If you’ve ever fallen victim to an email hack, you’ll be familiar with that sense of dread the breach brings about. You’ll also know the unfortunate inconvenience of getting your account and security back in order (regaining access, checking your settings, updating your password, etc.).
It’s no walk in the park and can leave you wondering just how the hack happened in the first place.
So how does your email account get hacked?
We detail the most common causes below, and include advice for protecting yourself:
You fell for a phishing scam that asked you to “confirm” your password. These types of scam emails can be convincing. But you should never respond to any unexpected message that asks you to verify your password, account numbers, addresses, or any other information of this kind.
You didn’t log out of your account after using a public PC or device. Aside from getting into the habit of logging out each and every time you use a shared device, it’s wise to avoid using public PCs altogether (like the ones you find at internet cafes and libraries). There’s really no way to know whether these machines are infected with malware or have keylogging spyware installed on them, making them a big risk.
You used a weak, easy-to-guess password or have been using the same password across multiple sites. Make sure your passwords are both long and unique for all the various sites and services that you use. A good rule of thumb: make them at least 16 characters. To make them easy to remember, base them on a complex sentence, with the first letter of each word serving as a character in your password.
You didn’t use up-to-date security software on your PC. Without adequate protection, your PC can become infected with malware designed to steal your passwords – sneaking through in the form of dodgy downloads and suspicious email attachments. Download AVG Internet Security so you can rest easy, knowing that you’re protected from the latest online threats. (It’s a good idea to do the same for your Android™ mobile devices, too).
You used an unsecure Wi-Fi network where hackers were able to eavesdrop on your data and intercept your passwords. To avoid this, you should only ever connect to reputable networks that you trust and which are password protected. Or, use a VPN, like HMA!, to secure and encrypt your connection.
Your email address was harvested by spammers. This happens when you list your email address publicly online — in places like forums, online ads, blogs, etc. Just don’t do it. For the great majority of us, there is no reason to publish an email address on the internet.