driver is still kind enough to give me an opportunity to get my phone back. All [he's] asking is the fare I owe him and an apologising note on my Facebook wall. And [I] want all my friends to like it so they can see my true face... Once he sees the apologising note, he'll send the address to pick the phone up." Does that qualify as restorative justice?

Facebook hijacks: Do's and don'ts

Don't want to be hacked? Then don't give them access

There's only one sure-fire way to guarantee your waggish "friend" doesn't start sending text messages under your name: keep your phone on you. Likewise for Facebook and Twitter accounts that have automatic log-ins, where the password is saved by your web browser, allowing other people to log on as you.

Protect your password

Even if you leave your account locked, there are ways for the persistent hacker to access it. Most people use similar passwords across a range of accounts. Try to introduce some variety. And ideally, passwords should combine letters with numbers and, where possible, symbols.

If you really must...

...then at least be funny. There are dozens of sites devoted to some of the best attacks on friends' social-media pages – but most involve poor "gags" based on the recipient's sexuality, sexual preferences or sexual health. Take a tip from Clive's book and try something esoteric, such as "liking" out-of-character things.


You're the hacker, not the hacked? If you're hell-bent on carrying out your prank, at least spare a thought for your victim and the repercussions he or she will face. There is light-hearted ridiculing and then there are the hacks that could cost them more: a relationship or a job. Be prepared to confess and, if necessary, apologise – publicly.

Suggested Topics
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

    £17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone