Get UNSTUCK by Pat Flynn

I was hacked 😞

publishedabout 2 months ago
4 min read

Hi, it’s Pat! 👋

On Thursday, January 12th, I got a text message from one of my team members:

Not good. Not good at all.

You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

In this email, I’ll share exactly what happened, where we stand now, and what to do to avoid this situation.

Let’s get unstuck.


“Passwords are like underwear. Don’t let people see it, change it very often, and you shouldn’t share it with strangers.”

— Chris Pirillo


I checked my YouTube channel. It was obvious that someone had broken in and bad things were happening.

My Pokemon channel, DeepPocketMonster, was now named Tesla Live, and there was a live video featuring an Elon Musk interview with links to a cryptocurrency scam.

Then, my phone started blowing up. Hundreds of notifications came in through Instagram, Twitter, Discord, and even text messages letting me know what was happening.

To make things worse, I had just arrived at the dentist. I asked everyone at the office if I could use one of their computers to try to fix things, but quite understandably, they said no.

Apparently, channel takeovers like this are one of the most popular hacks on YouTube right now. Just the day prior, the Think Media Podcast YouTube channel by Sean Cannell was taken over in the same exact way.

How does this happen?

Sometimes, it’s simply having a poor password, and other times it’s because of a company’s data leak, like the most recent one from LastPass.

I’m very diligent with passwords and 2-factor authentication to protect my accounts, but hackers are finding even more clever ways to run these scams.

The latest method is through a very official looking email from a reputable company wanting to sponsor your YouTube channel. After several seemingly-normal back and forth email correspondences, it comes time to look at the terms of the agreement. You click on an attached PDF file, and that’s when the trojan horse comes in and steals all of your information.

The trouble is, I never clicked on any attachments to allow for this to happen. Again, I’m very sensitive to this kind of stuff, so it was still a mystery how this particular hacker got in.

We finally realized it wasn’t my account that was hacked, but the account of one of my editors — someone who has access to upload and publish videos on my YouTube channel.

That’s how they got in.

Thankfully, all it took to get the account back was to use the channel’s admin account to remove my editor’s access. I had taken back control over the YouTube channel in just under two hours.

Other channels, whose main accounts get hacked, aren’t as lucky. It can take several days to get the account back to normal.

Through this process, I found out that YouTube itself has the ability to “revert” a channel back to before the hack or takeover happened. Sort of like the restore ability on a PC. That’s nice to know in a worse case scenario, and if something like this ever does happen to you, the way to initiate that process and get your account back is through a contact form.

Here’s a link to that form just in case you ever need it (I hope you never do).

It can take time to get a channel back, mostly because you have to verify your identity and that you’re the rightful owner of the channel, but again, I hope you never have to go through this.

Your Call to Action

Let this story serve as a reminder:

  1. Update your passwords often and make them stronger.
  2. Always keep 2-factor authentication on your accounts. Email, social media, YouTube — all of them. Yes, it’s one additional step, which is a hassle, but the consequences are way worse.
  3. Never click on attachments or links in emails unless you really trust who they are from.
  4. Even if you know who they are from, if the links or attachments look suspicious, be very careful. Perhaps their email address was hacked.

Hackers suck, but if something like this happens to you, try not to panic. My son was wondering why I wasn’t freaking out when this was all going down. When he asked, I replied with: “Panic doesn’t do much to help solve the problem.”

Deep breaths, ask for help, and be aggressively patient.


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How did the computer hackers get away from the scene of the crime?

I think they just ransomware.