It can be hard to imagine what could be so valuable in your inbox that someone would go through the trouble of hacking you. And it certainly seems harmless enough to reuse passwords on multiple accounts – an easy way to remember your logins for multiple websites. But, reusing passwords is dangerous because it increases your risk of financial fraud or identity theft, and it all begins by having one social or email account hacked.
Remember, you’ll go through most of your time on the internet without ever being compromised, but it only takes one time to suffer the painful outcomes of being hacked.
So let’s talk about why someone would want to hack your account, and how using the same password on multiple accounts can increase your risk of being hacked, financial loss, or identity fraud.
Why would someone hack my email?
Fair question. Most of us can’t imagine why anyone would want to hack us, especially our low value email account. The answer is, because, it helps them gain a foothold in to your digital world. It helps them make money.
Most people will never notice they’ve had their account hacked, had money drained from their accounts or had their identity stolen until it’s too late. After all, many cyber attacks are unobtrusive and designed to escape detection. Most hackers seek to harvest your information as quickly as possible without being noticed.
You’ve been on the internet for many years now. You’re accustomed to just about every site requiring some sort of registration process which usually involves creating a username and password. You’ve gotten so accustomed to filling in these details, a mundane task, that you’ve subconsciously eliminated any danger associated with filling in online forms, and by association, by reusing passwords on multiple online forms. A little copy and paste, or reusing your one trusty password – what’s the harm? This is where the waters get muddy.
Hackers know that the more info they can gather on you, the more likely it is they can successfully defraud you. Don’t help them in any way. Use separate passwords for every account.
If you are advised that one account is compromised, immediately change all passwords on all important accounts. Better to be safe than sorry.
The truth is, there are many malware kits that bad actors can purchase or create and then distribute through your account to make money for themselves. Some of this spyware attempts to collect your personal information. Some sends more spam and malware links out. Sometimes they bide time to collect more info from your email account in order to attempt to hack into your bank account.
On average, as reported by security experts in 2015, the ROI for cyber criminals is 1425%. Things have only become more lucrative for bad actors since.
That is a big return, and powerful motivation for these criminals. It’s important that you practice good computer security habits to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
What can I do to prevent my email from being hacked?
You can do your small part to help protect your account from hackers. Here are a few simple but helpful password practices you can implement right away.
- Stop reusing passwords. It’s straightforward and the title of this article but I can’t overly stress the importance of this good password habit.
- Use strong passwords. Avoid passwords that relate to your username. Avoid passwords that can be easily guessed and opt for random words or phrases. Avoid passwords that only contain letters of the alphabet. It’s highly recommended to incorporate letters, numbers and symbols in all of your password.
- Consider using a password manager. Password managers are secured master accounts that that store all of your login credentials including usernames and passwords allowing you to use one centralized password for all your logins. Password managers have some shortcomings, which I address in this post.
Sometimes the simplest advice is the most effective, but also the most difficult to execute.
We all know that diet and exercise are the best prevention for obesity and many illnesses. We all know that getting enough sleep aids in cognitive functions and general well being. Most of need the reminders because most of us are sleep deprived, or eating yet another take out meal, or slacking on password security.
So this is a reminder. Don’t reuse any passwords. Protect your email accounts. Help your team do the same.
Small Business Password Tips
If you own a small business and don’t have your own IT staff, it can be difficult to stay on top of cyber security, or to make sure all your staff are using secure passwords.
This post on Password Security Tips offers up to date research and actionable tips to help you create your password policy at work.
This article on Password Managers for Teams is helpful as well. Use them as conversation starters to discuss cyber and password security with your team.
For Small Business IT Support in Toronto or Durham Region , you can reach out to us here at TUCU. We’ve been delivering reliable it support to SMB’s since 2003.