Yesterday, a couple of my clients had the unpleasant experience of having their email account hacked. Both happened to be customers of BT internet. BT’s email service is currently being provided by Yahoo, who have had a fairly unfortunate track record of hacking attacks lately, so much so in fact that BT have recently announced they are to transfer their 6 million email account holders to a new provider over the coming months.
Fortunately, these latest attacks proved to be annoying rather than very damaging, being characterised by spurious emails being sent to all contacts in their address books, supposedly from the account holders.
In both cases, they had been using very weak passwords to protect their accounts, consisting of their surname plus a single numeric digit. No capital letters, no other characters. Sound familiar? Although easy to remember, the trouble is passwords like these are so easy to break.
So what can you do if your email account is hacked? Well first thing is change your email password immediately. Take the opportunity to make it as secure as possible. Increase the number of characters you use, slip in some numbers, capital letters and other characters. and avoid using real names or words if possible.
Secondly, run a full antivirus scan on your computer to check that your machine hasn’t been infected with malware as a result of the hack.
If you receive a strange email, supposedly from one of your regular contacts, with a link to an unknown site, but without any supporting text, then play safe and don’t click on the link. Similarly, if the email comes with an attachment, don’t be tempted to open it. As long as you have an up to date antivirus program protecting you, the chances are that any potential threat will be identified and eliminated well before it can be allowed to do any damage, but remember the motto, ‘prevention is better than cure’. If in doubt, just delete any strange mail straight immediately from your inbox.
Follow this advice and make it as difficult as possible for the would be hacker.