Help! I think my email address has been hacked!
If you’re sure that your details have been stolen there are steps you can take to resolve the issue and take back control of your account. Likewise, if you are not, there are some useful websites you can use to tell you whether your email has been compromised.
How has this happened?
Hackers are finding new and intelligent ways to try to steal data which is why it is always important to remain vigilant. Fraudsters like to try to convince you that they are someone else, usually a legitimate company like a bank or supermarket to try and get you to hand over your details. These are called phishing attacks and are very common.
Similarly, hackers can use your online presence (social media, blogs) to gather as much information about you as possible. Attackers will then try to leverage this information to gain access into your email account. We would advise you to be careful about how much personal information you post online – you never know who is reading it.
Lastly, your account details may have been taken during a large scale cyber breach at an organization. If your details are registered with the company, there’s an unfortunate chance that they may have been taken along with other data.
How can I tell if my account has been hacked or not?
If you’re unsure that your email details have been taken, there are websites which consolidate the publicly available details from all major hacks and let you search to see if your email is among them. The most prominent is “haveibeenpwned.com”. This website will not only tell you whether your information has been stolen but also where the hack occurred and which of your details were compromised.
Another useful tip is to look out for any suspicious activity on your account. Are there items in your sent folder which you did not send? Has your password been changed without you knowing? Are friends and family receiving spam messages from you? These are all signs that a hacker may have access to your account.
How do I take back control?
If you believe your email account has been hacked – the first thing you need to do is change your account security details. This starts with your password. The major email providers will all have an option on their login page to click that you cannot access your account or you have forgotten your password. Through this link, choose a new password which is different and much stronger than the last (check out our guide on choosing a password here).
Once this has been changed, it is always best to alter your security questions and answers too. The hacker will be able to change your password back if they have seen these. We also advise that if your account has been compromised, contacting your email provider to notify them and ask for any specific security measures you can take related to them.