How Can You Prevent Email Hacking and Recover a Hacked Email?

Image of a person wearing a hoodie holding on to an illuminated transparent tab that says "Account Hacked."
Recover your hacked emails!

Cybercriminals always come up with innovative ways to make money, and email hacking is one of them. Essentially, criminals hack into your email and send fraudulent messages posing as you. Then, the email recipients believe you’re asking them to do a particular act. As a result, they may click on a phishing link or send money to the criminal’s account. 

Undoubtedly, email hacking is dangerous as it puts your friends and family at risk of getting scammed. In this article, I’ll discuss different ways in which a cybercriminal can hack into your email, and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

How Does Email Hacking Happen? 

Your email account is your passport to the online world, and cybercriminals understand this well. This is why they use different methods to hack into your email. It’s important to understand these security loopholes to effectively protect your account. So without further ado, let’s see how a cybercriminal can perform an email hacking attack: 

Phishing Scams

Phishing is a strategy where cybercriminals send fraudulent emails. In a phishing email, the attacker claims to be a legitimate institution or individual. Due to your inherent trust in the sender, you’ll do what the sender asks. That includes clicking on a link, sharing account details, or other actions. As a result, you enable the cybercriminal to take over your email.

Data Breaches

Data breaches are another common way to hack emails. In this strategy, cybercriminals tend to hack databases to access all records. From these records, the cybercriminals can find your usernames and passwords. After that, these credentials help cybercriminals send spoof emails posing as you. 

Public PC or Device

Often, you may use public devices, say in the local library or tech store, and forget to log out. Cybercriminals use this opportunity to access your account. They’ll simply open your account, change your passwords, and start using your email to their advantage. 

Unsecured Public Wi-Fi Networks

Just like a public device, cybercriminals also can access your information when you check your emails on an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. Typically, they use a cyberattack called the Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack to access your email credentials. After that, they’ll take over your email account and use it for malicious purposes.

Weak or Easy-to-Guess Passwords

Do you know that “123456789” and “qwerty” are the most common passwords in the world? Sure, these passwords are easy to remember. But they’re also very easy to guess. This also gives cybercriminals a golden opportunity to hack into your email accounts. 

Out-of-Date Antivirus Software

You may be using antivirus software that isn’t up-to-date. Even worse, you may not be using security software at all! In these cases, you’re creating an easy path for cybercriminals to download trojans and malware into your system. In turn, the downloaded malicious software can monitor your activity based on your keystrokes. And this can lead to an email hack. 

To sum up, the above includes some common ways for cybercriminals to hack into your email. Once successful, they can gather all the personal and sensitive information that flows through your inbox. But how can you tell if you’ve fallen victim to email hacking? Let’s find out. 

How to Detect a Hacked Email Account 

Most times, the victim doesn’t even know that their email has been hacked. This means they’ll continue to use it normally. However, cybercriminals will be watching all information going to and from this hacked email account. And they’ll be waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack you or your contacts. This is why you must watch out for signs that indicate an email hack. To help you, I’ll show you some of these signs. You should suspect a hacked email if: 

  • One of your contacts asks, “Did this email really come from you?” 
  • You can’t sign into your account.
  • You see strange emails in your sent folder.
  • You’re receiving several unsolicited password reset emails.
  • Your social media and other platforms show weird messages or posts
  • Your emails are slow loading.

In general, if you notice anything unusual about your email, check your preferences and settings. You should also examine your sent folder. Then, warn your contacts through phone or IMs. Besides that, here are more things you can do if your email is indeed hacked. 

What to Do if Your Email Was Hacked

In today’s world, emails are your key to a ton of digital services and hence. So it’s natural to panic if you’re a victim of email hacking. But you should take deep breaths and begin damage control. Here are some things you can do, in no particular order, to contain the damage: 

  • Update your antivirus program and run it to remove any malware.
  • Change the password of all services linked to your email.
  • Contact online services connected to your email and let them know about your email hack.
  • Notify your friends and relatives. 
  • Change your security questions.
  • Report the hack to your local cybercrime wing.
  • Create a new email account and start using it.
  • Tell the credit agencies about your hack.
  • Use the email provider’s recovery service to migrate your important emails.
  • Consider other online protection options to prevent such attacks in the future.

However, you should also note that email hacks are irreversible. This is why I recommend you take preventive measures to safeguard your emails. So let’s take a look at some of these measures.

5 Measures to Prevent Email Hacking

Image of a hand preventing the email from opening.
Stop the email hack.

Protecting your email from cybercriminals isn’t easy,but it is necessary for you to keep your confidential information safe. You also have a moral responsibility to protect your contacts from the consequences of your email being compromised. So, here are 5 measures you can take to prevent email hacking: 

1. Enable MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) adds an extra security layer to your email. Many email providers also allow you to add a phone number to your account. This way, you can receive a code by SMS to confirm a password change. MFA also sends you notifications when your email is accessed from a new location. This way, you’ll know when someone is accessing your email.

2. Generate a Strong Password

Use a strong password, so it’s difficult for cybercriminals to guess it. Ideally, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters. Additionally, incorporate numbers and special characters. Don’t use obvious passwords like your name or date of birth, as they’re also easy to guess.

3. Use Antivirus

You must use top-notch antivirus software. This will block malware, trojans, and viruses from infecting your system. Likewise, update your operating system and applications with the latest patches. In turn, you can avoid security vulnerabilities.

4. Set up Credit Monitoring

Make sure to set up credit monitoring on your bank accounts. This will let you know about any suspicious activities. You’ll also protect your credit score from these activities. 

5. Report the Crime

Email hacking is a serious cybercrime, so you must report these to the relevant authorities. You also can gain immunity from malicious credit card/bank transactions when you report them. This means you aren’t liable for malicious activity coming from your accounts.

Other than the above measures, invest in specialized email security software to protect your email and the sensitive information it contains. Not sure where to start looking? I’ve compiled a list of the top 3 email security software vendors. 

Top 3 Email Security Software

A good email security software offers multi-layered protection to your emails. It also prevents phishing and other email-borne vectors from reaching your inbox. Further, it automatically identifies the latest threats and protects your email from them. 

Take a look at these 3 email security software providers

1. GFI MailEssentials 

GFI MailEssentials is a comprehensive email security solution with 14 anti-spam filters, four antivirus filters, and an advanced anti-malware scanner. Together, they block malicious content before it reaches your inbox. Needless to say, it greatly reduces phishing and malware attacks. Also, its advanced spam filters reduce the clutter in your inbox. As a result, you’ll avoid wasting bandwidth and space. 

What’s more, it’s compatible with all email servers and provides complete control and visibility to IT admins. Its reporting features are conducive for auditing and compliance as well. In all, GFI MailEssentials is a cost-effective and comprehensive solution for your email security.

2. Gartner’s Proofpoint

Proofpoint is a complete email security solution. It works using malware lists to protect you against targeted attacks. Proofpoint also has email security and protection threat response auto pull (TRAP) to assess emails before they reach you.

Additionally, Proofpoint understands that the user is often the weak link in security. To combat this threat, it offers security awareness training. The Proofpoint solution also has email fraud defense, a cloud app security broker, and web security. This offers users complete protection against email data, payloads, and human errors. 

However, Proofpoint isn’t an all-in-one security solution. This means you’ll need to add more security solutions to your system. But you can’t know how compatible your combination will be.  

3. Mimecast Gateway and Express

Mimecast offers two versions of its email security solution: Gateway and Express. Both are driven by AI cloud-based email security tools. Mimecast also has 20 years of experience in the business of security solutions

This offering conducts all scanning and threat management in the cloud. AI also speeds up the scanning process, making Mimecast the fastest email security solution. 

However, as with all AI-based solutions, Mimecast isn’t error-free. You’ll also have to trust this third-party to relay your emails. This may compromise your emails if the third-party ever falls under attack. 

Before we end, here’s a quick recap.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, email hacks are a serious cybercrime that puts you and your contacts at risk of losing data and money. Hence, you must take the necessary steps to mitigate the damage after an attack. An even better idea is to beef up your email security to proactively prevent email hacking. In this article, I showed you all the steps you can take if you suspect your email has been hacked. I also showed you the top security software you can use to amp up your email security. 

Do you have more questions about email hacking? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below!

FAQ

Should I delete my email after it’s hacked?

No, don’t delete your email, even after it’s been hacked. This is because most email providers will recycle old and deleted email addresses. If you’re concerned, stop using your email for sending or receiving messages, but don’t delete it. 

How to know who hacked my email?

It’s almost impossible to identify the person or group that hacked your email address. Many experts even believe that most attackers hide behind bots. As a result, it’s useless to look for the perpetrators. Instead, aim to mitigate the damage from your email hack and take steps to secure it better. 

What can cybercriminals do with my email?

Cybercriminals tend to hack your email account to get personal and confidential information. Then, they’ll sell this information on the dark web. But cybercriminals also can use your email to send fraudulent emails to your contacts. In some cases, your email can be held for ransom too.

Can I continue to use the same email address after it’s hacked?

Yes, as you can still access your emails and send and receive messages using the same email address. However, you should know that your email is compromised. This means your messages aren’t private anymore. Further, you’re also risking your recipients’ welfare by continuing to use the same email address. 

To whom should I report an email hack?

If you live in the United States, report the email hack to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC. In other countries, look for the local cybercrime reporting number and make a complaint through it. Regardless of where you live, you must file a complaint. This way, you protect yourself against financial and reputational loss. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on Email Security and Compliance

Learn more about email security and compliance.

TechGenix: Article on Protecting your Business from Email Spoofing

Educate yourself on protecting your business from email spoofing.

TechGenix: Article on Email Security Best Practices

Know some of the best email security and practices.

TechGenix: Article on Secure Email Gateway

Understand all about secure email gateways.

TechGenix: Article on the Importance of Email Security

Learn more about the importance of email security.

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