Email hacking is very underrated and given less attention compared to others. Hackers have over the years made away with millions of emails and passwords and have succeeded in uploading them and handing them over to other criminals for identity theft. Today, we will look at what email hacking is, how serious it can be to the victims and how to deal with it when you become a victim.
Overview of Email Hacking
Email hacking according to Wikipedia is the illegally gained access to or the manipulation of the email account or email correspondence. In August 2017 alone, about 700 million emails and their corresponding stolen password were leaked through a misconfigured spambot.
A few years ago, investigators confirmed that every single Yahoo account was compromised in the data breach that occurred in 2013. This means hackers accessed 3 billion accounts and stole names, phone numbers, birthdates, and email addresses. It is important to understand that you do not need to be a celebrity with millions of followers to be worried about your stolen identity. What hackers intend to do with the stolen information in email hacking is a serious course for concern.
How Was My Email Hacked?
There are a couple of ways that states that your computer was most likely to be compromised:
- Your password combination was weak enough and was easily hacked by the hackers.
- Your installed security softwares are not up-to-date.
- You probably clicked on a malicious link (URL) received in an email or IM conversation, social networking website or webpage.
- You might have downloaded a video, a game, an attachment or a song bearing malicious scripts or files.
How Do You Know That You Have Been Hacked?
There are several red flags that serve as the indication that you have been hacked such as – the passwords of your email accounts have been changed, the sent mail section is completely filled up with strange and unexpected emails, your inbox is flooded with an unexpected password reset emails, your contacts complaining about strange emails hitting their inbox and unusual logins from the unknown IP addresses/browsers and/or devices.
What Will You Do When You Are Been Hacked?
YOU HAVE BEEN HACKED!
In most cases, criminals use the identity of victims to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit to the disadvantage of someone else. This is much serious because the criminal gets all the benefits using the hard-earned reputation of someone, whilst the victim suffers from the consequences of the action of the criminal.
In situations where the names, phone numbers, and emails are used in any criminal operation, the victim may face prosecution, explaining how serious things can be. Interestingly, identity theft victims do not usually know how their identity was obtained, and most of them do not even realize that their identifiable information has fallen into the hands of criminals. But in situations where you realize that your email has been hacked, you might ask what should I do if my email is hacked and reduce more damage to your reputation?
Change Your Account Password After Email Hacking
Email hacking is a very complicated issue to handle, but there is still a way to deal with it. The first thing to do when you encounter this problem is to change your stolen password. Most hackers do not go further to change your account password but offer the existing password to criminals on the dark web.
If you can still access your account, change the passwords to a more complex, easy to remember and a hard to guess a password with a combination of characters. When you are not able to access the account, it means your stolen password has been changed. In this case, use the reset password option, and follow the instruction to retrieve the account and lockout the criminal.
Contact and Alert Your Email Contacts
The next step is to contact your email contacts and inform them about what happened. This is a step to protect them from being victims as well through your account. Most hackers do not miss an opportunity. They go the extra mile to lure your email contacts as well with a message containing a malicious link via phishing emails.
Inform them to be careful with clicking any email or link that comes from your account. Email hacking is mainly started from one account, lure and unlock the accounts of others causing mass mailing attack or spam attack, and end up for sale on the dark web.
Multi-factor authentication adds additional security to your account. Most email users ignore this because they find it a “time-wasting” approach as they seek to log in to their accounts without even a password. Using this feature gives you a one-time use code to log into your account.
The code is usually sent to your phone number to verify that you are aware of the login. Criminals who intend to use email hacking to take control of someone else account are less successful with accounts that have extra security.
Consider Changing your Security Question
When hackers are logged out of your account after resetting your stolen password, they may retake over the account if they stole your security questions and answers as well. In most of the email hacking incidents, hackers did not only steal the passwords to get sensitive information, but they also stole the security questions.
It is important to use answers that are far from the truth, or answers that do not even make sense. The only disadvantage of this is that you may lose your account if you forget to remember the answers later. Consider using answers that are hard to guess, and simple to remember.
Don’t Ignore Your Email Settings
Most individuals forget to check their email settings after they recover their accounts. The cyber attackers are very smart, and they are capable of manipulating your email settings to receive a copy of any email you send and receive.
This does not only put your identity at risk but goes the extra mile to monitor the kind of websites you log in and even use your stolen password to log in and access any of your online platforms.
Change Passwords if Used in Other Websites
Most people enjoy using the same password for all their accounts to avoid confusion. Most people easily forget passwords or are likely to get confused by using multiple passwords for different platforms. However, hackers really enjoy this situation better than anyone else. They can access all your accounts and all they need is just your email password.
What To Do Before You Are Hacked?
It cannot be stated before whether you would be hacked. Thus, it would be best if you adopted some preventive measures to stay protected from the hackers and the viruses. Here are some of the most effective email hacking protection tips:
- You must use decent and premium antivirus and firewall software. Make sure that these are always turned on. Also, before purchasing, validate the authenticity of the softwares and the company.
- Always back up your data on any USB stick or external hard drive. It helps!
- Check the background of a company before sharing your valuable information with them.
- Beware of any suspicious emails or links that might pop up on your system or email inbox. Also, check if the websites of the banks or any link are legit and if they are secure (https must be in the link and not http). This process of sending malicious links via the emails and other mentioned platforms is known as phishing.
- If you happen to store files and folders in any cloud storage, make sure to encrypt them as they are snoopable. Either way, you can keep in Dropbox as they claim to be encrypted.
- Do not login to accounts from other’s devices. On using the public network or devices, log out every time you use.
- Use your credit card or prepaid card to purchase stuff online.
- Never put unnecessary thing online.
- Create a potent combination for the passwords.
- Change passwords as often as you can.
- Use 2-FA or two-step verification.
- Always lock your devices and use fingerprint unlock where possible.
Most of the email hacking incidents are preventable. Individuals can resist the attempt of hackers causing cyber frauds to forcefully access their account by following the basic guidelines of keeping their passwords secured, and most of these are free of charge.
It is not debatable that some hackers engage a highly potent malware to steal personally identifiable information instead of accessing the account with a stolen password. However, most of these attempts demand action from the victim, by either clicking on a malicious link, or failing to update their antivirus.
When the rate at which individuals become victims of email hacking and identity theft is analyzed, it becomes obvious that this is a serious problem posing a constant threat and need urgent attention.
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