An email is almost a necessity today. We use it in various accounts and transactions online. However, it has also become an important piece of information that hackers try to steal.
If you suddenly can’t log in to your email, you receive random password reset requests, or your friends tell you they’re getting spam messages from you, your email is probably hacked.
What should you do?
In this article, we’ve gathered the best tips for securing your email if you suspect you’ve been hacked. Hackers get more creative as technology evolves, so it’s important to revisit your email security measures.
So keep reading and learn about the biggest vulnerability of email you must watch out for. Don’t miss out on extra helpful ways to protect your email so that you won’t put your inbox at risk of hacking.
Let’s dive in!
What must you do if your email is hacked?
Your email opens a gateway to your various financial and social accounts, which can compromise your identity and money. If you think you’ve been hacked, it’s crucial to act fast so you can prevent damage and secure your information.
Here are some important steps to follow:
1. Change your password immediately
Your password is the key to your accounts, so changing your password is one of the first steps to take if your email has been compromised.
You must ensure that you reset your password and set a new, stronger code that’s different from the old one. A strong password must be at least eight characters with letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer, the better.
If your password contains numbers only, it can take less than three months for the hackers to crack it. But if it contains more than eight mixed characters, it will take them eight hours on average.
If you use your email and old password as login details to other platforms like your social media accounts, hackers can easily get access to them too. So, you must change them quickly too.
This time, make sure that you don’t simply recycle your login details. It’s better to use unique passwords for each account and a password manager to store your codes.
2. Enable two-factor authentication
A two-factor authentication (2FA) makes it harder for hackers to get into your email. When 2FA is enabled, your email provider sends you a code or one-time pin via SMS to confirm that you’re logging into your email.
Since the hackers don’t have your phone, you can prevent unauthorized attempts to open your email or reset your password.
Now, it’s also important to keep your mobile phone physically safe. Without it, you won’t be able to log into your account yourself.
3. Run malware and virus scans
If your email has been hacked, there’s also a possibility that hackers have infected your device with malware or virus. You might notice a sluggish performance of your computer, installed apps you don’t recognize, or crashing windows.
You must scan your device for malware and virus to prevent further damage. If you’re using Windows, there’s a preinstalled Defender you can use. You can also try Malwarebytes for free for both Windows and macOS devices.
4. Reclaim your account
In unfortunate cases, the hackers may have locked you out of your email, so you won’t be able to open it and change your password.
Don’t worry; you might still be able to recover your account. Gmail, for instance, has instructions on how to secure a hacked or compromised Google account. Microsoft also has a guide you can follow.
You can check your email provider’s support page or contact customer service for further assistance to secure your email.
5. Inform the people you know
If the hacker has taken over your account, you should inform your friends and colleagues. It’s important to warn them against email spam and fraud messages from your account.
This way, they can watch out for scams and avoid getting their information compromised too.
6. Contact your credit providers
You can also ask your credit providers to monitor your account in the coming weeks or months for suspicious activities.
You should also watch out for calls and other messages from fraudsters. They may try to reach out to you to trick you into revealing more of your personal information before they try to use your credit cards or defraud your accounts.
How can you tell if someone has hacked into your email account?
If you use your email regularly, you can easily spot signs that you’ve been hacked. Here’s what could happen if a hacker has entered your email:
You can’t log into your account
If you can’t log into your email using your old password, there’s a good chance that the hacker has changed it to lock you out. Try to recover your account as fast as you can to regain control.
Your friends tell you they’re getting spam emails
Hackers may try to phish or scam your email contacts. If your friend asks you about a weird email or tells you that you’ve been hacked, you probably have.
Your device is slow to respond
You might notice that your computer is sluggish, slow to respond, flickering, or acting weird. Hackers may have installed malware or viruses on your computer after they’ve accessed your email.
These malware or viruses allow them to monitor your activities and steal information from your computer without you realizing it.
Your Sent folder has messages you didn’t send
Another telling sign that your email has been hacked is when you see random messages on your Sent folder that you didn’t send.
You receive password reset requests you didn’t make
If your email has been compromised, hackers can see which platforms you subscribe to, like social media. If you receive password reset requests for your Facebook or Twitter, or banking apps that you didn’t make, your email is probably hacked.
Spotting the warning signs can help you act fast to secure your account and prevent any further damage.
How can hackers exploit your email address?
Hackers can use your hacked email account to steal your identity, use your credit, and even ruin your reputation. We’ve heard several scary stories of identity theft, and the effects are unimaginable and long-lasting.
Here are some alarming ways hackers can exploit your email address:
1. Steal your identity
Your email is like your online. You use it to sign up for various accounts, including access to government platforms and financial sites.
If hackers get into your account, they can lock you out, sign you up on other platforms, use your online persona for fraudulent activities, and more.
If you have your Social Security number or tax information in your inbox, they can also use them to steal your identity and claim your benefits.
ID theft can happen to anyone. There’s an ID theft case every 22 seconds, and this ratio is expected to increase further in 2022.
2. Send phishing emails to your friends and family
Hackers can use your hacked email account to send phishing emails to your friends and family. Because they come from your email address and look legit, your friends and family won’t be suspicious.
If their guards are down, they can click on links, which can infect their devices and steal their information.
They may also be tricked into sending the hackers money, making them believe that you were in an accident, you have an illness, or are in deep debt and that you need their help.
3. Take over your social media and banking accounts
A compromised email can also give hackers access to your other accounts.
They can change your login details, use your social media accounts to ruin your reputation, and steal your money from your bank accounts.
4. Use your sensitive photos and videos to blackmail you
If you have sensitive information, including photos and videos, in your accounts, hackers may use them to blackmail you. They’ll ask for ransom with a promise that they won’t publish them.
But even when you pay them, you have no guarantee that they won’t exploit your sensitive information anymore. Since they already have access to them, they can threaten you for as long as they can.
5. Scam your company
Your hacked personal email can also give hackers access to your business email. They can scam your company or cause a data breach.
Not only can that harm your employer and colleagues, but it can also ruin your professional image.
What can you do to protect your email account from hackers and scammers?
While hackers are getting more sophisticated with their methods by the day, there are steps you can take to secure your email in the first place and to avoid getting hacked again.
Here are some tips:
1. Update your device’s software
You shouldn’t ignore software updates for your devices. Apple and Google roll out security updates and bug fixes from time to time for your mobile devices and computers.
Apps and antivirus software installed on your devices are also updated regularly. If you’re still using the old versions, hackers can exploit their security flaws.
2. Install security software
Security software from reputable companies can help secure your device and information. You may consider programs with built-in identity monitoring and protection features in addition to the usual antivirus and VPN.
3. Password-protect your devices
One of the ways hackers can gain access to your email is through your device. For instance, if you lose your mobile phone and your email is logged in, they can easily exploit it.
Adding strong passwords or biometrics to your device can make it hard for them to use your device.
4. Use a monitoring service
You can’t always be looking over your shoulder and worrying about people hacking your email all the time. So this is where a monitoring service can be helpful.
You’ll find a product that can help you keep an eye on your credit report, banking transactions, credit card purchases, and more. They will alert you of any suspicious activities, so you can act immediately.
If you have the budget, you can choose paid services like Aura, LifeLock, and IdentityForce. But there are also free monitoring services like Credit Sesame and Experian.
Your best line of defense is yourself. It’s important to be vigilant and careful with the information you share online and the links you click on emails from senders you don’t recognize. You must ensure that you follow the best security practices to keep your email safe from hackers and scammers.
Once a hacker gets hold of your email account, they can do tons of damage. So, it’s important to keep it safe in the first place.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are, you may still be vulnerable to hacking. The key is to act fast and know what to do to gain control of your account if it’s been hacked, especially changing your password.
Also, yourself is still your best line of defense against hacking, so it’s essential to practice safety measures in everything you do online and when you share information offline.