How Is Email Hacking Done?

Through my work week, I receive several telephone calls each week about email hacking.  A person had it happen to them and they want the perpetrator caught and prosecuted.  We can often help if the email offense occurred on a local computer, but not a large service like Gmail, without a subpoena.  Due to the complexity of bringing a person to court, email hackers often go free. 

Email hackers use several different venues for obtaining the information you have stored in your email account.  After getting your information, and that of your contacts, schemes unfold that bring useful data to the culprit, including bank account information. Some of the most prevalent ways to get your information are: phishing, key loggers, insecure computer use, and general search of information online.

Phishing is when an email is sent to you with a link to a very official looking website.  This happened to me once with the email link sending me to Bank of America, trying to get me to update my mortgage information.  With some research, I found that the email was a phishing scam and was trying to get my personal info.  I have received emails like this for Facebook and my hometown bank.  A more sophisticated version of this technique included my cell phone carrier being hacked and a text message being sent to me that my bank account information needed to be updated.  Lucky for me, I do not bank with the bank referred to in the text message.

A key logger is a simple, inexpensive program that can be installed on your computer through an email.  This can happen easily when a friend or acquaintance has their database compromised and you receive an email from a trusted source.  Once the key logger is installed, the sender can now view all information typed into your keyboard.  The key logger registers all key strokes and mouse clicks, thereafter the program sends it out to an end user.

Unsecured computer use is often a source of information for hackers.  Hotel computers, coffee shops, libraries, and open public networks are monitored by persons looking for sensitive information.  Checking your Hotmail account on these computers and open wireless networks is very public. Computer hackers use specialized software and hardware to monitor information being exchanged.  This is sometimes called sniffing.

Finally, social networking has made much of our information available online.  A savvy internet user will use the online information to figure out passwords, including being able to answer security questions.  Recently, there was a case where a man did this, skimmed information from the emails found on the person’s hard drive, and posted it publicly online. It was devastating to many people he victimized.

Though email hackers have consequences that occur from breaking into email accounts, they commonly do not get caught.  It is our responsibility to make sure our computer activity is secure and that our private information is protected.  With computer stored information, we cannot be too safe.


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