The average user is unaware of how hackers are able to infiltrate computers and networks. If most people knew how easy it was for their email accounts to be broken into, they would use best email security practices, such as creating strong and unique passwords, changing them regularly, and implementing more proactive cloud email security protection. At a minimum, you should be aware of the damage that can be done after a hacker gains access to your email. Once hackers know your email address, they can access more information about you. This article will discuss some of the things they can do once they’ve hacked into your account and how to stay safe.
You’ve Been Hacked, What Happens Next?
Whether your email password has been stolen or you are the victim of identity theft, it’s essential that you act quickly. Here are some helpful tips to consider after being hacked:
Access Your Contacts
Most hackers begin by scamming your contact list. After gaining access to your email account, they also gain access to your digital address book. Once a hacker has your email address, personal and financial information, as well as friends, family, and other contacts could be at risk. If you’ve ever received a strange email from someone you trust requesting you open a link or send money, chances are their account was hacked.
Sending Mass Phishing Scams
After a hacker finishes targeting your contacts, they will move on to larger email scams. They will use your email address to send out a mass email to unknown recipients. Phishing scams have the same goal, to trick recipients into opening a spam link, downloading a malicious file, or sending information or money.
Hack Other Devices and Programs
Most people put all their eggs in one basket. Hackers can infiltrate other devices and accounts if they gain access to your email. Your email can be used to reset other account passwords, gain access to credit information, or even delete accounts, such as social media profiles.
Steal Your Identity
If your account doesn’t contain sensitive business information, a hacker can instead settle for stealing your identity. Your inbox could contain sensitive information such as bank documents or employment records, which might also include pieces of information needed to commit identity theft, such as your social security number and credit card number.
How To Stay Safe Online
The first thing you should do if you believe your email account has been compromised is try to change your password. There is a possibility the hacker hasn’t considered changing it yet, allowing you time to come up with a strong and unique password effectively forcing the attacker out of your account.
In the event that the hacker has already beaten you to this step, the next step should be to directly reset the password through your email provider. They will typically request previous login information or proof of your identity to reinstate your account. Once back into your account and changing your password, consider implementing two-factor authentication so that even if a hacker figures out your password again, they’ll be missing the second piece of information. An example of this would be a one-time code sent to your mobile device.
A VPN extends a private network across one that is public and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks. Apart from your email, hackers may also want to access your Wi-Fi network. Cybercriminals can hack into home routers and force entry to internet-connected devices like home security systems and smart doorbells. Make sure your home system has a strong and unique password and consider cybersecurity software that notifies you when someone gains unauthorized access. A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to ensure your internet connection is secure.
Data breaches are common occurrences, but unfortunately, there is no way to predict when they will occur or what will be affected. Because of this businesses should consider using dark web monitoring. Cybercriminals are constantly collecting and selling data on the dark web, but few of us have the skill set to determine if our data has been compromised. Allowing a dark web monitoring service will notify you if your stolen credentials have made it onto the dark web. These alerts will help you to pinpoint where the breach happened, as well as what information was stolen so you can determine the next steps.
Another approach is to create separate email addresses. You might consider an account used specifically for newsletters, subscriptions, or online shopping. This will help to keep your primary email address from clutter as well as reduce the impact if you’re the victim of a data breach. Having sensitive or financial information tied to your primary account will make it more difficult for hackers to figure out those other accounts with your throwaway email address.
Next Steps To Protect Your Email Account
Protecting your email account is more important than ever as it is one of the puzzle pieces making up your online identity. Other important pieces include your online banking information, shopping lists, and personal data, which can all be used against you. Using best cybersecurity practices can help drastically reduce the risk of your account being compromised and resulting in further scams of your colleagues, friends, and family. Remember to think before opening links or attachments, verify requests for private information, protect your passwords, and backup important files regularly.
More About Author
Justice is an ambitious, goal-oriented Communications Manager and content creator for Guardian Digital, where he writes about topics including email security, data encryption, and how to protect businesses from email and phishing attacks. Justice earned a BA in Communications with a concentration in Journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey.