How The Honest Channel was taken down for 8 days by hackers

It happened in an instant. Then all I could do was sit and watch as someone, somewhere, tore down six years of work and used my platform to attempt to scam others.

The hack was targeted and devastating but, unfortunately, it’s happening to YouTubers on a regular basis. You make the mistake of downloading some malware, masquerading as a media kit from what appears to be a reputable source and, boom, the hackers are in and you’re locked out.

Two-step verification counts for nothing when they can hijack your already-open account in YouTube and change the security details from within to block your access.

It took over six years of creating content on my weekends to build a channel. It took them two minutes to hijack it and 8 long, stressful days to get it back.

Picture showing what The Honest Channel looked like when hackers took over, commplete with new  MicroStrategy branding
How The Honest Channel looked when hackers took over.

A waiting game

Once the hackers were in they changed my channel name and then within a couple of hours they had replaced my channel banner with ‘MicroStrategy’ branding – and were pumping out crypto scam bait videos.

MicroStrategy is a real company so the hackers are also hijacking their trade name and using it for ill-gotten gain.

That meant a trademark claim was filed against my channel, caused by the hackers.

I contacted YouTube to report the hack immediately. The morning after the hack the channel was taken down and I was relieved that viewers were no longer being targeted from my channel.

Hitting the brick wall

My account was recovered and secured after two days, but my channel remained suspended.

YouTube confirmed I was hacked and my channel hijacked but getting past the trademark claim was a real obstacle course.

I filed a legal complaint appeal and it was turned down. I submitted a YouTube Account appeal and it was also rejected. By this stage I was panicking.

The bottom line is the team tasked with recovering hijacked accounts cannot deal with legal complaints so there are two separate systems and it takes time in such a large organisation to get your case in front of the right people.

Finally, eight days after the hackers struck, my channel has been reinstated to my immense relief.

It felt like being stuck in a maze, blindfolded and wounded and I hope the system can be improved and streamlined to help content creators going through this awful experience in future.

I have would have been completely lost without Marie in Partner Operations who was supportive, kind and reassuring throughout which meant so much.

They say ‘don’t put your eggs in one basket’

Some of you will know I left my job back in December to focus full time on YouTube and this website as an independent content creator dedicated to sharing advice and information around how to age well.

Talk about timing.

It meant this was a particularly scary ordeal because I have so many eggs (nearly all my eggs) in The Honest Channel basket. I’m working on growing my audience on this website and also on Instagram (you can find me @honestclare) so I have other ways to keep folks informed if the unthinkable happens again.

I am determined all this will not be for nothing. It has made me appreciate so much more just how much I’ve put into building a channel and how grateful I am for every single subscription and view.

Ways to support my work:

Subscribe to The Honest Channel

Follow me on Instagram @honestclare

Sign up to my monthly newsletter (scroll down to see the form below) for all the latest from me and a chance to win my monthly giveaway.

I hope you never experience anything like this or fall victim to scams run by hackers.

Thank you so much for your support during a really tough time. 💗

What to do if your YouTube channel is hacked

A few YouTubers have reached out to ask this question so I am sharing here some advice based on my experience. The bottom line is if you don’t have a partner manager at YouTube then I would go straight to @TeamYouTube on Twitter.

Tweet and message them to say what has happened.

You have to create and send them a new Gmail address because you will likely be locked out of your existing one. They will then share a form with you to report the incident on. I couldn’t open the form to begin with and that cost me a lot of precious time. Open it in Chrome and make sure you are logged in to the new gmail account on the same browser.

After you submit the form the hijack recovery team will contact you and take it from there.

If there is a trademark claim against the channel or other legal issue caused by the hackers then you will likely need to appeal your channel termination.

Again TeamYouTube on Twitter can guide you on this as the hijack recovery team don’t get involved in that side of things (or didn’t at the time of writing). That was the most stressful part for me and something I would like to see change with the internal teams joined up on all aspects of recovery related to channel hijackings.

I was fortunate to have someone on the partner manager team in my corner but TeamYouTube have an overview of what’s happening and are a great resource for all YouTubers.