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Thursday, 15 November 2018

Thursday, 15 Nov 2018

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Whitwick & District U3A - Computing tip February 2017

Compromised emails

Unfortunately it is a not uncommon experience for someone's email account to be compromised through some form of hacking. For instance, Yahoo, who have also provided services for others such as BT, has had 100's of millions of accounts hacked Indeed a couple of members have reported they have been hacked recently and there are other examples involving members over the last few years. Not surprisingly this is a concern for those directly affected, what information may they have put into an email which may have been read by the hacker?

There are several things that one can do to mitigate the possible damage. First is not to use the same password across different sites or email accounts - this means that even if one email account is hacked then it won't expose other accounts e.g. Facebook or Amazon. Of course a hacked Facebook account is even more of a problem as it can be used as a log-in to many other sites.

Next if you have the slightest suspicion that an account, email or other, may have been compromised then change the password, and if it is offered, use two factor authentication. (If a site offers it, it will explain how to do it).

Make sure you use good strong passwords. Don't use things like 123456 or passw0rd, your name, birthdate, your pet's name etc. Don't use simple words from the dictionary or even two related words strung together. Much better is a random set of letters both upper and lower case with a mix of numbers and other characters such as !, $,*,# if possible. This is difficult for most of us so consider using a password manager such as LastPass.

Hacked emails don't only affect the owner of the account, as it is probable that their address book will also have been breached. As such there is a whole new set of email addresses available to the miscreants, and who may well send spam to people in the address book or fake emails while pretending to be the original hacked address. As a recipient of such a message you may well be more inclined to open it as it seems to come from someone you know.

So what else can you do? As the sender of any email try and help your recipient by giving your emails a meaningful subject that is relevant to both of you. For example, instead of "interesting picture" which could refer to anything, have "picture from yesterday's walk"; your recipient ought to know if they have been on a walk with you yesterday and hence it is very likely a genuine email.

As a recipient, always ask yourself questions like is the 'from' address absolutely right, am I expecting to hear from this person / organisation, are they likely to send an email on the subject given. If you can do so, set your email program to just list your emails without automatically opening / previewing them. Above all be careful about clicking any links in an email - hovering over a link should show you where the link is going, and it may not be what it is labelled as!.

 

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