5 Steps To Fixing Your Hacked Email Account

How to regain control (and security) of your hacked email account.

Are you thinking your email account has been hacked?

Perhaps some of your contacts are complaining that you are sending emails with spammy links. Maybe you keep getting logged out of your account with a message that you are logged in on another computer. These are some things that I have had happen to several people I know recently.

You use your email for a lot of other important accounts.

You may use it to log into your bank account. You use it to create almost any social media account like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. Once someone gets control of your email address, they can find out what accounts it is used for and then request new passwords for them. Worse, many people use the same password for many of their accounts. You also probably have a lot of personal information in those emails that could really mess up things for you. Your email account is important and needs to be secure.

How can you make sure no one has hacked your email account and it is safe?

Here are 5 steps to securing your email account after it’s been hacked.

Now, this will only work if you can still log into the account. If the password has been changed, your only hope is to contact the email service and get their help. If you can still log in, this should lock anyone that’s been in it out. This can also work for a hacked Facebook, Twitter or any online account.

Follow the steps in order. Also, do them fairly quickly and go through them all. Taking a few hour fir a  break in the middle of the process makes it possible for the hacker to get back in, even though it would be unlikely to happen. The whole process could be done in just a few minutes (for each account) but is probably going to take much longer than that since few people are familiar enough with the account sections in their email. You’re going to have to struggle with finding some of the sections as each email service is different. If it takes you a long time to come up with passwords, get a couple ready before you start (read through first though).

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1. Change your password.

Kind of obvious. For this password change, you don’t need a super good password. Just something that someone who has been reading all your email for a few weeks in not going to guess real quick. Just a quick easy password. Make sure you will remember it for then next few minutes too. :) It won’t do us much good to be locked out of our own email. This password change is just to lock the hacker out while we close some of the other holes.

2. Check for any forwarding email addresses.

Google's Email Forwarding
Gmail Email Forwarding

With a forwarding address, any email coming in to your email is copied and automatically sent to another email address. There is no notification like a normal sent email. Hotmail and Gmail allow free email forwarding. Forwarding addresses are part of Yahoo’s premium email so if you don’t use the premium service (pay for it) it’s unlikely that there will be one. Check anyways. If there is a forwarding address (and it is not one of your email addresses that is secure) make sure you delete it and change the password again.

3. Change the security questions and answers.The Google Account Security Question

These are those questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What city were you born in?” You need to change the questions and give a nonsense answer to them. A hacker could easily have check or changed them to make regaining access to your account easy. The answer should not able a realistic answer for the question. Write down your answers as they won’t be easy to remember when you have answered several with wrong answers. You don’t want someone who has had access to your email to be able to guess the answers. They already may know a lot about you.

4. Check the backup email address.

The Google account backup email address
Check the backup address

Very likely, you needed to have an email address to create this one. Maybe you still use it and maybe you don’t but it is probably still there. It may be the way they got the password this time. Make sure that the backup email is still secure and controlled by you. It would be easy for a hacker to substitute an email he controls in place of yours so he could request a new password sent to it.

5. Finally, change to a really good strong password.

Your password should be at least 12 characters, use upper and lower case, numbers, and punctuation or other none standard character. Write it down if you need to but keep it in a safe place. A good idea for a password is to take the first letter of each word in a few sentences from your favorite book. Keep or add some capital letters, punctuation and the page number and you have a strong password that should be very difficult to crack and still be easy to remember. Whatever you do, make sure it is strong (in away, you are securing your bank account).

Now your email account is secure!

Avoid logging into your account on public computers or on unsecured wi-fi networks. Try to always use the https address ( https://mail.google.com instead of http://mail.google.com ). Never use your email password on other accounts.

Those are the 5 steps to fixing your hacked email, but you are not done yet. :(

You need to go through this with any account that you used your email address to create. Remember the hacker could have gotten those password using your email address.

Lastly, you need to consider how your email password was compromised.

Maybe you were tricked into using your password on a phishing site (a site meant to look like another site to steal your log in credentials. Maybe it was sniffed at an unsecured wi-fi network.

The other possibility is malware on your computer. Email as well as other account passwords and information are one of the prime targets of malware. My suggestion is to use a malware removal too like Malwarebytes Antimalware or SuperAntiSpyware (aff). Both are excellent tools and have free versions. If I am certain a computer is infected, I will usually use both to check and clean it off (as well as a few other tricks I’ve picked up). These two programs do an excellent job at getting malware that has slipped by your normal anti-virus and disabled it. Follow it up by reinstalling your anti-virus software and running a full scan.

Email has become a major form of communication.

Recently, courts have ruled, giving email the same privacy protection as regular mail. An email address is used as an ID for many online accounts and services. Protect it with a good password and be careful whenever you sign in that you are really on the right page. Make sure your the computer you log in with is safe.

Hope this helps you keep your email safe! Please Tweet this post or Facebook like it if you can.

*With all the requests for information on passwords I have created a post The Ultimate Guide To Passwords. Check it out if you have questions about passwords.