It’s a problem that has been doing the rounds for a few years now and today it was my turn to have my Xbox account hacked. As in many cases the giveaway was the appearance of Fifa 2012 on my account. Me? Play Fifa? Are you mental? (I’m not a very footbally person)
A quick look at my account balance showed that my Microsoft points had been cleared out (save for 20 measly points) so off I trudged to Xbox support to sort the mess out.
Microsoft have received all kinds of bad press for the less-than-stellar handling of hacked accounts in the past but in my experience it was a pretty painless affair. They confirmed that Download Content for Fifa 2012 was purchased via my account on a day when I never even used my console. They also confirmed my most recent download before that date which unfortunately meant that I had to confess that yes, I downloaded Party Rock Anthem for Dance Central 2. (Yeah I know. Judge all you like. It was for shits and giggles ok?).
As a result my experience taught me a few security lessons about Xbox live that I thought were worth sharing given how easily it can happen to anyone.
1. Remove your credit cards.
If you have an active credit card on your account then you might want to remove it. When an account is hacked the hacker can buy all kinds of content and Microsoft Points. If there’s a credit card attached to your account it will get hammered with charges. Where possible, stick with the pre-paid scratch cards for your Xbox live subscriptions and points which leads us onto the next point.
2. Only add what you need
My points balance was cleared out as a result of my account being hacked, luckily there was just under 2000 points available at the time. There have been times where there has been plenty more just sitting there waiting to be taken. Hopefully I’ll get the points back but that may take a little while. Just to be safe I would say that when it comes to adding points to your account only do it as and when you need it.
3. Build a better password (and change it regularly)
My password was fairly secure, it was an unconventional word and a combination of numbers but it still wasn’t up to the task. Ideally your password should contain letters, numbers and symbols. There’s also an option on the Xbox website to have your password automatically reset every 72 days.
4. Should you get hacked
If it comes to light that your account has been hacked the first thing to do is log onto the Xbox.com website. With any luck, your password will not have been altered. Once logged in, change your password. The website also has a security feature that can log out all consoles accessing your account, forcing them to log in again. If you’ve changed your password the hacker’s console should now be prevented from logging back in to your account.
Once this is done, call Xbox support (or arrange for a callback via the website). They will start an investigation into your account, it can take a few days to sort out and unfortunately you won’t be able to play online during this time.
If anything, I was pretty surprised when it happened to myself. Whenever I’ve heard of it happening to other people I’ve assumed they had done something stupid or foolish to help make it happen. Obviously I would never do anything like that (Party Rock Anthem purchase notwithstanding, ahem!). This is something that truly came from out of the blue but luckily for me the damage was limited. Hopefully some of these tips will get you out of a jam should it (hopefully never) happen to you.