Email Account Theft

On August 2007, hackers hacked into's database of contact details. The site was affected by a virus aptly named ‘infostealer', which siphoned the personal details of 1.6 million users of the site, many of whom were American. The perpetrators were eventually discovered to be a Russian gang, who stole the information and sold them to fraudsters who would later use them for illegal purposes.

The Danger Of Having Your Email Account Stolen

Your email address will usually also hold information such as passwords to enter other websites and financial details. A hacker will be able to use this information to his or her advantage either directly, by siphoning money out of your account, or indirectly, by selling the information to others so that they can do precisely the same thing. Either way, it pays to understand how hackers steal your information so you know what to do about it.

How A Hacker Steals Your Email Account

A hacker can steal your email account through one of many ways. The first way involves using your email itself. The hacker will usually send a compromised email to the user, which will then open a "back door" for the hacker to access your computer unnoticed. From there, he or she can learn what your other passwords are, a practice known as key logging, by tracing the keys you type when you come to a specific website. Hackers can also create fake websites that are actually ridden with malware or spyware. These websites will usually be attractive enough to bring in lots of visitors and affect a large amount of computers quickly. Previously known sites that were used to obtain information illegally involve an online baby store, educational websites, and even PayPal.

The situation is compounded when computers are in contact with one another, either online or not. Viruses have been known to be smart enough to write themselves onto a portable medium, like an optical disk or a flash memory drive, and copy themselves onto another person's computer when plugged into it. Emails themselves have also been used to create openings into other people's emails; it's like digging a long tunnel where all the holes are interconnected.

What You Should Do About It

Protect yourself by making sure that your passwords are hard to crack. Don't use passwords which are easy to guess, or can be found in the dictionary, as these are the words which will be guessed at first by a virus. Also, make sure that your antivirus software is updated at all times, as a firewall is not enough to protect against malware.

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You can protect your computer from viruses without expensive software. Instead, follow these simple tips:

Stay up-to-date on all system updates.

Don't download any email attachments you weren't expecting.

Avoid freeware and peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Use alternative web browsers and email software.