One downside of living in a digital world is that our accounts are susceptible to many types of attacks. With bank accounts, social media accounts, and many more linking back to your email, it is no wonder why email accounts are often the biggest target for hackers. Once your email has been hacked, the hacker has access to your personal data. Email is often the gateway to accessing passwords and other accounts. If you find your email has been hacked, you should take the following precautions:
1. Change your password. This is the first step you must take to lock the hacker out of your account. While you’re changing your email password, you should also change the passwords to your financial institutions and any other accounts that use the same general password as your email account. It is important that you do not use the same password for any of your accounts. To learn more about creating an effective password, check out our blog: Passwords: Are You Doing it Right?
2. Add multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication means you need your password as well as a one-time code to log into an account. The code is randomly generated and sent to a trusted device (usually your phone). This may be more time consuming, but it adds protection to your personal information, which makes it worth the effort.
3. Change your security questions. If you have security questions associated with your email account, you should change them. When Yahoo had 500 million accounts hacked in 2014, both passwords and security questions/answers were stolen.
4. Let your email contacts know you’ve been hacked. There is a chance the hacker sent out an email on your behalf, so letting your contacts know about the breach as soon as possible is the best way to help protect them from the same attack.
5. Check your email settings. Hackers may set up auto-forwarding or auto-BCC so they can see every email you receive and send. Check your settings to ensure no unexpected email addresses have been added. Additionally, review your signature for spam links and check that your “reply to” email address is yours.
6. Scan your computer for malware and viruses. If you find malware or viruses on your computer, you should address these issues through your malware protection software (such as Windows Defender, Norton Security, McAfee, etc.).
7. Consider creating a new email address. If you have been hacked multiple times and are unable to resolve the issue, consider opening a new email address. However, you should not delete the old email account — many email providers will open your email address back up if cancelled, so a hacker could pick it up and try logging into your accounts that use that email address. Starting over with a new email address can be time consuming and labor intensive and is not always necessary, so you should consider your options to determine what is best for you.