It’s a Sunday night. I arrived home earlier than usual having met the nightly work deadline early, and I wanted to binge watch some movies on Netflix. Strange things had been happening over the last few days, but I thought it was just a glitch.
It started with all my movies being in Spanish as the default language and without subtitles. I stream from my Roku, and I knew that I hadn’t change any of my settings elsewhere. The first movie was “Aquarius,” an acclaimed Argentinian drama about a woman squaring off against a developer who wants her to leave her home. This didn’t seem strange; after all, it’s a Spanish-language film, and I had seen two others on HBO GO that same week. I happen to love Latin American films, particularly romantic comedies. But it was weird that subtitles were not showing up (I don’t speak Spanish, unfortunately, but I hope to learn soon). Adjusting my streaming to include subtitles, I went on to enjoy the movie.
In the days that passed and multiple log-ins and binges, I kept running into the same problem. Everything, from Netflix’s “The Kissing Booth” and “To All the Boys I Loved Before” to “Paddington” and “Gangs of New York,” was imbued with the language of love. And each time it happened, I had to fix my settings. Netflix’s suggestions had changed a little. My top pick was “The House of Flowers,” a Netflix series described as a campy Mexican soap opera about a family-run floral shop with hidden secrets. Again, this was something that was up my alley, but other suggestions began to conflict with what I usually watch.
But the kicker happened when I logged in to watch “Money Heist.” A friend suggested that I check it out because the writing behind the show is very good. The Spanish drama tells the plan to pull off the biggest heist in history by robbing the Royal Mint of Spain. On that fateful Sunday night, I selected the show and saw the words, “Resuming Episode 2 …” What the what? I had never started the series, but the screen started to stream the second episode. Something sinister was happening, and it wasn’t just robbing a bank. It was time to investigate.
I logged into Netflix on my laptop and examined my account. My sleuth work yielded a surprising discovery: My account had been hacked, and whoever did it was in Ecuador. Cue the head tilt and raised eyebrows! The hacking had been going on for nearly two weeks, and no red flags were seen on Netflix’s end. The evildoers used a Smart TV to access my account and watch whatever movies and TV shows they wanted.
What was funny was what the troublemakers watched during that 12-day stretch and how much their viewing habits clashed with mine. Here are some of their cinematic selections:
- “The Addams Family” and “The Addams Family Values”
- “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”
- “Insidious” and “Insidious: Chapter 3” (But not “Chapter 2”?)
- “Scary Movie” and “Scary Movie 2”
- “The Devil Inside”
- “The Boy”
“Colombiana” was also on their list, and all I could think about was pulling a Zoe Saldana, load up my arsenel and act out my revenge. They should feel lucky that I counted to 10 and calmed down.
When I put the CliffsNotes version of this on Facebook, some of my friends shared their own hacking stories, with one having hackers from Egypt. There must be an United Nations of Netflix Hackers somewhere.
If you suspect that your Netflix account has been hacked or if you want to check on your account, here is my advice for you:
- Go to your desktop log-in: If you use a Smart TV, cellphone, tablet or a device like Chromecast, Amazon Fire or Roku, log into Netflix using an internet browser to check on your account. Look out for any new profiles that may have been made without your permission.
- Check your activity for anything suspicious: Once logged in, visit “Your Account” and select “Viewing activity” under “My Profile” near the bottom of the page. If there are any show or movie titles that you know you did not watch, go back to the Your Account page and select “Recent device streaming activity” under “Settings.” This page documents what devices and locations that accessed your account according to IP address. It lists the country and state, if applicable. For example, I use my account at home and on two devices, so there are two IP addresses associated with them. It lists the kind of device (my Roku or my laptop’s operating system), and marks United States (PA) as the location. It is also how I learned that the hackers were using a Smart TV in Ecuador to get into my account.
- If you have been hacked: If things look grim, immediately return to Your Account and change your email address and password. Next, go to “Sign out all your devices” under “Settings.” This will require all your devices to log in again with the new password.
- Weed out the bad titles: After all the drama is handled, go back to your viewing activity page and remove the offenders’ history. Do so carefully, as some of these titles may be in your queue or ones you may interested in. This move will restore the logarithms that give you results for future viewing, like “Cringe Binge,” “Movies Based on Real Life” and “Cerebal Movies from the 1970s.” (Don’t you get that last category? What’s wrong with you?!?)
- As a precaution, change the credit/debit card: Just in case the bad guys now know your number.
- (Optional) Find stock photos of hacker-like figures in hoodies: It makes the point home. In fact, play the score from “The Martix” as you describe your tale of woe, and watch “Hackers” after you foil your Netflix hackers’ plans.