MacMost Now 388: Protect Your Email Account

Web-based email accounts have been the target of malicious hackers and spammers recently. Find out how they get access to an account, and how to protect yourself. See how to check your Gmail account for unauthorized access. Protect your account with a strong, secure password.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's look at protecting your email account from being hacked. So recently there has been a lot of talk about email accounts being hacked, I'm talking specifically about accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and gmail. The online web based email accounts which you can also access through mail clients like the Apple Mail App. Now there are certain specific ways that hackers can access you account, let's look at them and how you can protect yourself against those attacks.
Now, one way they do it is through social engineering, so this means not any specific technical hack, but simply trying to trick the user into giving up their password, sometimes without even the user knowing. For instance, you may get an email asking for your password or saying you need to reset your password, "please click here" then you click there and you go to a page that looks just like perhaps your Hotmail login. You use that to change your password, now it doesn't work and you don't think much of it, but what you've done is basically give your password to a hacker because you weren't actually at the Hotmail account, you were at a page that looked like it and you gave them your password.
So if you are ever asked for your password, asked to enter your password, or asked to change your password and you get that in an email or you see it on a website don't do it! Instead go to a completely new browser window then type in the name of your email service, like say hotmail.com or gmail.com and go to it yourself or use your bookmark to it, don't click on the link that is provided on the page or in the email, and then if there is something you need to do you'll probably see a message there telling you. If you don't then you can be sure that was probably an attempt at getting your password. Also, look carefully at these links, if you are interested, and you'll notice they might go to a site that looks like a Hotmail account or a Gmail account, but the spelling is maybe a little different or the URL is somehow not quite right, that is the tip off right there.
The tricky part is sometimes you don't even know your password. If you are asked to say confirm your password or something and you do it, nothing might happen immediately, it may be months later that your actual account is used to send out spam.
So another way people can get into your email account is by simply guessing your password. Now, even if you think you have a tough password to break, if it is a regular English word or an English word with a number after it or even a date in any format, then it is very easy for them to break into your account, all they have to do is basically check millions of email addresses with millions of different popular passwords and they are going to get into hundreds if not thousands a day. So you are going to need a random string of numbers and letters as your password.
So if you want more information about how to make sure your passwords are secure check out MacMost.com/online-password-security.html.
Now a third way someone can get into your email account is simply by hacking it by using a virus on your computer, now this really isn't a problem for Mac users the key logging viruses and all that are all on the windows side, but keep in mind if you do use both Mac and Windows computers or if you ever access your email on a windows computer, I would never access an email account using a public computer set up say in an internet cafe or university. You don't know what is installed on there, I would only access your email account and login in using computers you know are secure.
So, there has been a lot of talk recently about people getting there Gmail accounts broken into and here is how you can check to see if your's has been affected. Go into your Gmail account and look all the way down here for 'Details', click on 'Details' and you go to this page where it actually shows all of your recent logins. Now, it should recognize your IP address, in fact at the bottom it will show you what your current IP address is and then you can see if anybody has been using your Gmail account without you knowing it.
So I would not be surprised if this current round of attacks on Gmail accounts turns out to be just hackers using Dictionary attacks. I don't see why they should go to the trouble of trying to hack into Google servers when they could simply guess passwords.
So, I hope you found this useful, please make sure your online email passwords are strong and take this opportunity to change them now. Tell next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 388: Protect Your Email Account”

    Ken
    4/21/10 @ 10:29 am

    Thanks Gary.

    I love the emails where the person will shared 10 Billon dollars me, I just have to send it a transaction fee. Haha.

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