Billions of WhatsApp users warned to secure accounts this week or risk losing them

BILLIONS of WhatsApp users have been urged to secure their accounts.

Cyber-experts have warned The Sun over a rise in hack and scam attempts over Xmas – so locking down your WhatsApp is a high priority.

WhatsApp users are regularly targeted by hackers who use clever social engineering to take over accounts.

Some fraudsters even pose as family members to enter your WhatsApp account.

Once they're in, these tricksters can impersonate you and go on to hack your friends and family.

"It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that hackers become more daring and sneakier over the holiday period," said Steven Hope, co-founder of Authlogics, speaking to The Sun.

"It makes sense – organisations and consumers alike tend to let their guard down to celebrate with family and friends, often leaving their accounts unsecured and vulnerable to breach."

We spoke to several privacy experts who revealed how you can stay safe this Christmas.

The best advice is to secure your WhatsApp account, and be suspicious of any unsolicited messages.

"Keep your registration code or two-step verification PIN secret, never share it with anyone else," said Chris Hauk, a consumer privacy champion at Pixel Privacy.

"Enable two-step verification, and make sure your device is protected with a PIN or biometric security.

"Keep your device in your possession always, along with locking your device, this keeps others from using your WhatsApp account."

The good news for prolific texters is that WhatsApp is great for privacy.

However, you can't let your guard down – especially over Christmas.

"As messaging apps go, WhatsApp is one of the more secure due to it’s end-to-end encryption," Jamie Akhtar, CEO at CyberSmart, told The Sun.

"But that doesn’t mean it’s completely impenetrable.

"So we recommend adding an extra layer of protection by switching on two-factor authentication (2FA).

"This will set up an extra 6-digit PIN that the app will ask you for occasionally.

"It’s very simple to set up (just click a button in your account privacy settings) but it will make it considerably harder for cybercriminals to hack your account."

Stolen WhatsApp account – what to do if you're locked out

WhatsApp hackers are always on the prowl, so don't let your guard down.

"You should never share your WhatsApp SMS verification code with others, not even friends or family," WhatsApp explained.

"If you're tricked into sharing your code and lose access to your WhatsApp account, read the instructions below to recover your account.

"If you suspect someone else is using your WhatsApp account, you should notify family and friends as this individual could impersonate you in chats and groups."

To reclaim a stolen WhatsApp account, sign in to WhatsApp with your phone number and verify it over SMS.

Once you sign in, you'll automatically log the hacker out.

You might also be asked for a two-step verification code. If the hacker has set this up, you'll need to wait seven days to be able to sign in.

In any case, the hacker will still have been signed out of your account.

If you're logged in but you think someone someone is using your account via WhatsApp Web/Desktop, follow this guide to log out on all computers.

Keep your guard up

And WhatsApp hacks aren't the only thing you need to worry about.

"Additionally, everyone should be vigilant for phishing scams where people become targets resetting passwords when revisiting old accounts for Christmas shopping and Boxing Day sales," said cyber-expert Steven Hope explained.

"As impersonators are aiming to steal login credentials or find out personal details they can use to perform credential stuffing attacks.

"Always be aware of who you share your information with and don’t trust anyone who wants to offer you money out of the blue over the holiday period.

"Remember there’s always a catch!"

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