Why do hackers want your email address?
Your email address is more than a simple communication link in this ever-evolving digital world. In the wrong hands, it can unlock tons of valuable data. So, why should you be concerned over an email hack?
Most online-based services, from banks to social media apps, need an email address for you to create an account. It is the primary identifier in the login process. So, gaining access to emails is a huge step.
Criminals can then hack email passwords or reset several of your passwords used in other accounts. Furthermore, our emails are a treasure trove of sensitive information: contacts, bank account/card details, phone numbers, and the list goes on.
Studies have continuously proven that many hacking incidents stem from email access.
What can hackers do with your email address?
Let’s explore the different consequences.
Access to your social media and online accounts
A social media account contains many conversations with your contacts, some of which might have sensitive data. Here, an attacker can also see your photos which they can use for impersonation purposes.
Of course, this is not all. An email hack can enable a cybercriminal to access your bank and take over other accounts in your name.
Get personal information
A skilled black hat hacker can wreak havoc in someone’s life with their particulars; think about your name, physical address, bank card details, photos, employment data, etc.
With this information, a hacker can commit identity theft, extortion, ransomware, sell this data to other criminals, scam others, and transfer money, among other things.
Send phishing messages to your contacts
The awareness of phishing has grown substantially over the last few years, and for a good reason. Email remains the most common channel for this social engineering tactic.
Let’s think about it. Once in your emails, a cybercriminal may have access to your contact’s email addresses, along with perhaps the companies they engage with often. So they can target them with phishing.
For instance, a hacker can send a message about an ‘urgent’ unpaid bill with a seemingly innocent-looking invoice. Yet, this could be a trap to infect their computer with malware, which can cause a host of other problems. It is just one example of how disastrous phishing can be.
Cybercriminals can blackmail you in several ways via email, one of the most common being ransomware. This usually stems from phishing. Here, a hacker can trick you into clicking on a link to infiltrate your computer with a virus.
This malicious software can block access to your entire computer system until you pay the ransom it demands.
There’s another form of blackmail that involves extortion. Let’s assume a hacker found potentially incriminating information from your emails. They can threaten to let your closest contacts or other authorities know. At this point, the perpetrator may attempt to force you to pay a ransom.
Access your financial data
Access to your emails may help the bad guys access all of your online financial (bank, investment, retirement, tax, etc.) accounts connected to that address. Of course, they might be able to change the passwords, allowing them to transfer money out of them.
Let’s also remember the card details you may have on your emails. A computer criminal can use this for fraudulent purchases and even apply for loans, credit cards, and other financial products in your name.
Steal your identity
No one would want their entire profile stolen to commit fraud. Email is a convenient gateway for a range of identity theft. Fraudsters can:
Open bank accounts and obtain credit cards
Order goods that you wouldn’t usually order
Take over existing accounts
Sign up for various subscriptions/memberships like phone contracts
Obtain passports, ID books, and driving licenses
Before you know it, you may be wanted by the police or receive a bill for something you didn’t order.
My email was hacked. What should I do?
In the unfortunate event of an email hack, this is what you should do:
If your email provider has a recovery service, use this channel to reset your password.
Alternatively, if you can, change your password to something more complex. You need to immediately update all your passwords connected to other accounts to prevent hackers from accessing those.
Extending from the last point, you should check for unusual activity on your other accounts.
Inform all your contacts that someone has compromised your email. You should also warn them not to open suspicious emails or attachments.
You will certainly need to scan all your devices for malware using comprehensive antivirus software and update your operating system and all apps often.
Can someone hack my email without a password?
With a few manipulative techniques, the answer is yes. The most common way is through phishing. Here, the cybercriminal can send a legitimate-looking email from your email provider stating that someone has compromised your account.
At this point, one may be triggered into changing their password, to which the hacker will have access. Alternatively, it could be another phony site designed to lure you into entering your real email credentials.
Another way, while more cumbersome, is brute force attacks. This refers to trial and error to crack a password using countless combinations. Hackers can get the software to speed up this process drastically.
Essential ways to protect your email address
Here are some valuable tips to prevent an email hack:
Come up with a unique generated password
Many studies have shown that some people use easy-to-guess combinations like ‘123456,’ ‘qwerty,’ and, funnily enough, even ‘password.’ So, the first step is to strengthen your password.
It starts with decent length (at least ten characters) using a blend of unusual alphanumerics, special characters, and phrases. The aim is to make your password impossible to crack, even with brute force.
Nowadays, even a uniquely generated password is not enough; two-factor authentication is an extra security layer. This method requires you to offer another form of verification (like facial recognition, biometrics, one-time PINs sent via email, SMS, or an authenticator app).
2FA makes it more difficult for someone to hack you even with your credentials. Still, some skilled cybercriminals may be able to bypass 2FA. So, it would help if you avoided attacks on your devices like phishing and malware.
However, assuming everything is clean, 2FA is necessary and effective.
Use separate email addresses with different passwords
Some experts have suggested people should use several email addresses for different things, in contrast to using one address for everything. The latter is riskier since hacking one account may enable the attacker to use your password in others.
So, for instance, you may have four different addresses, each with a unique password:
One for financial services
One for personal communication
One for shopping or subscription services
One for work purposes (if you’re employed)
Share passwords securely
Duckist is here so you never have to worry about an email hack check. When you have to share passwords, make sure to do it securely. You can do that by using self-destruct messages from duckist.com.
Here are the other fantastic benefits of this service:
Free, fast, and easy to use
No registration, downloads, or personal details are needed
Various files and secret messages available only for its users and the receivers to see
Elegant and robust interface for chat rooms where you can share files across an unlimited number of users privately and securely