My YouTube Channel Got Hijacked (but it wasn’t)
My YouTube channel got hijacked….That is NOT how you want to start your day…
Here’s what happened:
On the 8th of March at around 11 pm Central Time, I received an email from YouTube saying that “We have detected suspicious activity on your Google Account”
In a mad panic, I quickly tried to log into my YouTube account which I was thankfully able to. I checked my videos and playlists and did not see that any changes were made to any videos. Everything seemed fine.
Breathing a major sigh of relief, I decided to change my password just to be extra safe.
My account has the highest security possible. I use 2-Factor Authentication with Security Keys and no SMS at all.
I recreated all the backup codes just in case someone has somehow managed to gain access to those.
I also checked the recent activity on my account and nothing was out of the ordinary. I recognized all the devices that have access and I double-checked all the applications that I granted access to my account and they were all legit.
So all seemed to be normal and I went to bed.
When I woke up the next day, I checked my YouTube accounts, and on the surface, it all seemed fine. I could log in with my new credentials and all my videos were there.
However, I noticed that there was a major downturn in views. In fact, the views were less than half of what I normally get.
Now that can happen on YouTube. Views come in waves and sometimes there are dramatic changes. However, this was different.
I looked at the real-time views per video and each one of them was down to only a handful of views.
Something was up….
I opened a new window incognito mode and searched for my channel name. Nothing came up.
Maybe it’s just me.
I asked several friends in different countries to check, and they confirmed that they couldn’t see my channel either.
Oh-oh! (Definitely need more coffee….)
I then got onto the YouTube Support Chat and chatted with a lovely lady named Jane. I explained my issue and after several minutes she discovered the issue and it was not good news (but not terrible news either)
It seems like when YouTube reported “suspicious activity” on my account, they removed my channel from YouTube Search and Discovery.
I was confused. The channel was not hijacked, but it seemed like action was taken to remove my channel when YouTube believed it was compromised.
I completed a form dedicated to Channel Hijacking (yes, that’s a real thing) and now I wait for someone to put me back into the Search and Discovery…
Some Initial Lessons
VPN: I only use a VPN for everything. This gives me the best protection for my activities and minimizes my digital footprint. However, I believe this may have triggered the YouTube Security Algorithm. Perhaps my account was flagged as having logged into it from multiple cities and countries and that is indeed “suspicious activity”. This is a guess at best as the email didn’t actually say what the activity was.
Know Your Channel: If I didn’t know the data patterns on my channel, I may have just left it and wasted another couple of days. By knowing my channel, I recognized that this was off and instantly took action.
YouTube Actions: I believe YouTube acted to protect my channel. If it was indeed hijacked and my AdSense account was changed to the hijacker, then they would have earned all the money on the account. They could have also uploaded their video to sell bitcoin scams. Therefore, YouTube seemed to have pulled my channel out of the Search and Discoverability engine so that it can’t spread any further. My only criticism is that the email said “your account may have potentially been hijacked”. Potentially. Therefore, when I was able to log in and all was fine, I feel like there should have been an option to confirm that all is fine.
Security: Have great security on your accounts. Change the passwords often. Check the activity. Have 2 Factor Authentication. Use Security Keys instead of SMS One-Time Passwords. SMS OTP can be intercepted with a sim-swap… More information on that and what are Keys here
So in summary:
I understand that I am fortunate that my channel was not in fact hijacked. I have seen some terrible issues with various channels that took massive hits when their channels were compromised.
As of writing this, there is nothing I can do now besides wait. I have no control over the next steps. It may take an hour to fix or days or weeks. I have no idea.
This is a pretty weird feeling for a tech guy. If there was something wrong with this Blog, I have loads of actions I can take – some may work and some may not, but I can do something.
With YouTube, it’s their platform with their rules and their systems and we are getting it for free AND they are sharing revenue with us. I am thankful for that every single day.
But I am once again reminded that as content creators we are building our beautiful castle on someone else’s land. And when something goes wrong as it does occasionally, or a change happens, as it does occasionally, we have to accept it. It’s the price of admission.
Wish me luck….
oh and click here if you want to find my Liron Segev YouTube channel. And if you want to watch a video or two, that would help: