A comprehensive guide into email hacking and what you can do to protect yourself
1 in every 131 emails contains malware; the epidemic of email hacking is so invasive that even email service providers and their intelligent algorithms cannot bar completely.
Another report—Verizon’s Investigative Report—notes that 30% of all phishing emails in the United States are opened. Moreover, 12% of the victims clicked on the links or attachments containing the malware.
Bear in mind that it does not matter your position or how tech savvy you may be; anyone is susceptible to email hacking. In 2017, hackers hacked the emails of the French president, Emmanuel Macron. They went ahead and posted 9GB worth of data from his account to Pastebin.
Such statistics raise the question, what should you do about email hacking? Let’s start with understanding the key ways cybercriminals use to hack emails.
Ways your email account can get hacked
- Using weak easy to guess passwords or using a single password across multiple sites
Hackers tend to have a very easy time guessing a weak password. They use a method known as brute forcing where they keep on submitting password after another until the land on the right password.
Often the hacker will first snoop on you through social media to get an idea of who you are, what you like and any other personal information available. From there, it becomes easy to guess phrases you might have used as a password.
Moreover, countless software exists on the market for the sole purpose of cracking passwords. Brutus, for example, or RainbowCrack.
- Phishing attacks
Phishing hacks via email involve sending a malicious link to your email address. Once you click on the link, it will send you to a website controlled by the hacker which will then prompt you to enter personal details such as user name, password, banking details, etc.
Often, the link seems legitimate, for example, a link from your bank or from an online money transfer system such as PayPal asking you to update your details or confirm a payment. The link will even lead you to a website that seems legitimate but is not.
Once you enter the personal details, the hackers have everything they need to access your real account. Phishing is so prevalent that in 2018, 78% of businesses were victims of phishing attacks.
- Use of security software that is not up to date
Another way hackers gain access to your email account is sending malware or virus whose sole aim is to steal passwords. The malware often sneaks in through questionable downloads or email attachments.
An up to date antivirus or security software will often catch the malware, but if the security software is out of date, then the malware will steal everything it intends.
- Using an unsecured Wi-Fi network
When using an unsecured Wi-Fi network, a hacker can eavesdrop on your data or intercept passwords. Once they get the password, they can easily access your email account
So, now that you understand the key ways hackers gain access to your email account, how do you protect yourself from email hacking?
For one, you need to use complex and unique passwords. Note that with regards to complex passwords, it is not just about using a long phrase such as “bestBBteamLosAngelesLakers.” Though the mentioned password looks complicated, it is rather easy to guess if someone knows your likes.
A unique password is random, it contains a mixture of numbers, characters, and special characters and it is at least 16 characters. Moreover, ensure you use a different password for all your email accounts.
Second, avoid opening attachments and links without verification. With regards to links, it is always advisable to copy the link address and open it in a new tab. That way you can scrutinize the address to determine if it is legit. Regarding attachments, if in doubt, you’d rather not open them.
Third, use a VPN to when using unsecured and public Wi-Fi. A VPN encrypts your communication which means any eavesdropper or hacker looking to intercept a password is locked out.
Fourth, use multi-factor authentication or find an email service that uses multi-factor authentication. Gmail is an example of a service that uses two-factor authentication. When logging in to your Gmail account via a new device, Gmail sends a one-time code to your phone for verification.
Finally, use TLS—a cryptographic protocol that encrypts communication over a network. The protocol provides end to end security.
Adhering to the above guidelines plays an essential role in ensuring your email accounts remain safe and that hackers will find it very hard to hack your email.
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on topics such as whistleblowing and cybersecurity tools.
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