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‘Have I Been Hacked?’ Read These Email Address Security Tips

“Have I been #hacked?” Odds are, yes. Find out why—and what you can do about it—by reading these email address security tips.

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Has Your Account Been Breached? Email Address Security Tips

I’ll be honest: I don’t particularly take joy in talking about topics like this, and I wish that all of my posts could be about lighthearted and entertaining stuff. I mean, the world’s already bleak enough as it is. Sadly, what we’re going to talk about today, account breaches, is a very real problem—one that puts us all in danger 24/7. And you’d know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve ever asked yourself this simple question: “Have I been hacked?”

Email address security isn’t exactly something that dwells on our minds every day, and with good reason. To be able to access many of the online services we use in our daily lives, we end up having to provide our email addresses and other personal information. We do so with the implied understanding that the websites we sign into will do everything in their power to keep our information safe.

Unfortunately, hackers put in the same amount of effort to get our information—and when they succeed, more often than not, we only find out when it’s already too late.

How hackers attack

Here’s what you should understand about account breaches: they’re not always our fault. In fact, some of the most serious instances of information theft happen beyond our control.

There are two different types of attacks:

email address security tips

Phishing attacks – Have you ever received an odd-looking email telling you that there’s something wrong with, say, your Netflix account and inviting you to click a button to fix it? That’s one example of a possible phishing attack. In these cases, hackers come after us individually, attempting to steal our information from right under our noses. Fortunately, these types of attacks are easy enough to deflect: Just don’t click on any suspicious links, period. In this case, knowing is indeed half the battle; the other half is self-control.

email address security tips

External attacks – Now, these are the types of attacks that turn out to be massive security headaches. Instead of targeting individuals, external attackers hit websites that provide services people sign up for. Once a website gets breached, the hacker may find themself able to access a treasure trove of user  information. If the website owners know a thing or two about account security, then odds are that the hacker will end up with encrypted data that they can’t read. Often, though, the hacker manages to get plain text information: from email addresses to credit card numbers to addresses. In other words, personal information that no self-respecting user would share with anyone else willy-nilly. 

What’s in it for the hacker?

Unsurprisingly, 99.9% of the time, it’s for profit. 

When hackers get access to our personal data, there are a myriad of ways they can make money off of it. 

Some hackers will hold your information hostage, asking you for sums of money to keep them from giving your data to other, more unscrupulous individuals.

Others will just straight-up sell your data on the Dark Web.

But that’s not the scariest part of all this, oh no.

Fact is, It takes an average of 209 days – yes, that’s almost 7 months – from the time a breach occurs to the time the public’s informed about it, regardless of whether or not the website owners find out about the breach a bit earlier.

Worse, it takes roughly 314 days—10 and a half months!—for these websites to fix a breach. 

In other words, many of the breaches we hear about now… actually happened last year.

Now that we know the kind of danger we’re in on a daily basis, the question is: what can we do about it?

Has Your Account Been Breached? Email Address Security Tips

Email Address Security Tips

First, there’s perhaps no such thing as a website that has never experienced these kinds of attacks. In fact, some websites are under siege pretty much all the time, whether from hackers or the bots they use to steal information. There are probably thousands of website breaches that we’ll never even find out about, even if you’re one of those sites’ account holders.

Luckily, there are some proactive practices we can adopt. 

Email Address Security Tips

Have a good password strategy in place.

The first step here is to have a password manager that takes care of all your passwords. It doesn’t matter which password manager you use, because all of them will definitely offer you more protection than you’d have if you relied on typing your password manually. 

Aside from that, make sure to change your password on a regular basis. The frequency of these hacks should make it clear that this is something you have to do. A good password manager can help you with that, as it will remind you when it’s time to change your password.

Email Address Security Tips

Use two-factor authentication.

Here’s another tried and tested strategy that a lot of people seem to disregard. Most major websites support two-factor authentication, simply because it’s so effective. Even if your email address and password get compromised, the additional step will protect your account and information from prying eyes.

Email Address Security Tips

Use a decoy email address for sites you’re not 100% committed to.

We’ve all gone through this experience: We visit a site or service that we want to take for a test run, but we’re not sure if we want to use it regularly. Maybe we’ll log into that site twice or thrice for the rest of our lifetimes. In those cases, instead of using my email address and going through the machinations of setting it up, I just use my decoy email address. That way, even if it falls into the wrong hands, I won’t lose much.

Check Your Email Address Security With Breach Report

Meanwhile, services such as Breach Report keep us informed when our email addresses and accounts have been compromised.

Email Address Security Tips

Breach Report is constantly monitoring the web and the Dark Web to find information about breaches. If the site discovers that our information has been included in one of the breaches or leaks, it will inform us right away.

The standard report the site generates takes you through each  of the breaches your email address has been discovered in. With that information, you can take action.

Email Address Security Tips

What I love about Breach Report, though, is the Breach Catalog, a compilation of known breaches that’s updated as new breaches are detected.

Try it yourself by going to the Breach Report and entering your email address or domain name. Breach Report will do a quick scan, and you’ll know how often your email address has been compromised in no time.

Email Address Security Tips

Ultimately, though, Breach Report and other services can only do so much. At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself safe online.

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