Email Hacked? 7 Things You Need to do NOW
By Leo Notenboom
It seems like not a day goes by where I don’t get a question from someone that boils down to their email account having been hacked.
Someone, somewhere has gained access to their account and has started using it to send spam. Sometimes passwords are changed, sometimes not. Sometimes traces are left, sometimes not. Sometimes everything in the account is erased, both contacts and saved email, and sometimes not.
But the one thing that all of these events share is that suddenly several people, usually those on your contact list, start getting email from “you” that you didn’t send at all.
Your email account has been hacked.
Here’s what you need to do next…
1. Recover Your Account
Login to your email account via your provider’s website.
If you can, consider yourself very lucky and proceed to step 2 right away.
If you can’t login even though you know that you’re using the correct password, then it’s likely that the hacker has already changed your password.
Use the “I forgot my password” or other account recovery options offered by your email service. Typically, your provider will send password reset instructions to an alternate email address that you do have access to or perhaps have you answer the “secret questions” that you set up when you created the account.
If the recovery methods don’t work – perhaps because the hacker has also altered all of the recovery information that might be used (changed the alternate email address or answers to the secret questions) or perhaps because you don’t recall the answers, didn’t maintain the alternate account, or didn’t set up any recovery information in the first place – then you may be out of luck.
If recovery options don’t work for whatever reason, your only recourse is to use the customer service options provided by that email service. For free email accounts, there are usually no phone numbers or email addresses. Your options are usually limited to self-service recovery forms, knowledge base articles, and official discussion forums where service representatives may (or may not) participate. For paid accounts, there are typically additional customer service options that are more likely to be able to help.
Important: If you cannot recover access to your account, then it is now someone else’s account. It is now the hacker’s account. Unless you’ve backed up, everything in it is gone forever and you can skip the next two items. You’ll need to set up a new account from scratch.
2. Change Your Password
One you regain access to your account, or if you never lost it, you should immediately change your password.
As always, make sure that it’s a good password: easy to remember, difficult to guess, and long. In fact, the longer the better, but make sure your new password is at least 10 characters or more and ideally 12 or more, if the service supports it.
But don’t stop here. Changing your password is not enough.Article Continued Here.
This post is excerpted with permission from Leo Notenboom.
About Leo Notenboom
Leo A. Notenboom is the owner of Puget Sound Software, LLC and the Leo in Ask Leo!. Leo has been in the personal computer and software industry since 1979, as a software engineer, a manager of software engineers, and as a consultant. In 1983 Leo joined what was then a medium sized local company called Microsoft and spent the next 18 years in a wide variety of groups working on a wide variety of software. If you're running Microsoft Windows, if you've used a Microsoft development tool or Microsoft Money, or if you've ever purchased a ticket through Expedia, there's a good chance you've been touched by some of his work. And of course, since 2003, Leo has been answering your tech questions on Ask Leo!