Whether it’s a personal email or a business account, getting your email hacked is a scary possibility. Hackers can quickly gain access to anything you’ve sent – like passwords, account numbers, or bank information – plus, they could use your account to send viruses to other computers, and then hack them.
In this three-part series, we discuss how to determine if you’ve been hacked, how to report the hackers and get them out of your accounts, and finally, how to protect against them in the future.
To start, how do you know if your email has been hacked? A first hint is if someone in your contacts informs you that they received a strange email from you. Ask them to send you a photo of it. If you don’t recognize it, you’ve been hacked.
Let’s do some detective work. Has your password been changed but you don’t remember doing it? That’s a problem. The first thing a hacker typically does is change your passwords and change the contact email so you can’t get back into your account.
Open your email app and look over your messages. Pay attention to the read/unread status to see if any messages have been read that you don’t remember reading. Look in the sent folder to see if there’s anything you did not sent. Deleted emails can also give you clues. Also look to see if there are any password reset request emails for different websites that you don’t remember sending. The hacker could be trying to get into your other accounts.
If you have any other unexpected emails from your bank or other official business, it may be a hacker attempting to get you to reveal more information about yourself. Call your bank and ask about the message before responding.
You can also check the recent activity of your account (if you have a service including Yahoo!, Google, or Microsoft). They will have a record of who has been accessing your email, including date, user’s operating system, mobile device type, and the Internet Protocol (IP) address. If you’re seeing unrecognizable information on there, that could be evidence of outside hacking.
A third-party website can also do a final check to see if your email has been compromised. Have I Been Pwned? will inform you (for free) if your email has ended up in a database from a data breach. Don’t get too alarmed right away, however. Look at the dates –it could be reporting an old breach for which you’ve already changed your password.
If you’re not seeing any suspicious information on these sites, though you still believe you’ve been hacked, it might be an inside job. If an outside computer isn’t doing the hacking (which would be indicated by someone accessing your email from a different IP), then someone is directly logging into your computer to hack it. This could be someone in your home or office, or a public place you may have left your computer unattended. Always log out when you step away from your computer, and don’t leave it out if you leave the room.
If you’re seeing these signs, unfortunately, your email has likely been hacked. Depending on the severity of the attack, you might be able to rid yourself of hackers and clean up your accounts in just a few days. Stay tuned for part two of this series, where we discuss how to report the hackers and how to get your accounts up and running again.