Recently a friend of mine had his email hacked and he asked me what to do. I told him the few things that I knew, then I did some research. If you are wondering, “How do I avoid getting hacked? How can I fix my email if I get hacked?” You have come to the right place.
1) Access your email.
The most important thing to do if you’ve been hacked is to stop the hacking by accessing your email. You may have to use the “forgot password” feature to access your email.
2) Change your password.
The hacker , or the software that he/she created, needs to know your password before he/she can access your account. Change your password. The best passwords are made up of combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, and punctuation. Don’t use words that appear in the dictionary. The hacker will run a search of your password using words that appear in the dictionary, a piece of cake for the hacker.*
A phrase that you can remember is a good start for a password. For example “I like Abraham Lincoln”. This phrase has 22 characters, with spaces, which is a bit overkill–17 characters should do.
Take your phrase and replace it with numbers and symbols and punctuation : “I like Abraham Lincoln” becomes “!-1ik3_Abr@ham LInc01n”. Some email providers don’t allow certain characters, just fyi.
*If you need to change your password to something simple in order to change it quickly, do it. Then take time to create a secure password.
3) Damage Control.
Check your outbox for sent messages that you didn’t send. Usually the messages will try to get information from your friends. Warn them that the email wasn’t sent by you. If you can, contact them by another medium, other than email.
4) Update your programs, apps, and other email-dependent items.
Many things rely on your email in order to recover your password, to verify your identity, or to get registered for new services. Make sure that everything connected to your email (bank, paypal, social networks, blogs, government sites) still works with your current email password.
5) Prevention: Change periodically.
Hackers don’t sit at their computers all day trying to guess your passwords themselves, it’s simpler than that. All a hacker has to do is write instructions (a program) for a computer to follow and their computer will do it for them–only much faster than thousands of hackers could do alone. “War Games” with Matthew Broderick, is a movie about a hacker. It has some accurate, yet outdated, descriptions of what a hacker does.
How often should I change my password?
I recommend that you change your password at least every 6 months, especially if the password you’re trying to protect can be guessed wrong more than 10 times in a 24-hour period. There are finite possibilities to passwords, so it is only a matter of time before a hacker gets into your account if you don’t change your passwords periodically.