E-mail Hacking

It’s been a while since we last posted, sorry about that! Well to make up for it we’ve rammed this article full of information!

In recent months we seem to have had an increase in the number of calls from people that have had their e-mail account compromised (the polite word for hacked!). Most of those calls are about what they should do now, and what they can do to prevent this type of thing from happening in the future. Well here is our straightforward guide on what to do now, and what to do to try (it’s the best you can do!) to prevent it from happening again.

What Should I Do First?

First thing you must do is change your password. You must also change the password for any and all accounts that have even a remotely similar password. Once people have your password it is very easy for them to run umpteen iterations of it, so for example if your password is Password1 it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you might also use Password123 for another account. Now obviously this is an over simplification but hopefully you get the gist of what I mean.
To change your password you will need to log in to the webmail account of your e-mail provider (e.g. BT, TalkTalk, and Hotmail to name a few). You will still need to do this through the webmail internet site even if you use a desktop mail client (e.g. Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird), as you need access the e-mail account’s administrative settings.

Note that if your account has been flagged as sending spam or virus messages your provider may have locked you out. If that is the case you would be best off speaking with their customer support. One thing to make sure of is that if they set you up with a temporary password change it as soon as you are able to. It is very easy to put it off, to do so will just risk you losing control of your account again.
It would also be courteous to let people in your address book know that you may have sent them an e-mail that they should delete in case it contains a virus or a link to a virus.
Of course going through this part of the process throws up another question…

What Should Your New Password Be?

Your password should be a complex password. In the age we are in passwords are very easy to crack. Specialist computers are now built around cracking passwords, the fastest guesses 350 billion combinations per second! Now obviously this is at the extreme end of the technology, but it should give you the impression that simple passwords are easy to break. Dictionary words, names etc. are normally the first to fall, so if you use this type of password you should changing it.

Complex passwords are considered to be nonsensical and are a combination of both upper and lower case characters, numbers, and symbols. For the sake of an example this would be considered a complex password: V$b%ghPVE$C8. It’s completely meaningless, and therefore no one is going to guess it, it is also reasonably unlikely that anyone is going to crack it. The main reason behind this is that there is no starting point, in the case of Password123, Password is an actual word (thus a starting point) and it doesn’t take much imagination or computing power to add 123 to the end of it. In the case of the complex password each of the 12 characters could be a number, symbol, lower case or upper case character, this gives rise to a there being a total of 612 Sextillion possible combinations (which is roughly double the number of stars in the universe!), which I think we can all agree upon is quite a few!

How Can I Prevent This From Happening?

By using a complex password on your e-mail account. In fact, I also believe it best that you use complex passwords on every account you have of any value. Just to be completely over the top I also think you should use a different one for each account! It’s quite a task, but it will minimise the chance of having your accounts broken into. Using different passwords will also mean that you only need to change one password IF the worst should happen.

Really it’s a bit like the theory of having a great big lock on your bike. Sure someone could with the right tools, enough brute force, and time could break that lock, but if you lock your bike next to someone that has a smaller lock than yours then you can rest assured your bike is going to be ok!

How Can I Possibly Remember All of These Passwords?

We are very much living the age of the password (a phrase I believe I have coined!). Everything wants a user name and password even for the most inane request. This is where the use of a password manager comes in. I use Keeper which I find to be very good, they have a web version, a desktop/laptop version, and a version that will work on smartphones too – so it’s pretty flexible. Be aware that there are plenty of options, so I am sure that with a quick google search you will find one that suits your needs. The other advantage of these managers is that they will also generate a password for you as well.