Nowadays, having an email account is an absolute necessity for individuals who wish to effectively navigate the digital world. Whether you truly realize it or not, it is highly likely that your email address is directly linked to your: various social network accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), online shopping accounts, web hosting accounts, cloud storage, and the list goes on.
By linking so much of our digital identity to one location, we effectively create a central hub that connects to all of our personal information. While this can be extremely convenient, it is also exactly what hackers are looking for – for them this is a remarkable digital treasure trove. Here a few of the most common ways that your email address can be misused by devious hackers and greedy scammers.
They Can Purchase Products And Services Online
This is one of the most straightforward ways that a hacker can misuse your email account. There are countless online shopping websites that not only accept credit cards as a form of payment, they also give you the option to save your credit card information in your online store account. While this option is meant to help you, the shopper, by streamlining your experience on the website and save you valuable time – it can also be abused by hackers.
How? Your various online shopping accounts are connected to your email address, are they not? All a vindictive hacker has to do is reset your passwords for these websites and then have fun shopping with your bank account. Thankfully, some online shopping services (such as Amazon) request that you re-enter your credit card number when you select a new shipping address – however, many online shopping services do not do this.
They Can Compromise and/or Delete Your Accounts
In less than a day, your entire digital identity can be irreparably compromised and even irreversibly deleted. By taking control of your email account hackers have the ability to take a hold of your Twitter. Facebook, and other social network accounts.
Once they do this they can then utilize them in any way they see fit – the “kindest” among them might leave them be or simply delete them; however, more malicious hackers may first go a step further. A hacked social network account can be used to upload and post insensitive content and broadcast horrible messages (homophobic, racist, etc.). While you can try to pass along the word that you have been hacked, all of this can still potentially be detrimental to your social standing and it can cost you relationships and even your job.
They Can Wipe Your Personal Devices
If a hacker gets unbarred access to your email account then they could potentially also gain access to services and tools such as: Google Play, iCloud, and Blackberry Protect. The havoc that someone could potentially cause, if they get control of your account on these services, is unimaginable.
Virtually all devices that have been created in the past few years have some form of cloud based integration that is extremely advantageous and convenient for users; however, in the hands of a malicious individual, this same functionality can be terrifying. iOS devices, Blackberry phones, and Android devices can all be remotely wiped once you have access to their respective services – and all of these services are connected to your email account. That means all of your personal and valuable information can be deleted forever by a simple push of a button or click of a mouse. Frightening isn’t it?
They Can Tarnish Your Reputation
In this day and age smartphones exist as far more than devices that we use to call our friends and loved ones. Among other things, these devices can now be used to take pictures and share important moments with the important people in our lives. However, with the recent iCloud hacking fiasco that targeted not only celebrities but also ordinary people as well, many people have come to realize that information that they once thought was private is actually far from it.
Services like iCloud are connected to your email address, so hackers that get access to your email account have a much easier time gaining access to a lot of your private pictures and information that you may not want to have out in the open. Likewise, if you choose to send risqué photos via your email account then once a hacker gets into said account they have full access to those pictures. If you plan on sending risqué pictures to someone then an alternative, such as SnapChat, may be your best bet.
They Can Take Advantage Of Your Friends And Family
If your email account has been hacked then scammers potentially have access to not only your finances, they also have access to the finances of your friends and family. You might be wondering: How can they possibly attack my friends and family? While hackers may to have direct access to their accounts they have access to yours and they can draw upon your friends’ kindness and sympathy to get money from them.
All it takes is a tragic email to your mom or you best friend that says that you’ve been in an accident or you’ve been robbed while enjoying your vacation. Then all the scammer has to do is say that your wallet/credit cards are missing or stolen but you can still collect funds via Western Union or some other money transfer service. Your email account is literally your digital address book and once a scammer gets access to it, they can make use of each and every one of your contacts.
So What Can You Do?
There are a few simple things that you can do to safeguard your email account from hackers and scammers. Firstly, you should not only establish a complex password for your email account (no birthdays or kid’s names) and institute two-factor authentication. Secondly, you should try to use different email accounts for various purposes: shopping, social media, etc. Have you or a friend ever had an email account that was hacked? Do you know of any more ways that your email account can be exploited? Let us know about it in the comments!