Why would someone want to hack your email account?

People who spend the majority of their life offline can often have trouble understanding why email accounts need to be protected. For those of us who spend our lives online, we know how important a strong, secure password can be, and we understand we need to change our passwords often to stop people trying to hack our accounts.

However, just because we’re told to keep our accounts safe, do we really need to? Is there a hacker out there waiting to strike? What exactly will they gain from looking at my emails?

My personal email account is full of eBay purchase confirmations emails, social media updates, and stupid chain messages. A hacker might take one look at my inbox and think they’ve won the lottery. If they can hack an email inbox, I’m sure they’d be able to hack my eBay account or my social media profiles. A hacked email inbox fills people with dread. Once the email inbox has been compromised, it’s only a matter of time before everything else gets hacked, right?

Well, er, not necessarily. Whilst it is true that a hacked email inbox is dreadfully annoying, and you are compromising the safety of any information stored in it, a hacked inbox isn’t worth an awful lot of money.

Of course, there isn’t an email inbox black market, where hackers sell information like the stock exchange. But several hackers have posted price lists online, if you’re looking to buy illegal data.

Rumours online state that access to an iTunes account costs around $8, whilst access to a T-Mobile account costs about $4. Surprisingly access to Facebook and Twitter cost $2.50 each – bargain!

Some online crime shops offer access for ridiculously low prices – accessing, or costs around $1 to $3. Not a lot of money compared to the havoc it causes the email user.

Even if your email account isn’t associated with any transactions, hackers can still take information about your contacts, who in turn may be inundated with spam and phishing attacks.

If you’ve purchased software, it may be that the key to the software lies in the depth of your email inbox. If you use cloud based software, it’s likely the hacker will be able to access those too. If you’ve ever used your email to back up another email address, then guess what? You betcha, the hacker can get into your other account too.

Once your email inbox is hacked, it’s a vicious circle as the hacker proceeds to access as much of your information as possible.

So what can you, as an email user, do? One of the most basic ways, is by creating a difficult password, that is changed regulary. Follow password best practice and choose something over 8 characters, that includes a capital letter, a number and a symbol – or more than one of each if you can. Hackers often use dictionary software to troll through possible passwords. So try to make it obscure.

Another way to protect yourself is by running antivirus software on your computer. There are loads of providers, offering different protection at different prices, but some of the free accounts work perfectly well too.

Finally, get rid of any idle accounts you may have lying around. As the world of technology moves so quickly, it can be easy to hop from one social site to the latest thing. Close your old social media profiles (anyone remember Piczo? Just me?) as they are easy targets for hackers.

It may be worth reanalysing your email provider. Some of the bigger email clients, such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo have enabling multi step authentication that users can choose to add if they want additional security. For example, when setting up a new account, Gmail asks users if they would like to add a phone number.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have also recently implemented additional security options beyond asking users to create a strong password.

Email users should continually think about their online security, instead of thinking ‘Oh, it won’t happen to me!’ A hacked email inbox could be soon be a reality for users that are lax with their inboxes.

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