Email Hacking

By now, most of us will know of a friend or family member who has had their email account hacked.

It’s happening more and more frequently. I sincerely hope it hasn’t happened to you.

So what is email hacking?
Simply, it is where an unauthorised person gains access to your email account.
When they have access, they can send emails which appear to come from you. Typically these are “begging” emails that go to all your email contacts, trying to trick them into parting with money. And since these emails appear to come from you, many of your family and friends will take them very seriously.

Also, with access to your email account, a hacker can 

  • Change your account password: so you cannot access your own emails! Enormously frustrating.
  • Steal sensitive information: Financial data, login credentials, and personal details are all at risk.
  • Send spam or malware: Your hacked account can be used to spread malicious content to your contacts.
  • Damage your reputation: Hackers might impersonate you to send damaging emails to your contacts.
  • Launch further attacks: Access to your email can be a stepping stone to hacking other accounts.

If you do get hacked, what should you do?

  • Change your password – to a very strong one.

The first step: take back control of your hacked email account. If the hacker has locked you out, you may have to contact your email service provider for help. You will probably have to provide an array of information to prove your identity (because they need to be sure you aren’t another hacker) and regain control of your email.

Secure passwords or passphrases should contain at least 12 characters, including numbers, symbols and a mix of capital and lowercase letters.

  • Tell all your contacts

Tell the colleagues, friends, and family in your email contact list that your email has been hacked. Warn them to delete any suspicious messages that come from your account, and not click on any links in them. It can be embarrassing to let your contacts know you’ve been hacked, but the warning may save them from falling for a scam.

  • Ask your email provider how to make your account more secure.

Different email providers will have different ways of dealing with this, so you should speak to yours.

  • Make sure your virus checker is up-to-date.

Run a check to make sure your computer hasn’t been infected.

How do hackers get access to your email account?

Hackers can achieve this through various methods, including:

  • Phishing: (hackers go fishing for your information) Deceptive emails designed to trick you into revealing your login credentials or clicking malicious links that install malware.
  • Weak Passwords: Passwords that are easy to guess or reused across multiple accounts make you an easy target.
  • Malware: Malicious software that can steal your login information or track your keystrokes.
  • Unsecured Wi-Fi: Using public Wi-Fi without a Virtual Private Network (VPN) exposes your data to potential snooping. A VPN secures your communications.

Remember, these people are out to steal and to make money, and they can afford to spend money to make money.

Protecting Yourself from Email Hacking.

Here are some essential steps to safeguard your email from hacking:

  • Use strong, unique passwords: Avoid using birthdays or dictionary words. Consider a password manager to generate and store complex passwords. Hackers don’t simply try to guess your passwords. They use computer programs to do it for them. These programs can make huge numbers of “guesses” in a short time. They use lists of commonly used passwords; lists of words that people often use in passwords and so on. There are many websites that you can use to test the strength of your passwords.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA): This adds an extra layer of security by requiring a code from your phone or another device to log in. It might sound complicated but it isn’t and it’s a great protection method.
  • Beware of phishing scams: Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments. Be wary of emails urging immediate action or those from unknown senders. I recently had one pretending to be from Royal Mail saying they could not deliver a parcel because they did not have the address. Clicking a link shows a page where they start to collect information!

As an aside, you may already get phone calls from scammers pretending to be from your bank or some other important institution. They can manipulate phone systems to show the name of a bank on the phone screen even though they are not phoning from the bank. So please be aware and take care.  You can just put the phone down if you are not 100% sure who the caller is.

  • Keep your software updated: Security updates often patch vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
  • Be cautious on public Wi-Fi: Avoid accessing sensitive information on unsecured networks. Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for added protection. I frequently use a VPN when I am on a public network, especially when travelling. If you want more information on this, please let me know, using the email address below.
  • Report suspicious activity: If you suspect your account has been hacked, report it immediately to your email provider and change your password.

By following these tips, you can significantly reduce your risk of email hacking and keep your email communication safe. You can take more steps to protect your computer and yourself.

Remember: Email security is an ongoing process. Stay vigilant and informed about the latest hacking tactics to stay ahead of the curve.

If you want to contact me about anything in this article, please email me at This is not my everyday email address. It is one I use specifically for u3a matters. So should this one ever get hacked, my main email account is safe. Showing this address in this article may be inviting trouble, but I use 2FA, very strong passwords and a VPN, to remain as safe as I reasonably can, so I’m willing to take the risk for you.

David Hyndman
Bude & North Cornwall U3A Website Manager