infoTECH Feature

May 08, 2015

How Can You Tell When a Hacker is Working in Your Email?

By TMCnet Special Guest
Ridley Ruth, COO of Dropmysite

Email hacking seems to be everywhere these days, with hackers showing no signs of slowing down. Whether you are a large organization or a small or medium sized business (SMB), having your email account hacked can undermine the loyalty of your existing customers, and it can affect your ability to attract and retain new customers as well.

Hackers are becoming increasingly stealthy as they infiltrate email accounts, and targeting SMBs is not off the menu.  According to the 2014 Report on the State of Data Backup for SMBs released by Carbonite, SMBs are facing an overwhelming amount of exposure. What’s worse, many SMBs don’t appear to appreciate the severity of the problem: 78 percent of respondents feel their business’s data is “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” to be exploited by an outside force. Complacency is hardly a wise response to the threat posed by hackers.

Don’t be complacent. While it can take some time to confirm that someone else is using your account, there are a few signs that can help you determine if something is amiss.

1. Check your messages.

If you scan your messages and notice that there are emails that have been marked as “read” without you actually having read them, there is a good chance a hacker is reading important and private emails that are being sent to you. 

2. Check trashed emails.

Have you been waiting for an email that was already supposed to have been sent? Check your trash. While this is not something you would immediately spot, a hacker could be sending your emails to the trash bin. A scenario of this could be a hacker is trying to grab account-change emails and delete them before the user sees them, as they gradually take over one account after another while changing passwords to block out the user.

3. Do some forward thinking.

Determine whether any or all of your messages are being forwarded to an account you don’t recognize. You can do this by checking the “forwarding” tab of your settings. The reason hackers may alter this setting is to see any emails about changed passwords and continue to haunt your online presence even if you eject them from your account.

4. Check for spam being sent from your account.     

Look at your outbox emails to see if a spam email has been sent from your account. If it has, and especially if spam has gone to your customers, you should follow up with an apology email to let them know that the problem is being corrected.

Fixing Hacked Email

After you have determined your email has been hacked, take steps to rectify the problem immediately. It is better to address this problem sooner rather than later so that you can reach out to customers and do as much damage control as you can. Steps to stop unauthorized activity include:

  1. Switch out your password and security question(s).
  2. Shut off any unauthorized email forwarding.
  3. Verify that you can still log in to the alternative email account listed within this one.
  4. Notify your contacts and customers of the hack, and provide them with a guarantee that the issue is being addressed.
  5. Make sure to back up your email. Making sure to back up and store your email is vital in assuring that no information is lost should a hacker penetrate your account. Having a backup of your email will also allow for easier restoration and to get back to business as soon as possible.

About the Author: Ridley brings 20 years of industry knowledge to the Dropmysite Team. His previous experiences are in the areas of sales, marketing, business development and operations where he specialized in search engine optimization, website marketing, website security as well as hard drive and software computer forensic duplication. His last role was as Vice President Sales of StopTheHacker, a leading website security company which was acquired by CloudFlare, Inc. Ridley continued with CloudFlare running StopTheHacker as General Manager.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino


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