Email has established itself as a staple of the digital age, from simply facilitating communication to now being used for enabling access to various services and safeguarding sensitive data across multiple platforms. After surveying billions of attachments, link-based URLs, and email messages, SlashNext discovered that emails were the predominant target for phishing attacks; this resulted in a 61% surge compared to 2021.
But how can you tell if your own email has been hacked?
How to know if your email is hacked
Email hacking, or email hijacking as it is also known, occurs when an attacker gains access to someone else's emails without permission. This can be used to change their account settings, steal data from within, and even send malicious emails. To compromise a person's email, the hacker could use deceptive phishing techniques in order to acquire passwords and IDs or deploy malware such as keyloggers. Alternatively, they may opt for brute force attacks that take advantage of weak passwords with no multi-factor authentication (MFA).
You may have voluntarily shared your email address with contacts, colleagues or service providers. But what if a malicious agent gets their hands on your login information?
Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your email account has been hacked
1. You are unable to log into your account: If you find that you can no longer log in to your email account, chances are that the attacker has changed your login credentials. By changing your login credentials, any other account that may use MFA for verification may also be at risk.
Solution: Immediately go to the email provider's account recovery page and fill in security or secret questions to recover the account.
2. You frequently receive password reset emails and OTPs: If your email account or related services like banking, social media, and cloud storage are at risk of being breached, you may continuously receive password reset requests and OTP emails. That is a sure sign that someone might be attempting to change the password associated with your account.
Solution: Immediately change your password! Make sure that the new password is a strong one, and always open those emails and click 'it wasn't me.'
3. You have unexpected emails from unknown senders addressed to you: If you find that your inbox is flooded with emails from random senders or addresses, it could be a sign that someone has gained access to your email address and is using it to send out bulk messages.
Solution: Immediately change the password associated with your account. Also, consider opting for two-factor authentication for an extra layer of security against malicious actors. Furthermore, delete all the emails to avoid potential risks and add extra security filters in your account settings.
4. Your contacts are receiving strange messages claiming to be from you: It is easy for tech-savvy users to identify fraudulent messages and malicious attachments. But for general users, it might be hard to identify fraudulent mail. As a result, they might complain about absurd messages. Such messages inform you about malicious players gaining access to your account.
Solution: Check your alternative emails about login updates or spam messages from the primary email. Use the alternative email ID to notify others about the hack/situation.
5. You have noticed suspicious activities on various accounts: Today, all emails remain directly linked to other services like social media, banking sites, or e-commerce platforms. Email attackers often try to sneak into your data through social media and e-commerce sites. So, activities like unsanctioned posts on social media sites, deletion of important emails, or notifications for changes in critical security settings are telltale signs of intrusion.
Solution: Immediately change the passwords on email and other accounts associated with that email. Also, add phone numbers or leverage authenticator app features.
6. Your user logs contain unusual data: Email service providers keep logs of the IP addresses accessing the email account. It contains details about user devices, browser types, and geographic locations. These metrics pinpoint if your account got accessed from other devices and browsers.
Solution: To check this, go to the account's page > Security > Your device > Manage All devices. Remove those devices that are suspicious or not known to you.
Emails have become an easy target for cybercriminals. It happens because every digital device or activity – smartphones, social media sites, data backup, online banking, and marketing – remains connected to email IDs. If hackers are able to breach the system, they consequently gain access to any and all other online services and devices. As a result, it is important to be vigilant and aware while handling emails. Be sure to regularly check for unusual activities or messages and take necessary steps to protect your data against malicious actors.