It’s the email we get at Help Desk more than any other: I’m locked out of my Facebook account, how do I get back in?

Every day, stories roll in about Facebook accounts that have been hacked, the owners’ log-in information changed and scammy posts shared with their friends. Despite all the valid concerns about Facebook and Meta as a company, and people willingly quitting the service, these hacks can have a real negative impact. They mean lost connections with family members or friends, or a small business losing control of its only online presence.

This week we’re going to talk about what you can do to avoid this pickle, and I’d love it if you casually could work it into the conversation at your holiday gatherings.

Cybersecurity is a dry topic and not exactly something festive to bring up mid-meal. But there are two reasons I want you to try this year. First, if you’re tech savvy, this is an opportunity to prevent other family members from being hacked or scammed, and if you’re not, it’s a great time to get free tech help. Second, it’s got to be a better topic than politics.

Make your Facebook account hard to hack: Like seemingly many people, my Facebook account was hacked early this summer and the hacker changed my security settings to two-factor-authentication and added an(other) email to my account, effectively making it impossible for me to restore my account.

Chris Grimm, Westport, Conn.

The truth is, it’s a million times easier to prevent a Facebook hack than it is to fix one after the fact. Once an account has been taken over by someone else, your best bet for getting back in is going through a Facebook process that can involve uploading copies of official ID.

My colleague Tatum Hunter broke down everything you can do to try to wrestle back access to your Facebook account, but the process is arduous, in part to prevent hackers from gaming that as well. Judging by our inbox and letters like these, it simply doesn’t work for many people. Facebook does offer more security protections for people it considers high-risk — like politicians and human rights activists — but most people have to take matters into their own hands.

So if you haven’t been hacked already, please stop what you’re doing and follow these easy instructions. (These are based on the Facebook webpage, but the settings are similar for mobile apps.)

Turn on two-factor authentication. Open Facebook and log in if you haven’t already. Go to Settings → Security and Login → Two-factor Authentication. You can also try clicking on this link to go directly there. Turn the setting on.

Having two-factor authentication on means that to log in to your Facebook account, you’ll need to enter a unique code in addition to your usual password. Whenever you attempt a new log-in, the code can be texted to you or shown in a separate app like Google Authenticator. Pick whatever method you think will be easiest to use. For example, if you’re making these changes on someone else’s phone and they’re not keen on learning a new app, just enter their cell number and they’ll get texts instead.

Make your password secure. Good passwords are still important, so make sure that the Facebook password is unique (not the same one used for multiple online services) and that it hasn’t previously been leaked online anywhere. One great tool for this is a password app, like 1Password or Dashlane, which can flag both issues automatically. If you’re helping someone else and adding yet another app to their life would be too complicated, it’s okay to keep a written book of passwords instead. Look up their existing log-in email using Have I Been Pwned.

Know what hack attempts look like. This can be the hardest step because the people hacking accounts are always changing their methods. But be on the lookout for any automated emails from Facebook saying you’re trying to log in on a new device when you’re not. Don’t click on any links in emails or messages asking you to enter your Facebook password (only through proper log-in pages). And be extremely skeptical of odd Facebook or Messenger messages from your friends on the service. One popular technique is to take over or mimic an account, pretend to be that person and hack their friend groups.

Don’t use your Facebook log-in elsewhere. There are many sites and apps that you can sign up for with your existing Facebook log-in. But given the difficulty getting back into a hacked account, you’re better off creating a unique log-in or even using Google’s or Apple’s sign-in service.

Make sure old home videos live on: I’ve been converting 8mm videos to DVD for a while. Neither one of my children have DVD players at home or on their laptops. How can I save some of the DVDs to iCloud so they can watch remotely?

— Milan Grozdanich, Indiana

Digital media moves on fast. Just when you finish transferring some old home videos from 8mm to DVD, that tech falls out of fashion as well and you’re back to square one. Future-proofing is nearly impossible, but there are a few things you can do.

First, the immediate problem: How do your kids see what’s on these DVDs? Converting them and uploading the files to iCloud is a great idea and means you might have a brief respite from constantly moving them between storage formats over the next decade. Ideally, iCloud will continue to exist and include support for older file formats as new ones come out.

You’re going to need a computer with a working disk drive that can read your DVDs, or an external DVD drive you can connect — there should be plenty of USB drives available online or in a local computer store. Then pick an application for converting DVD files into digital files on your computer. I’ve always gone with Handbrake, but there are other options as well — just beware of anything free you aren’t familiar with. Convert the movies on the DVDs to a file format like MP4 or MOV, if they aren’t already, and save them on your computer.

The easiest way to upload them to iCloud is to use the Apple Photos app. Open the app and go to Photos → Preferences → iCloud and make sure the box by Shared Albums is checked. Make a new shared album and drag your new files in. Your kids can add their own videos here as well, creating a one-stop shop for family videos through the years.

Don’t throw out those DVDs, they’re actually a perfect second backup already. Store them someplace safe in case anything ever happens to the other files.

Get your photos out of Amazon Photos: In the beginning of Amazon Prime I took advantage of their free photo and file storage. The account storage is maxed out and I would like to take everything off their storage and place it on an external HD, but I can’t seem to get it to work — any suggestions would be very helpful and greatly appreciated.


I love this question because I had completely forgotten about Amazon’s Photos tool. So in addition to helping Anita export her images, this is a reminder to check and see if you have any old photos you’d forgotten about lingering on here or other old cloud storage options. Or maybe it’s a reminder that Amazon offers photo and video storage for Prime customers. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Log in to View all your photos and hit the check mark just above the top image, next to the “Share” button. This should select every file automatically. Next, click the Download button on the top of the page. There’s no way to select an individual album to download, unfortunately. Once the folder is on your desktop (it might take a while for this to work), you can drag it to a connected hard drive to save the pictures there. Since it is unlimited, you can keep a copy in Amazon as a backup.