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Don’t Underestimate the Black Market Value of Your Email

email_value_400Due to the many different forms of digital communication, you may check your email less than ever before. However, just because you may not use your email account very often, it doesn’t mean that a hacker will leave it alone. Every email account is full of valuable information and should be protected with the strongest security measures available.

An Email Account is Like a Goldmine for Hackers
Even though you may use several other forms of digital communication other than email (like social media or instant messaging), you generally need an email address in order to sign up for these services. Therefore, your email account may store sensitive data about a variety of other online services that you use, like terms of service and even password information. This is why hackers will try so hard to gain access to your email account because it serves as a gateway to other personal services, like your financial accounts and personal information about others in your contacts folder. A business email address will be targeted even more because the connected services and contacts have a higher potential payout.

Once a Hacker is In, You are Locked Out
Once a hacker has access to your email account, they will then be able to lock you out of your account by going to settings and changing the password. Now that a hacker has complete control of your email, they will then be able to visit the login pages of the services connected to the email account, enter in your email address, and select “Forgot Password?” Many online services haven’t taken this scenario into consideration and will automatically send your stolen email address a new password, playing into the hacker’s malicious scheme.

How a Hacker Profits from Your Stolen Email Account
Let’s say that a hacker gains control of your email address, but they’re not in the mood to do all of the work it takes to hack the connected online services. One option that a hacker has is to strip down your email account and sell each connected service to brokers over the black market that will pay them different amounts of money for each service. For example, a hacked Facebook account will fetch a hacker $2.50, and a hacked iTunes account will translate to $8 easy money. It may be a better use of a hacker’s time to quickly sell off all the accounts connected with your stolen email address than it would be to hack each one. The more online services attached to an email account will translate to a bigger payday for a hacker.

After a hacker has stolen your identity through your email account, they can basically do whatever they want with it. Hackers can steal your credit card information and make fraudulent purchases, or they can sell off different online services a la carte. Hackers can also pose as you and spam every email address in your contact folder, and they can even contact you personally and literally hold your email account ransom and demand that you pay them money. Hopeless scenarios like these coming from a hacker taking control of your email account primarily apply to a web-based email service. If a breach happens with your company’s hosted email, then the network administrator can easily (usually) take control back from the hacker. After a breach like this, however, you will still want to change all the passwords of everything associated with your email account.

What is done with your email account really depends on what kind of hacker breaches your account. Whatever the motives are for the hacker breaking into your account, it will be to rip you off in one way or another.

How can You Protect Your Email Account?
The first thing you will want to do in order to protect your email account is to make online security a priority. This means enacting additional security measures for your email account that goes beyond the standard measures provided by your email hosting company. For example, multi-factor authentication is a great security option that will require you to enter a unique code sent to your cell phone via SMS message every time you log on. This way, a hacker will need your cell phone in addition to your password in order to access your inbox. You can also protect your company’s email with an enterprise-level firewall provided by a Unified Threat Management network security tool. Employing spam filter is also an essential step for protecting yourself from identity theft.

All of these security solutions are great, but they need to be coupled with knowledge about what makes an email account vulnerable. Educating yourself and your staff on best security practices and what to look for in email scams will go a long way in keeping your identity safe. TMS is here to help. Give us a call at 1 (626) 737-2960 and don’t allow hackers to hold your email hostage!