Is your email account at risk from hackers?

11 Apr 11 10:04AM EST
Post by Marni Switzer
Email inbox

I was awoken on Friday with an early morning phone call from a friend. She told me she’d received a strange email from me saying that I was in Spain and that I had been robbed and asking if she could help by sending me some money.

This was the first of many phone calls and text messages I received that day. Overnight, my email account had been hacked. Not only had the hackers sent everyone in my contact list a copy of the dodgy email, they had also changed my password and all of my personal details. Not only could I not login to my account, I couldn't reset the password because I was giving the wrong answers to the security questions on my account.

What followed was a day I hope I never have to repeat. I never fully realised how much I rely on that one simple email address. It was my primary contact for any personal internet accounts (facebook, iTunes, Amazon etc) but also the primary form of contact for things like my private health insurance provider, my super fund and my bank.

It doesn’t end there. I also had to contact Jetstar so they could resend my itinerary for a flight booked for later this month, contact the school I’m taking a creative writing course through, contact the online stores I have accounts with, my telco provider... the list goes on and on.

In the end, I had to close my email account by contacting the provider directly, and open a new one, which meant that I lost all of my saved emails and all of the contacts in my address book.

Safeguard your email account and back-up contacts and logons

So while this whole episode was a nightmare, I have learned a few good lessons on safeguarding your data from the experience:

  • ALWAYS back up important emails. For me, this included emails containing login information for my private health insurance provider, my super fund, car insurance provider, flight itineraries and accommodation confirmations.
  • Keep a list of anything that your email address is linked up to. I spent the morning sifting through my memory trying to remember every online store I was registered with, every organisation I was receiving emails from etc.
  • Back up your contact list. This is something I always meant to do but never got around to actually doing. I never thought I'd ever utter the words “thank goodness for facebook” but as I hadn’t backed up my address book, this was the only way I was able to contact all of my friends to let them know what happened.
  • And probably the most obvious, change your password every so often. Whilst it's true that hackers probably are quite savvy, try not to make it too easy for them. Don’t use significant dates or names and try to use a combination of numbers, letters, upper and lower case.

Has your email account been hacked? Do you have any tips on how to safeguard your data?


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