Having your email account hacked can be disheartening, but taking the right steps at the first sign of a hack can mitigate the damage and prevent most serious long-term consequences. Better yet, knowing the warning signs of a compromised account can help you take quick action to regain your security.
Warning Signs Your Email Account was Hacked:
- Concerned friends are asking you if you really meant to send that weird email. You know, the one with the link to a fishy website?
- You are suddenly locked out of your email account, and password resets aren’t going to your alternate accounts.
- You log in to your email account only to find that everything is different: settings, deleted messages, missing contacts, and more.
Here are some vital steps to take to recover from a hacked email account.
Email Account Hacked? 4 Things to Do Right Now
1) Change Your Password
The first and most important step in recovering from a hack is to regain control of your account, and the simplest way to do this is to change your password.
If you are locked out of your own account you may need to contact your email provider directly to have the password reset.
Password Pro Tips:
→ Make sure your new password is completely different than your old one
→ Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters
→ Avoid using actual words; use mnemonic triggers to build a strong password no one will be able to guess
If your email provider offers two-stage authentication, set that up as well. Two-stage authentication requires a secondary security code if you want to change your password. Since that code is sent directly to your smartphone, it is much harder for someone to breach your account.
2) Let Your Contacts Know
If your email has been hacked or otherwise compromised, the hacker could have sent messages to the people on your contact list. Contact friends, family members and others that email you frequently and let them know your account has been hacked. They can then take proactive measures to secure their own systems and prevent their own accounts from being hacked.
3) Check for Malware
A common culprit for account security breaches is malware. It is possible that computer has been compromised by viruses, key-loggers, or other malicious software that led to having your email account hacked.
A thorough scan of your system by a powerful antivirus program is in order. Be sure to check all devices attached to your home network, including desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets.
Make sure all devices are protected by antivirus software, and that the software is set to update automatically. Running a manual scan at least once a week can give you extra peace of mind and keep you protected.
4) Revisit Your Security Questions
Email providers use security questions to further secure their accounts, but choosing the wrong question and answer combinations could actually make you less safe. In fact, guessing security questions is one of the most common ways hackers gain control of email accounts.
If your security questions relate to information you have shared via social media, you could be at risk. If you proudly post a picture of your cat Fluffy and also use the name of your favorite pet as a security question, you might want to rethink that strategy.
Once your email account has been recovered and is newly secured, you can let your contacts know you’re now back in control of your account. Use best practices for creating secure accounts with the steps outlined above to avoid having your email account hacked again.
Bonus tip: If you are on the receiving end of a questionable email from someone on your contacts list – ask before you click! Check in with the alleged sender to confirm whether or not they meant to send you a link to purchase supplements or enter to win a prize, before finding out the hard way.
Need help creating a unique password? Check out our easy-to-follow guide: