Have you ever received an email or phone call from someone asking why you randomly sent them a link?
Congratulations, you've been inducted into the world of email hacker victims.
Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently for folks who use internet email. Apparently most internet providers have some sort of backdoor or window that most of us forget to lock at night.
Of course, the problem can also be where you check your email. Public internet access isn't secure, and sometimes hackers are already one step ahead when you log on.
To avoid the embarrassment of having your entire contact list solicited for money because you're stranded in Rio, here are some steps you can take to help thwart hackers:
- Verify the URL. Some hackers will create a fake login page for popular email sites. To simplify and make sure you're at the right place, type in the URL directly.
- Forward emails to a secondary account. Hey, a secret identity just like the superheroes! In all seriousness, having a secondary account means anyone who hacks it doesn't get your contact list or your real password.
- Monitor your account. Most emails will provide you last logged in information. This often-overlooked bit of information can give you a heads up if someone is snooping around.
- Check your rules and filters. Rules and filters can forward your email to someone else or give them authority to change your password. If you didn't create the rule or filter, or it looks suspicious, the safest route is to just delete it.
- Watch out for links. Emails asking you to change your password probably have dangerous links in them. Even if it doesn't automatically install malware, the site to change your password would be a fake page and you just provided a hacker with your information for free.
- Make something up. If you have to create an answer for a "secret question" in the event you log in from a strange computer, use false information. For example, use your pet's name as your mother's middle name.
- Don't be consistent. Have different emails for different sites. If one of them is compromised, you won't be completely exposed.
These layers of protection will make most hackers move on to easier targets.