Is my email compromised? Facts about email hacking and ways to prevent it

If you’re wondering “Is my email compromised?”, we are here to present the warning signs, explain the most common types of attacks, and help reduce the damage.
Emails enable you to instantly connect with users anywhere in the world and share any type of information in record time. Since we use them to convey sensitive personal and business data, emails are often targeted by hackers looking to steal that information for financial gain. This is why you need to learn how to recognize signs of email hacking and what steps to take to protect your online identity.This article will answer crucial questions about cyber attacks and methods of preventing them, such as:
  • What are the different types of email attacks?
  • Which signs indicate that your email has been compromised?
  • What steps should you take to mitigate the damage caused by hackers?
  • How to make sure your email security is at its best
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Email hacking—different types and their methods

There are different types of attacks targeting email systems, and most have become significantly more sophisticated over time. While they all have the same purpose—stealing your personal information—the difference lies in how they are executed.The following table explains how emails get hacked and what the most common techniques that compromise email security are:
Attack typeWhat it does
PhishingHackers send an email resembling one you would receive from a legitimate source. You’re typically led to a spoof site designed to steal your personal info as soon as you enter your login credentials
Malware attackThese attacks involve viruses, adware, scareware, and spyware and often accompany phishing schemes. You get an email asking you to download the attachment infected by malware that compromises your account and online privacy
Denial of service (DoS) attackDoS attacks target businesses rather than individuals. The hackers overwhelm the servers by flooding them with traffic or sending information that triggers a crash
Account takeover (ATO)This type of attack involves stealing your credentials—typically via phishing, malware attack, or device theft—and results in hackers taking over your account
Man-in-the-middle attackThe attackers bypass network security protocols and intercept emails en route to the recipient. Unsecured public Wi-Fi networks are common mediums for hackers carrying out this type of attack

Signs your email has been compromised

If you’re asking yourself, “Is my email safe?” or you’re wondering if it has been hacked, there are some warning signs that indicate an attack:
  • Your password no longer works—Hackers typically change the password as soon as they access a user’s account. Not being able to sign into your email account anymore may indicate you are a victim of a cyber attack
  • Strange emails that you don’t remember sending—Sometimes hackers won’t change the password to your account but will instead use it to send fraudulent messages in your name. If you notice any strange emails in your “Sent” folder, there’s a strong chance hackers took over your account
  • Different IP addresses show up on your log—Most email providers have a tool that reveals your IP address. This means that each time you log into your account, your IP address is recorded. If your email provider displays information about an unknown device, different browser type, and strange location of a person attempting to log in, you can assume that you’ve been hacked
  • Social media posts you didn’t make—Since hackers can use your email to get access to your social media accounts, they can use them to send messages to your contacts or create unfamiliar posts
  • Your contacts are receiving messages or emails you didn’t send—Hackers may send messages and emails on your behalf to try to get money or personal information from your contacts. If a friend, family member, or coworker informs you they received a suspicious message from your account, it’s likely you’ve been hacked

What to do once you discover you’ve been hacked

If you notice any of the previously-mentioned signs of hacking, you need to take prompt action to minimize the damage. There are several steps you can follow to take action against the hackers:
  1. Report the attack to your service provider
  2. Change your credentials
  3. Notify your contacts
  4. Run an antivirus scan
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Contact your email provider

The most important step is to contact your email service provider and report the attack, even if you didn’t lose access to your account. This helps providers track scammers and take necessary security measures to prevent future intrusions.Many providers have a web page dedicated to recovering your account. To regain control over it, you might need to prove your identity first by answering security questions and giving the correct alternate contact information.

Update your username, password, and security question

You will be able to change the password on your own if the hacker hasn't locked out of your account. If they have, you will need help from your email service provider.You should choose a strong password that combines letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using personal information, such as your name or birth date, as hackers can easily uncover these details. Also, don’t set the same password for all accounts because if someone gets ahold of your credentials, they will have access to all of them.You should also change your security question to something unique, unpredictable, and memorable. Hackers can typically guess the security answers based on personal information displayed on your social media accounts. This is why it’s crucial to regularly change your security question but also ensure it’s not easily discoverable.

Warn the people you know

Hackers often use your account to send malware-laden emails to everyone you know, so you should inform your contacts that you’ve been hacked immediately after discovering it.Tell your contacts not to open and respond to any suspicious messages received via email or any other medium, such as messaging applications or Instagram, in case the hacker gained access to these as well. Warn them to delete all messages coming from your account until you resolve the situation.

Run an antivirus scan on all devices

Run an antivirus scan on all your connected devices, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops, as doing so will ensure they are free from malware.You can set up a regular automatic scan that will do the work for you and keep your devices and accounts free of new threats. Malware scans usually involve the following steps:
  1. Install or update antivirus software
  2. Open it and run a full scan on your device
  3. Review the results and take the corresponding action

The best way to avoid future cases of email hacking

While hacking cannot be completely prevented, there are steps you can take to protect your account from unauthorized access. One of the crucial security practices protecting your online safety and privacy is email encryption.Email encryption involves turning the contents of your emails into ciphertext to make the message unreadable to anyone else but the intended recipient.Most email service providers today offer some sort of encryption to safeguard your emails, but not all types are equally effective. See the three commonly used types in the table below:
TypeHow it works
Encryption at rest Keeps your data secure while it’s stored on the device or in the cloud, but not while it travels between servers
Encryption in transitEncrypts the data while it travels to the recipient but leaves it vulnerable when resting on a server
End-to-end encryption (E2EE)Encrypts your message on the device level and ensures the data is secured from any unauthorized access until it reaches the intended recipient

How E2EE ensures your online security and privacy

Many email service providers offer encryption in transit and at rest, but these methods have significant vulnerabilities a hacker can exploit. The decryption keys are created and stored by the email service provider, so a hacker that infiltrates the provider's servers can steal them and access your emails. Providers holding the decryption keys can also decrypt your messages at any time, endangering your privacy.Big tech email services, such as Gmail and Outlook, implement the inferior Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol that offers basic protection while your data travels between servers. They retain control of the decryption keys and are notorious for misusing user information for sending personalized ads.If you value your online privacy and want to be in full control of your personal data, you should go for a higher security standard in the form of end-to-end encryption. In the case of E2EE, users create and store the decryption keys, meaning nobody but the recipient—not even the email service provider—can access your messages. End-to-end encryption is your safest bet against unauthorized parties accessing your email account, enabling you to enjoy complete security and privacy in your online communication.If you’re looking for an E2EE email service that will bring your account safety to the next level, sign up for Skiff.

Use Skiff Mail for the highest level of security and privacy

Skiff Mail is a privacy-first email service provider. By using advanced end-to-end encryption, the platform ensures your online traffic can’t be seen or analyzed by anyone besides your chosen recipient. Skiff implements two separate keys to safeguard your emails—a public key that can be distributed among users and a corresponding private key that is safely stored on the user’s device. Even Skiff’s own team can’t access the decryption key and see your email content.Skiff is open-source and completely transparent about its code. Everyone can check out the public whitepaper to get a detailed insight into its security protocols and other relevant information.The platform also supports two-factor authentication (2FA) as an extra protection layer against unauthorized access. It is a verification method ensuring that even if someone guesses your password, they can’t access your email without a one-time code sent to your trusted device.Skiff offers a generous free plan that completely meets the needs of average users. Once you sign up for the service, you’ll gain access to many features that other service providers include in their paid plans, such as:
  • 10GB of storage
  • 4 free aliases
  • Advanced email search function
  • Auto-replay and signature options
  • Integrations with crypto wallets such as Brave, Keplr, MetaMask, and Coinbase
Unlike most other privacy-first services, Skiff features an intuitive and beautifully designed user interface that requires no technical knowledge to navigate. You don’t have to sacrifice safety for functionality—sign up and start sending secure emails instantly!

Take advantage of Skiff’s comprehensive product suite

Besides email, Skiff created three more E2EE products that you can use to streamline your workflow. Those are:
  1. Skiff Pages—Write and edit an unlimited number of documents in real time and collaborate with your team from anywhere in the world without privacy concerns
  2. Skiff Drive—Store, upload, share, and download all types of files while having full control over who gets to access them
  3. Skiff Calendar—Schedule your events and create entries in a secure environment

How to get started with Skiff Mail

Signing up for Skiff is simple and only takes three steps:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Create your account
  3. Start using Skiff Mail and other products
Skiff products can be accessed via any browser, iOS, Android, and macOS apps.In addition to a generous free plan, Skiff offers three paid plans if you decide to expand your storage and gain access to more features:
  • Essential—$3 per user/month
  • Pro—$8 per user/month
  • Business—$12 per user/month

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