Spammers will use any number of methods to send out their spam, but the use of legitimate hacked emails is becoming increasingly more popular.
The average volume of spam has numbered in the billions for several years now, but there is a good side to it. Spam is actually decreases, this is because of the success major service providers and law enforcement has had at dismantling these methods utilised by hackers to send out spam.
Despite the success these organisations have had in cracking down on these channels, spammers have shifted focus from their usual phishing attack methods to one that involves acquiring as many compromised email accounts as possible and using them to send out the spam, and if you’re email has been hacked, then that could possibly be your account.
There are so many reasons why your computer may have been compromised, but the most common reasons are as follows:
- You’re computer doesn’t have sufficient internet security software installed on it.
- The password(s) you used for your email account(s) were weak.
- You mistakenly clicked on a phishing link, in an email sent to your email address.
- You downloaded a file, game, or application that was infected.
With that said, if your email account has been hacked, here are a number of steps that you might want to consider taking:
Gain Access to Your Email Account
The first thing you’ll want to do is asses the amount of damage that has been done. So go to website of your email provider and attempt to log into your account.
If the hacker has changed your password, then consider using the “Forgotten your password?” mechanism to acquire it.
Once you have successfully gained access to your email account, the first thing you should do is change the password. However, this time, make sure the password is long, using a series of letters, numbers and special characters. Try to stay away from using real words, as they can easily be guessed, using the appropriate brute attack software.
Check Your Systems Security
The vast majority of hackers acquire passwords by using malware, which they get onto your computer. No matter the operating system you are running, it’s very important that you have antivirus software running on it that is up-to-date. Make sure your internet security software is configured to automatically update itself. If you lack the funds to purchase security software, then you should consider downloading a free solution. There are quite a few of these around, many of which are highly proficient.
You should also ensure that your operating system is up-to-date with the most recent security patches, as this will help to minimise attacks, by removing known vulnerabilities.
Notify Your Contacts
People are far more likely to open an email from someone they know, even if the subject line is unusual, this is why hackers prefer to send spam from hacked email accounts. You can help to minimise the spread of malware by notifying all the contacts on your email account not to click on any emails, sent by you over period when you lost access to your email account.
Create a New Email Account
If you were unable to access your old email address, or you just don’t mind the idea of losing your old address, then it may be better for you to close that account and start a new one. Make sure, you use a more sophisticated password, when creating the new one, as this will decrease the chances of it being hacked. For future security purposes, it may also be a good idea for you to create an additional email account, one that you can use solely for purchases online.
No company or bank will ever ask you to authenticate any information directly from an email. If you receive an email, asking you to click on a link to verify your account details, do not click on it, instead manually type the URL into the address box and visit the website by yourself. If the email was legitimate, then you should be notified of the same situation on your account, once you log in.
Add Additional Security
In addition to your conventional passwords, there is also a two-factor authentication method that you can use.
This method is fairly simple to use. In addition to your usual password and username, you have an additional form of authentication, which will normally consist of a code, which is generated by your Smartphone or key creator. The user will thus, be required to enter this code whenever they want to log into your account.
This will make it virtually impossible for the hacker to get into your account, unless of course, they are able to get their hands on your phone also.
Banks have adopted this method for quite some time now, some of which utilise card readers which will generate a Pin, which you will be required to input before you can access your internet banking service. Most of the email providers out there should offer this two-step or two-factor authentication method for free, which is well worth activating.
AUTHOR INFO: Uchenna Ani-Okoye is a former IT Manager who now runs his own computer support website: http://www.compuchenna.co.uk