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All of India and the world got to witness what looked like a marriage melting down in public last week as the Twitter accounts of the Union minister of state for human resource development, Shashi Tharoor, and his wife, the late Sunanda Pushkar, were filled with tweets that talked about an alleged affair between Tharoor and Pakistani journalist Mehr Tarar. Tharoor quickly posted that his account had been hacked, and was being temporarily suspended. This was followed by a joint statement on Facebook, which read: “We are distressed by the unseemly controversy that has arisen about some unauthorized tweets from our Twitter accounts."

Regardless of what really happened to the account, there are some lessons in this for all of us. The first perhaps being to follow proper security routines—such as not leaving accounts logged in on devices other people have access to.

Since Twitter is probably the most public social network available, it can also be the most damaging—someone else could be tweeting or sending private direct messages (DMs) in your name and you need to stop this immediately.

If you see anything that suggests another person has your Twitter account—tweets you didn’t write, people replying to DMs you didn’t send—then immediately check if you can still access your account.

If you can sign into your account, then change the password. The longer you take, the more likely it is that someone will make a post that’s truly harmful. Once you’ve changed the password, you need to revoke access to other devices, as we will explain below.

But what if your hacker has already changed the password, locking you out of your own account?

If you have access to the email account used to set up the Twitter account, then it’s fairly simple. You can just reset your password, and follow the instructions in the mail. In case you’re able to log in after the reset, change the password again.

Without mail access, you need a verified phone number to receive a reset code on SMS, which can help you resolve the issue. If you haven’t already verified your phone though, then Twitter can’t return access to your account. It can, however, suspend the account, preventing the hacker from damaging you further. You will have to fill a support form on Support.twitter.com with the subject hacked account, and after a little follow-up investigation, Twitter can close the account.

Once you have access to your account again, there are still a few important things left to do. First, go to the settings panel and click on Apps. Next, click on revoke access so that all the apps, on phones and on the Web, which you’ve allowed access to Twitter over the years, lose access. This includes the Twitter apps on your phone.

Most of us sign up for dozens of services we don’t even use and all these services still have access to your account. Checking both Twitter and Facebook to see what apps can access your account is helpful and something you should do often.

After that, go to the mobile settings, and add a phone to your account if you haven’t already. Twitter will send an SMS to your phone to verify the account, then people need to have access to the phone as well to access your account. Not all carriers support this feature here. In case your carrier doesn’t, then you need to have the Android or iOS app on your smartphone, to use two-step verification.

While it might seem a little inconvenient, two-step verification is extremely important for security—once you do this, the only way someone else can post from your account is if they know your password, and have your phone as well. The procedure to follow for other social networks like Facebook is mostly the same—remember that even after you reset a password, you want to revoke access to applications on Facebook as well, and then add it to each service you really use, one at a time.

The last thing you should remember, on Twitter, Facebook, or any other service which supports it (like Dropbox, for example), is to enable two-factor authentication; your password and your cellphone. This won’t stop someone from picking up your phone and going wild, but it will deter a hacker at least.

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