Experiencing Email Breaches? Here’s What You Need to Know

May 10, 2022

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All the email addresses that are taken (hacked) by cybercriminals have the potential to become a gold mine in form of personal data and open access to other multiple services you are using on the internet. This is because a very high percentage of people are linking everything from federal taxes to online banking and other sensitive and personal information with their emails. That’s why email breaches are a serious issue for security.

The process of recovering from hacks and other security threats can be time-consuming. You will need to act really fast in order to minimize the damage. Damage to your finances and identity and most importantly to protect people around you.

When we talk about your email accounts you should know that cyber thieves can take control of them to steal a financial or personal information

A cyber thief will be able to take control of your email accounts, steal financial or personal information, and use them to send deceitful messages to everyone on your contact list.

You will need to know that protecting yourself completely against data breaches is impossible even if you ignore the scam emails and if you have antivirus software with the latest updates.

Protecting yourself completely is not possible mostly because the hackers are always finding new ways in order to gain access to someone’s usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, and other data.

However, the fact that you cannot completely protect yourself doesn’t mean that you should give up and go with the flow. You will definitely need to take some steps in order to better protect your email password and account.

What is a data breach?

Every incident where some information (account information, personal info, phone numbers) is taken or stolen from the system without the authorization of the system’s owner is considered a data breach. Everyone can become a victim of data breaches and it doesn’t really matter if you have a smaller company or you run a large organization.

In these situations, the taken data can contain valuable or confidential information such as customer data, credit card numbers, and social security numbers, and can compromise all other accounts with passwords and security questions linked to your email.

Because of a perceived ‘trust betrayal’, the effects of a data breach can come as damage to the targeted company’s reputation. In situations like this, the victim of the cyberattack is suffering the biggest losses but his customers can also suffer financial losses if their personal details are part of the information that is taken away.

By some statistics, the most stolen information when a data breaches occur is PII or personally identifiable information and in the second place is financial data.

Malware attacks and hacking cause the majority of data and email breaches. Apart from hacking and malware attacks, there are other breach methods also.

Data Breach Phases

Like many other processes, the data breach process also has different phases. Let’s check them individually.

Research Phase

At the very beginning of this process, the attackers are picking up a target first. Once they pick their target they start looking for a weakness they can exploit: the whole network, systems, or employees. This process is time-consuming and requests countless hours of research done by the attackers.

In more aggressive approaches it may involve stalking of the employee’s social media profiles in order to get more information that is posted online about the person, and the company.

Attack phase

Once the attackers discover the target’s weaknesses they make the first step and launch an attack which can be a social or network-based attack.

When a social attack occurs, in order to infiltrate the target network attacker is using social engineering tactics. For example, they can send maliciously crafted email to an employee, which is specifically made to catch the employee’s attention. The email usually asks for specific information which can fool the reader into giving away personal data to the sender and losing online accounts.

These emails can also come with a malware attachment that can be executed after they are downloaded.

Extracting phase

After the hackers get inside the network they are able to freely extract any data they want from the company network. In most cases, stolen data is used for cyber propaganda and blackmailing. Additionally, the information that attackers collected can be used for more dangerous attacks on the target’s infrastructure.

Different Methods for Email Breaches

Payment card fraud

By making use of the physical skimming devices people can steal your credit card data.

Losing and Stealing

You will need to be very careful with your files, laptops, portable drives, office computers, and other physical possessions because they can be easily lost or get stolen.

All of us keep sensitive information on our laptops, personal computers, or portable drives and if it fell into the wrong hand we can experience enormous losses.

A leak from inside

In most of these cases, the data breach act is made by a very trusted person or individual who has access privileges and is able to steal all data information from the server.

Unintended disclosure

In the moments where you lose your focus or you make a mistake, you risk exposing your data. Many people who have a chance will go on and look into your personal information without hesitation and with today’s technology, we know that pictures or screenshots can be taken in a matter of seconds. Do not leave the information on your laptop or personal computer exposed when you are not using them.

Unknown breach method

You will need to know that some data breach methods can remain unknown in some situations. With the new technology, there are also more sophisticated methods and in a small number of cases, they remain unknown.

Steps to take if your Email account gets hacked in Email breaches

Change your password

You will need to change your password after the attack is made and after you clean your computer from possible malware. In case you lost access to your email account, you will need to get in contact with your email provider, prove who you are, and start the process of password reset.

Getting a new password

When you choose your new password you will need to be sure that is different from your old one (do not use the same password) and that it doesn’t contain strings or any repeated numbers and characters.

When adding a new strong password you should avoid having obvious ties with your personal information such as your name, birthday, or any other similar info. This is because other hackers can find this information very easily and they usually use it when trying their first brute force attempts to access your account.

Get unique password

You will need to create unique and strong passwords for every account that you have. This means that you should have complex passwords which are made with a mixture of numbers, letters, and special characters and you should make them longer, at least 15 characters long.

Using unique passwords and two-factor authentication or other different services will help you keep your online privacy from possible new breaches.

If you are experiencing trouble managing your new passwords or you need help creating new ones, feel free to use a secure password manager so you can save and use them easily.

Notify people from your contact list

In case you are a victim of an email data breach or identity theft always keep in mind that you need to protect and notify people from your contact list. Telling your friends, family, and other people from your contact list that your account has been hacked can prevent additional damage.

While your email is hacked and attackers are having total control they can use this time to send hundreds of malware-laden emails to everyone they will find on your contact list. This type of attack is called a phishing attack and if they make proper use of your information they can get easy access to a new set of victims.

The previous example doesn’t only imply people on your email contact list but also your friends on other platforms. The email method is one of the many options that attackers can use in order to bait your contacts. By controlling your email they can try and breach your social media accounts or messaging applications that can be used for sending fraudulent messages.

Security questions

In most situations stealing your password is only the beginning and it is possible for hackers to break into your account by answering the secret questions.

When it comes to security questions, using false answers can lower the chances for cybercriminals to break in again. All you need to do is to remember those answers and not make them obvious so they can be discovered through your public info, or through your social media posts.

By some research done by Google, it was revealed that many people choose the same answer to common security questions. For example, almost 20% of American users to the question “What is your favorite food?” answered “Pizza”.

Another great option for you to have additional protection is a multi-factor authentication tool that allows you to protect your password resets and logins. In order to provide you with additional email protection, this authentication uses text messages and secondary email addresses. Because security questions are not enough in most cases you should try and use this additional method.

Contacting other online services that you use

Having the need to change your passwords on other online accounts can also become a complex job. You will need to reset your passwords to all payment-based accounts such as credit card companies, Netflix, Amazon, and even your local library. Make sure that your reset all your passwords so you can prevent cybercriminals from compromising these accounts.

It is very important to secure your secondary services because they are ultimately much more precious targets when these security email breaches happen. For example, if the hacker finds the information that is needed to reset your password it can easily break into your bank account.

You should know that the risk of follow-up breaches is very big and because of that reason you should use unique passwords instead of the same password for multiple sites.

Hack report

In situations when your email account gets hacked you will need to contact and inform your email provider about the situation. Even if you didn’t lose access to your email it is important to report when a data breach occurs because it will help providers track the scam behavior.

Remember when you report the hack, you are not only protecting yourself but also others from possible future threats. With this action, you additionally help your provider to improve its security.

After you share the information with your provider they may be able to give you details about the origin of the attack and you can discover if the breach is larger and can possibly affect other services that you are using.

Creating a New Email

Sometimes email recovery can be impossible, and sometimes you just want to move on and start fresh. If your provider is not taking serious steps to lower the number of spam messages you receive, or you don’t have other sensitive data (personal records, family members’ info, and other account details), that is left on your email creating a new email account seems like a great option.

Recently we can see a lot of services that offer default encryption of your emails. In situations when the provider’s servers are breached your private email will remain concealed. Without a proper security key, even hackers are not able to unlock this data.

Another great feature to look for when choosing a new email provider is to look for companies that have high-rated customer service. In case of a problem the companies that have great customer service will be able to answer and assist your quickly and also hassle-free.

Get Secure

In order to have peace of mind, we will suggest you run an antivirus scan on every device that you have connected. Making a scan on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop will make sure that your other devices are secure and that you can freely use them.

Your cloud is another place that can contain a lot of personal data stored. It is recommended for you to inform your providers, change the passwords, and even clean your backups and cloud data with anti-virus. With these steps, you will feel more secure and confident to use any service once again.

Defending yourself against attacks will become a lot easier once you learn how to fix hacked emails. In case you find out that your email was hacked, make sure you make use of our guide and defend against cybercriminals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you check if your email has been breached?

There are websites that offer this kind of service for free. You will need to enter your email address to check if it was compromised in a data breach. In case your email address was compromised you will be able to see the full list of websites that exposed your data.

Was there a Gmail breach?

Until today there isn’t an official statement that Google or its parent company Alphabet were involved in any kind of breaches.

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