How to fix Your Hacked Email Accounts
Nowadays cyber-security is advancing in leaps and bounds, and plenty of companies are waking up to the necessity of taking measures to ensure the safety of online information. Yet, in spite of all that hard work done by IT security professionals worldwide, data breaches still happen with alarming frequency and are more likely than ever to have an immediate and tangible effect on a user whose account has been compromised.
To give a sense of perspective - back in January 2019 a database dubbed "Collection #1" was published on a sharing service. It contained approximately 0.77 BILLION unique emails and 21 MILLION unique passwords. To be fair, the information in that base is alleged to be 2-3 years old, but a disturbingly high number of those compromised emails and passwords are still in use – and online security experts claim that this is just the tip of the iceberg, as the outfit behind the leak is claimed to possess six more databases of similar nature, totaling “almost 1 Terabyte of stolen and hacked passwords.” Imagine how many passwords of regular users were, or could at any time be, compromised by the release of this information – and that’s just the reach of just a single well-organized hacker outfit!
With this in mind, it is not too difficult to imagine that you may, conceivably, one day, have your email account compromised. That may well happen through no fault of your own, and if it happens, it is certainly going to inconvenience you at best and do some serious damage to you at worst. However, if you should find yourself in that unenviable situation – there are steps that you can take to make sure that you minimize the potential harm that you may suffer as a result of it.
What to do if Your Email has Been Compromised
- Immediately change passwords on all your emails. This includes, but is not limited to, the password of your compromised email, software logins, and online accounts – all of it. Do not skip even a single one. It is doubly crucial that you do so if you have made the mistake of re-using one password or another – especially if that password happens to be the compromised one. Nowadays, most accounts are interlinked – for instance, if you wish to request a password swap on one of them, you will likely receive the new password on another one. This is why even if the crooks did manage to get one foot in the door, it is crucial that you deny them further access to all your data from that point onwards.
- Review the content of the email that is breached. Doing so may prove to be a lot of work, but this can’t be stressed enough. Make sure you know exactly what the crooks that did the deed could have gotten their hands on. It may be as innocuous as friendly banter and discussions about orphaned kittens, or as serious as your home address, mortgage papers, social security numbers, confirmation emails containing the current passwords of one of your other important accounts. It is important that you take steps to figure out what information the crooks may have gotten their hands on.
- Take quick and decisive measures to prevent any information that was contained in the compromised email from coming back to bite you. If the said account was linked to any other of your accounts – sever those links. Make another account and link all relevant secondary accounts to it. Make a careful review of all the documents that the crooks may currently have access to. What could the personal details in these documents be used for? Consider how you yourself could have used that information, and how it could potentially be used to your detriment. Contact all relevant entities who have been in touch with you through this account, regardless of whether they are private citizens, companies or public institutions, and proceed to specifically ask them for steps you can take to maintain your safety and theirs in this regard.
- Check your email settings. Make certain that the sending name and reply-to address for your email are correct. Check the filters of your account for unknown filters – disable any that you did not yourself put in place, as they can be used to tamper with your online security. A scammer could have changed these values to redirect your email. Additionally - check your signature. A spammer could have inserted phishing or otherwise contaminated links into said signature. Check your outbox for any emails that you don’t remember sending out, as well as the bin and spam folder for suspicious activity. Lastly, carefully review your contacts and make sure to get rid of any that you can't account for.