Email: What to Do if Your Email Has Been Hacked

No discussion of email would be complete without addressing the issue of hacking. This is when someone takes unauthorized control of your internet based account and starts doing unlawful things with it. Usually they send emails in your name. Sometimes those emails ask the recipients to click a link taking them to a website and enter information that allows the hacker to take control of your account.  They can get information that will allow them to go as far as sending similar emails to your contacts, identity theft or sending a virus that will shut down your computer. So beware.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN HACKED

1. Make sure your security/anti-virus software is up to date.

2. Recover your account. Go to your account and try to log in. You will most certainly need to change your password because the hacker has changed it. You can do this by using the “Forgot My Password” feature and it will help you change your password.

3. Change all, and I do mean all, of the information that is associated with logging into your account. Your password, your security questions, your pin number if you have one. Changing your security questions, especially, will prevent the hacker from taking control of your account again.

4. Check your “Sent” box. This will allow you to see any mail that the hacker has sent to your contacts or anything that is unfamiliar. Delete those emails immediately.

5. Send an email to all of your contacts letting them know your email was hacked. If they see any strange emails from you not to open them and, most certainly, do not click any links in the email. Not only will this alert your contacts to the fact that your email has been hacked but it will alert the hacker that you’re on to them.

6. This final step is not necessary and it may be hard to find a way to do it but report that your account was hacked to the email or social networking platform you are using. This will allow them to investigate and perhaps prevent it from happening again.

PREVENTING HACKING
There are several steps you can take to prevent your account from being hacked.  You should make this part of your daily business practice of making art.

1. This one should be a no brainer but don’t ever, ever share your password with anyone and I do mean anyone. Even a trusted best friend or a family member. Yes you can trust them in just about anything but do you trust them to know exactly what to do with the information. Don’t take that chance.

2. Be on the lookout for Phishing attempts. No reputable company would ask you to change your password in an email. Not even a financial institution, an email company, a social networking company. They have built in ways of asking you to do that right on their websites. Do not even open suspicious emails, especially if they have an attachment – they could be SPAM.  If they contain a virus it will open up automatically and “infect” your computer.  Even if there is not an attachment there could be a virus.  Spammers who use commercial email services can see who opened their emails and what action they took – if any.

3. Keep anti-virus software up to date always. Hackers are discovering new ways to get in all the time. Anti-virus software companies are constantly on the lookout and finding new ways to prevent them just as fast.

4. Take extra precaution when using public computers – in a library or a cafe. Hackers can store something called Malware (which stands for Malicious Software) in public computers. This will allow them to capture all of your information. Please, please, please do not ever do any banking or financial work on a public computer or a computer that doesn’t belong to you. It is a sure fire way for someone suspicious to conduct identity theft.

5. If you are using your own laptop in a WiFi Hotspot – especially one that is not password protected – be cautious. Hackers can get into your computer through WiFi. I’ve even heard of cases where hackers drive around neighborhoods in cars looking for WiFi spots that aren’t password protected. If you are using a wireless modem make sure that it is password protected. Most modems are now coming with built in passwords so it’s not as much of an issue.

6. Never click on ads in search engines – especially if they say one thing and the domain address/URL says another. For Example: if you see an ad for Target, check the URL. If it doesn’t begin with http://www.target.com you know it’s not an official Target website.

7. Always sign out of your accounts, especially when you are in a public space. If you are doing financial work – like going on your bank’s website – don’t just log out of the account – quite the browser. Some people advise shutting down the entire computer but I’m not 100% sure of this. Again, please keep your financial work at home. Don’t go on your bank’s website in a public space.

CREATING STRONG PASSWORDS

1. Use 10 characters or more. 16 characters is ideal.

2. Do not use information that is close to you. Such as the name of a relative, pet, the year or city you live in. Use something that is not easy to guess.

3. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation. For example: iLWoprqba@9548.

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Firewalls
Most computers come with a Firewall built in and/or it comes with anti-virus software. It’s a computer based program that protects your PC. It automatically monitors incoming and outgoing traffic to your computer as a virus preventative. It also prevents hackers or other people from seeing what you’re doing.  This is based on a set of precepts set either automatically by the software or by you.

Anti-Virus Software
This is software that you will have to purchase but it’s well worth the investment and it’s well worth it to take the time to update it when it asks you to. It repeatedly scans your computer for viruses and removes them when it’s detected. It will also prevent them from coming into your computer. The two best anti-virus software programs are McAfee and Norton Internet Security or Norton 360. Some Anti-Virus software will come with a Firewall for extra protection.

FROM THE HACKER’S PERSPECTIVE
Why would someone want to hack your email or your account?  What is the motivation behind it? The most common answer is simply for sport – to get a cheap thrill. It can also be for unlawful reasons – such as accessing bank accounts, identity theft or information gathering.  Hackers are usually sophisticated software programmers.  You can receive a legitimate looking email from a hacker.  It will come from a trusted email service provider or a company.  It may even have the logo and usual format from the company. Such as clothing1@target.com or info@paypal.com

Hackers usually send out a huge broadcast of emails, so they’re not just targeting you. They are looking for anyone who is uniformed enough to open the email and take action. Even just opening the email could cause a problem – a virus could open automatically onto your computer and do one of several things.

MALWARE/VIRUSES
The technical name for a virus is Malware (short for Malicious Software).  It is a general term for hostile or intrusive software.  In addition to the internet or email this can come from being in a Wifi Hotspot or a public computer.  The types of Malware that you may come across include: Worms, Trojan Horses, Ransomware, Spyware, Adware and Scareware.  Here are descriptions of the different types of Malware.

Worms
Software that spreads across a network of computers – without attaching itself to software or an email or an in company message.  It replicates automatically again and again and again.  This has been known to shut down entire companies or even sections of government.  Chances are that you are only on a network of one computer – yours – so you won’t have to worry too much about this one.

Trojan Horses
These are similar to Computer Worms but they don’t self replicate. Typically they are used to cause theft or loss of data and could possibly cause harm to your computer.

Ransomware
Malware that restricts access to the computer that it infects and demands a ransom to be paid to the creator in order for the restriction to be removed.  Some forms of Ransomware simply lock the system and display’s messages intended to coax the user into paying to get the computer working again.

Adware
This is exactly why you should avoid click ads on Search Engines.  It’s advertising supported software that will generate ads in your name.  When you click that ad in the Search Engine the hacker will gain access to your computer.  It will also generate revenue for the hacker.

Scareware
A virus that produces frivolous and alarming warnings and threat notices. They are most certainly fictitious or a useless Firewall or computer registry cleaner. It will also try to increase it’s perceived value by bombarding the user with constant warning messages.

I hope that by telling you about the different kinds of viruses it will send the message home that protecting your computer is key to your success and can save you thousands of dollars.  Sometimes computer stores will charge a ton of money just to recover files.  This is also why you should never leave anything on your computer’s hard drive.  Always use a Flash Drive/Memory Stick.

SOCIAL MEDIA HACKING
One more tip to prevent hacking on your Social Networking accounts.  Be a warm contact always.  This is good not just to prevent hacking but for your business.  A warm contact is someone that clicks like, comments and posts.  In other words, is active. Hackers are looking for cold contacts.  These are accounts that were set up and never touched again.  The hacker will take the same actions that they do on email with the exception that they may tag your contacts in photos you didn’t post, or post something on your timeline.

If you do find a friend who has been hacked inform them immediately and then unfriend them.  The hacker can access your account through them.  As soon as the person resolves the issue you can get back in touch with them.

If your Social Networking account has been hacked follow the same steps as you would to recover an email account.

Hopefully none of this will ever happen to you and if you take the precautions I’ve mentioned going forward it won’t.  I can tell you that my computers have never been hacked and I’ve been working on computers – mostly Macs – for over 20 years.  Besides the fact that hackers don’t seem to be interested in hacking Macs there are great preventions built in.  PC’s are also prevalent in offices, companies and government offices.  Hackers will get far more results with a PC. Therefore, if you own a PC please constantly update your anti-virus software and get total control over your Firewall.

If you take just one thing away from this post, it is to be vigilant and to always be on the look out.  Make preventing viruses and hacking a daily business practice of making art.

 

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