What to Do If Your Email Is Hacked

Categories: Latest Cyber News
Help raise awareness by sharing this page:

I think I could count on my hand the people I know who have NOT had their email hacked. Maybe they found a four-leaf clover when they were kids!

Email hacking is one of the very unfortunate downsides of living in our connected, digital world. And it usually occurs as a result of a data breach – a situation that even the savviest tech experts find themselves in.

What Is A Data Breach?

In simple terms, a data breach happens when personal information is accessed, disclosed without permission, or lost. Companies, organisations, and government departments of any size can be affected. Data stolen can include customer login details (email addresses and passwords), credit card numbers, identifying IDs of customers e.g. driver’s license numbers and/or passport numbers, confidential customer information, company strategy, or even matters of national security.

Data breaches have made headlines, particularly over the last few years. When the Optus and Medibank data breaches hit the news in 2022 affecting almost 10 million Aussies a piece, we were all shaken. But then when Aussie finance company Latitude, was affected in 2023 with a whopping 14 million people from both Australia and New Zealand affected, it almost felt inevitable that by now, most of us would have been impacted.

But these were the data breaches that grabbed our attention. The reality is that data breaches have been happening for years. In fact, the largest data breach in Australian history actually happened in May 2019 to the online design site Canva which affected 137 million users globally including many Aussies.

So, in short – it can happen to anyone, and the chances are you may have already been affected.

But Why Should I Worry? I Have Nothing Valuable in My Email

The sole objective of a hacker is to get their hands on your data. And any information that you share in your email account can be very valuable to them. But why do they want your data, you ask? It’s simple really – so they can cash in! Some will keep the juicy stuff for themselves – passwords or logins to government departments or large companies they may want to ’target’ with the aim of extracting valuable data and/or funds. But the more sophisticated ones will sell your details including name, telephone, email address, and credit card details, and cash in on the Dark Web. They often do this in batches. Some experts believe they can get as much as AU$250 for a full set of details including credit cards. So, you can see why they’d be interested in you!

The other reason why hackers will be interested in your email address and password is that many of us re-use these login details across our other online accounts too. So, once they’ve got their hands on your email credentials then they may be able to access your online banking and investment accounts – the possibilities are endless if you are using the same login credentials everywhere. So, you can see why I harp on about using a unique password for every online account!

How Big Is the Problem?

There is a plethora of statistics on just how big this issue is – all of them concerning.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, there were over 16,000 reports of identity theft in 2022.

The Department of Home Affairs and Stay Smart Australia reports that cybercrime costs Australian businesses $29 billion a year with the average business spending around $275,000 to remedy a data breach

And although there has been a slight reduction in Aussies falling for phishing scams in recent years (down from 2.7% in 2020/1 to 2.5% in 2022/3), more Australians are falling victim to card fraud scams with a total of $2.2 billion lost in 2023.

But regardless of which statistic you choose to focus on, we have a big issue on our hands!

So, What Do I Do If My Email Is Hacked?

If you find yourself a victim of email hacking there are a few very important steps you need to take and the key is to take them FAST!!

  1. Change Your Password

This is the very first thing you must do to ensure the hacker can’t get back into your account. It is essential that your new password is complex and totally unrelated to previous passwords. Always use at least 8-10 characters with a variety of upper and lower case and throw in some symbols and numbers. I really like the idea of a crazy, nonsensical sentence – easier to remember and harder to crack! But, better still, get yourself a password manager that will create a password that no human would be capable of creating.

If you find the hacker has locked you out of your account by changing your password, you will need to reset the password by clicking on the ‘Forgot My Password’ link.

  1. Change Any Other Accounts with the Same Password

This is time-consuming but essential. Ensure you change any other accounts that use the same username and password as your compromised email. Hackers love the fact that many people still use the same logins for multiple accounts, so it is guaranteed they will try your info in other email applications and sites such as PayPal, Amazon, Netflix – you name it!

Once the dust has settled, please review your password strategy for all your online accounts. A best practice is to ensure every online account has its own unique and complex password.

  1. Let Your Email Contacts Know

A big part of the hacker’s strategy is to ‘get their claws’ into your address book with the aim of hooking others as well. Send a message to all your email contacts as soon as possible so they know to avoid opening any emails (most likely loaded with malware) that have come from you.

  1. Commit to Multi-factor Authentication

Yes, multi-factor authentication (or 2-factor authentication) adds another step to your login but it also adds another layer of protection. Enabling this will mean that in addition to your password, you will need a special one-time use code to log in. This can be sent to your mobile phone or alternatively, it may be generated via an authenticator app. So worthwhile!

  1. Check Your Email Settings

It is not uncommon for hackers to modify your email settings so that a copy of every email you receive is automatically forwarded to them. Not only can they monitor your logins for other sites, but they’ll keep a watchful eye over any particularly juicy personal information. So, check your mail forwarding settings to ensure no unexpected email addresses have been added.

Don’t forget to check your email signature to ensure nothing spammy has been added. Also, ensure your ‘reply to’ email address is actually yours! Hackers have been known to create an email address here that looks similar to yours – when someone replies, it goes straight to their account, not yours!

  1. Scan Your Computer for Malware and Viruses

This is essential also. If you find anything, please ensure it is addressed, and then change your email password again. And if you don’t have it – please invest. Comprehensive security software will provide you with a digital shield for your online life. McAfee+ lets you protect all your devices – including your smartphone – from viruses and malware. It also contains a password manager to help you remember and generate unique passwords for all your accounts.

  1. Consider Creating a New Email Address

If you have been hacked several times and your email provider isn’t mitigating the amount of spam you are receiving, then consider starting afresh but don’t delete your email address. Many experts warn against deleting email accounts as most email providers will recycle your old email address. This could mean a hacker could spam every site they can find with a ‘forgot my password’ request and try to impersonate you – identity theft!

Your email is an important part of your online identity so being vigilant and addressing any fallout from hacking is essential for your digital reputation. And even though it may feel that ‘getting hacked’ is inevitable, you can definitely reduce your risk by installing some good quality security software on all your devices. Comprehensive security software such as McAfee+ will alert you when visiting risky websites, warn you when a download looks ‘dodgy’, and will block annoying and dangerous emails with anti-spam technology.

It makes sense really – if you don’t receive the ‘dodgy’ phishing email – you can’t click on it! Smart!

And finally, don’t forget that hackers love social media – particularly those of us who overshare on it. So, before you post details of your adorable new kitten, remember it may just provide the perfect clue for a hacker trying to guess your email password!

Till next time


The post What to Do If Your Email Is Hacked appeared first on McAfee Blog.

Thank you for visiting our page! For a deeper dive into this topic, discover the full article by clicking HERE.