How does email get hacked? There are several techniques used to gain access to an email account using a password or backdoors.
With the rate of technological advancements, new technologies such as deep machine learning and strong artificial intelligence have led to more sophisticated ways of hacking emails.
No email is immune to hacking. Therefore, every company must educate its workforce on common hacking techniques and how to prevent them.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the main techniques that hackers use to access your email.
By the end of this article, you will be well-informed of the hackers’ techniques and as well as different tools and mechanisms you can use to prevent infiltrations to your account.
Keylogging is a simple way to hack email passwords or accounts. It involves monitoring a user’s activity and recording every keystroke typed on the computer keyboard. In most cases, this is achieved with the help of a spying tool known as Keylogger.
There are no special skills required to install a software or program on a computer or network infrastructure. Keyloggers operate in stealth mode. They are challenging to detect and can stay in the system for long periods without being identified.
These spying programs can also be installed remotely, so the attacker does not have to gain physical access to the target’s computer.
Keylogging is arguably the most straightforward breaching technique used by hackers to steal sensitive information from targets. Apart from hacking emails, keylogging can also be used to for spying on your target’s phone calls, messages, and other valuable credentials.
Methods Used by Hackers to Send Keyloggers to Computers
Recently hackers have developed the tendency of embedding keyloggers and other backdoors in software. At face value, it may seem like a legit mobile application, a PDF file, or a flash player update. When installing the software, the embedded Keylogger also installs as part of the application.
Since the emergence of the Corona outbreak, hackers have infiltrated more than 10 million emails. They embed keyloggers and local access Trojans in software that claims to track COVID spread. That’s how hackers to trick users into downloading malicious software.
Phishing emails are fake emails sent to target computers to lure into a malicious course of action. The mail contains corrupted files with malware that promptly installs in the background when downloaded by a user. This is the primary method used by hackers to spread Trojans and Malware.
Hackers also target work-from-home employees with phishing emails in an attempt to hack a corporates network. Most phishing emails prompt you to act immediately, a tactic you can use to identify such types of emails.
Hackers also use vulnerabilities and loopholes within a computer system or network infrastructure to inject a keylogger. Vulnerabilities, in most cases, are a result of the running of outdated software, add-ons, or plug-ins. Black hats identify vulnerabilities in web browsers and computers.
Phishing URLs may be at the bottom of an article, an app description, or behind a fake software. These are phishing links that re-direct users to illicit websites such as pornographic websites, websites that ask for donations, or malware-infected websites. These malicious websites then install a keylogger to your system without the user’s knowledge.
Hackers also use malicious ads to send Keylogger to computers. Malicious ads can also be found on legitimate websites used by advertisers to bid for space.
In some cases, the ads install a keylogger when you click on them while others install the keylogger when you close them out.
That’s how hackers send keyloggers to your phone and computers easily.
After learning about how hackers can use these techniques to hack your email account, you should have a better understanding of how to prevent keylogger infection:
- Avoid opening emails from unknown or malicious sources.
- Download and install applications and extensions from trusted publishers.
- Be cautious with advertisements you click on
- Always scan the URL before clicking to verify whether it’s safe or not.
- Install software updates regularly.
All in all, it’s your responsibility as a user to develop a good browsing habits.
However, there are also user-friendly tools that you can use to help avoid victim to a keylogger attack.
Tools To Prevent a Keylogger Attack
Patch management automatically looks for software updates online for your computer. Vulnerabilities are one of the major gateways through which keyloggers are introduced into a system. A patch management tool ensures that you have the latest updates with all security fixes for your operating system at any given time.
URL Scanner employs AI to deep scan websites to countercheck whether it’s safe or malicious. All you have to do is to highlight, copy, and paste the link in the provided space. It’s one of the most reliable ways to avoid being re-directed to malware-infected websites. Some free URL scanners online include VirusTotal and Comodo Website.
Key Encryption Software
Encryption software can be used as an extra protection technique by concealing the characters you type on the keyboard. The encryption software works by encrypting the keys with random numbers as they navigate through the operating system. The disoriented characters make it difficult for keyloggers to capture the exact keys.
This type of software protects you from a variety of malware. Anti-malware software scans through various files you download to prevent infiltrations by malware. This is one of the critical software that can protect you against malware attacks. With the rapid technological advancements, you should always go for the latest and the most advanced anti-malware software because sophisticated malware can get past the traditional anti-malware software.
Compare to Keylogging techniques, Phishing is a more complicated method of hacking emails. Phishing emails involve the use of spoofed webpages designed to be identical to those of legitimate websites.
When executing this malicious social engineering activity, hackers create fake login pages that resemble Yahoo, Gmail, or other services providers. If you key in your credentials on the fake login pages, black hats monitor your activity and steal the credentials.
Phishers are smart enough to send you an email that looks just like what could have been sent by Gmail or Yahoo. These emails contain links asking you to update your email account information or change the password.
In some cases, an online persona of someone you know at a close level is used to hoodwink you into providing your email login credentials.
To successfully execute a phishing attack, one likely will have considerable hacking knowledge with prior experience in scripting languages such as CSS and JSP/PHP.
Phishing is considered a criminal offense in most jurisdictions. Enabling a 2-factor authentication for your email is not sufficient protection against phishing attacks.
One needs to be very vigilant before giving out their email credentials despite how convincing the situation might seem to be. Always double-check the web address from where the email is originating from before dishing out your details.
If you have never requested for password change, then ignore any message prompting you to change, update or confirm your security details. These are scammers waiting to exploit you.
Warning signs for phishing attacks
Email from Unfamiliar Sender
Before opening that message you just received, there are several details you can check to verify whether you are a target for a phishing attack or the email is legitimate. First, scrutinize the sender’s details. It might be from a source you have never interacted with before, and if so, then check on the various online platforms to check its legitimacy.
The sender’s email seems off
For instance, you may receive an email from [email protected], which resembles that of Joseph Goast, who works at Logo Inc.
Joseph might be a real person and work for Logo, as stated, but his account of details may have been manipulated by a hacker who aims at getting your credentials to hack your email account. The company name might be misspelled, or the email could have a wrong ending such as logo.cn as opposed to logo.com.
Other signs to look out for may include:
- The style of opening statements – if it seems oddly generic, then you need to take caution against clicking any link or downloading an attachment as they may be corrupted.
3. Password Guessing and Resetting
Email accounts can also be hacked through password guessing, a social engineering technique exploited by a majority of hackers.
Password guessing technique best work with those whom you know or those whom you are close to. In this type of attack, an attacker aims at manipulating the target in an attempt to figure out their personal information.
Password guessing and resetting require a witty person with impeccable thinking power, an individual who can almost read the victim’s mind.
For the attack to be successful, an attacker needs to know the target considerably well, and that calls for an A-class social skill. Black hats that often use this technique tend to be colleagues, friends, or even family members. Such persons might have in-depth knowledge about you, be it hobbies, lifestyle, habits, and even personal information such as birthdates. This makes it easier for persons to figure out your email password. They also may be able to easily answer security questions while resetting your email’s password.
4. Not logging out of the account.
Always ensure to log out of your email after using a public device or PC. It’s advisable to develop a tendency and a habit of logging out every time you sign in using a shared device or public computers, otherwise, avoid signing in into your accounts using public PCs altogether. Avoid using computers at internet cafes and libraries to access personal accounts or corporate websites as it’s not easy to identify whether they are infected with keylogging spyware or malware.
5. Using easy passwords
Do not use the same password across multiple platforms. If you have been doing so, then it’s time to change and get unique login credentials for every website or service that you need. A good rule of thumb is to make the password not less than 16 characters, and at least one should be a number or a unique digit.
For the sake of future use, you can base them on a complex sentence with the first letter of each word serving as a character in the credentials. Hackers find it easy to hack email accounts with weak passwords through trial and error techniques. There are also several tools available, which use artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor your activities and match your web activity. From such data, black hats can analyze and predict what you are likely to use a password, so up your game.
6. Using an insecure Wi-Fi network to access your email account
Hackers easily bypass unsecured Wi-Fi network infrastructure and eavesdrop or intercept the connection to get the password and other valuable information. To avoid such incidents, you should only connect your devices to reputable networks that are password protected and can be trusted. You can use VPN services such as HMA! or AVG Secure VPN to secure and encrypt your connection.
7. Spammers harvested your email.
Your email can get harvested by scammers if you list it publicly online in places such as blogs, online forums, online ads, and so on. For the sake of your security, just don’t list your email address on such platforms. Avoid such acts like the plague!
There you have it, the seven common ways in which your email can be hacked. So be woke!. Follow the above-stated advice, and it will take you a long way in preventing an email hack from befalling you.
Joseph Ochieng’was born and raised in Kisumu, Kenya. He studied civil engineering as first degree and later on pursued bachelors in information technology from the technical university of Kenya. His educational background has given him the broad base from which to approach topics such as cybersecurity, civil and structural engineering. When he is not reading or writing about the various loopholes in cyber defense, the he is probably doing structural design or watching la Casa de Papel . You can connect with Joseph via twitter @engodundo or email him via [email protected] for email about new article releases”