Email hacking is one of the very unfortunate downsides to living in our connected, digital world. And it’s often a situation that even the savviest tech experts find themselves in. It can happen to anyone.
But Why Should I Worry? I Have Nothing Valuable in My Email
If you have an identity and email address you are very valuable to a hacker. Even if you don’t have the Kardashian’s celebrity status or the Prime Minister’s influence, a hacker is still very keen to collect every piece of information they can about you.
Hackers want to get their hands on your data. Why? So, they can cash in. Some will keep the juicy stuff for themselves – passwords or logins to government departments or large companies they may want to ’target’. But the more sophisticated ones will sell your details including name, telephone, email address and credit card details and cash in on The Dark Web.
So, you can see why they’d be interested in you.
So, What Do I Do If My Email Is Hacked?
If you find yourself a victim of email hacking there are a few very important steps you need to take. But the key here is to act fast.
1. Change Your Password
The first thing to do to ensure the hacker can’t get back into your account. Your new password needs to be complex and unrelated to previous passwords. Try to use at least 8-10 characters with a variety of upper and lower case and throw in some symbols and numbers. Some people like the idea of a crazy, nonsensical sentence, which is easier to remember and harder to crack.
If you find the hacker has locked you out of your account by changing your password, you will need to rest the password to by clicking on the Forgot My Password link.
2. Let Your Email Contacts Know
A big part of the hacker’s strategy is to go after your address book with the aim of hooking others as well. Send a message to all your email contacts as soon as possible so they know to avoid opening any emails (most likely loaded with malware) that have come from you.
3. Change Your Security Question
If you have a security questions associated with your email account, please change this too. And please make it unpredictable. It is possible that this was how the hackers broke into your account in the first place. When Yahoo was hacked in 2014, not only were the passwords stolen but the security questions too. If you have a security question associated with your account, make up a response that makes no sense.
4. Multi Factor Authentication
Yes, multi-factor authentication adds another step to your login but it also adds another layer of protection. Enabling this will mean that in addition to your password, you will need a special one-time use code to login. This is usually sent to your mobile phone. It works so easy and it is effective.
5. Check Your Email Settings
It is not uncommon for hackers to modify your email settings so that a copy of every email you receive is automatically forwarded to them. Not only can they monitor your logins for other sites but they’ll keep a watchful eye over any particularly juicy personal information. Check your mail forwarding settings to ensure no unexpected email addresses have been added.
Don’t forget to check your email signature line to ensure nothing spammy has been added. And also ensure your ‘reply to’ email address is actually yours. Hackers have been known to create an email address here that looks similar to yours – when someone replies, it goes straight to their account, not yours.
6. Scan Your Computer for Malware and Viruses
This is essential. If you find anything, please ensure it is addressed and then change your email password again. And if you don’t have virus and malware checking software, you should. Comprehensive security software will provide you with a digital shield for your online life.
7. Change Any Other Accounts with the Same Password
It may be time consuming, but it is worth it. Ensure you change any other accounts that use the same username and password as your compromised email. The hackers love that many of us use the same logins for multiple accounts, so it is guaranteed they will try your info in other email applications.
8. Consider Creating a New Email Address
If you have been hacked several times and your email provider isn’t mitigating the amount of spam you are receiving, then consider starting afresh but don’t delete your email address. Experts warn against deleting email accounts as most email providers will recycle your old email address. This could mean a hacker could spam every site they can find with ‘forgot my password’ request and try to impersonate you – identity theft.
Your email is an important part of your online identity so being vigilant and addressing any fallout from hacking is essential for your digital reputation. And even though it may feel that ‘getting hacked’ is inevitable, you can definitely reduce your risk by installing some good quality security software on all your devices.
And finally, don’t forget that hackers love social media – particularly those of us who overshare on it. So, before you post details of your adorable new kitten, remember it may just provide the perfect clue for a hacker trying to guess your email password.