Nowadays, you cannot get hacked by just opening an email. This is because email clients have various safeguards that protect users from getting hacked by just opening emails.
Nonetheless, it is possible to get hacked if you open attachments or links from suspicious or phishing emails.
Continue reading to know how threat actors can hack you via email, email safety tips, and what to do if you accidentally click a link or open an attachment from suspicious or phishing emails.
Clicking links from suspicious emails.
Suspicious emails usually contain links to spoofed websites. Unfortunately, threat actors mimic official sites, and thus it is hard to recognize spoofed sites if you are not keen.
Spoofed websites are usually for harvesting sensitive information such as usernames and passwords. Others trick the victim into providing their financial details, such as credit card information.
Threat actors usually sell sensitive information to the highest bidder or use it to propagate further attacks such as identity theft.
Opening attachments from suspicious emails.
Downloading and opening email attachments from unknown senders can be dangerous, especially if you don’t have active antimalware/antivirus software on your device.
Email attachments such as documents, pictures, and software may contain hidden malware such as worms, viruses, keyloggers, and trojans.
Opening the attachments will activate the malware and allow threat actors to propagate more malware or launch harmful attacks such as ransomware.
Threat actors can use email attachment malware to steal your passwords, modify information on your device, and compromise other sensitive information.
Replying to suspicious emails.
Replying to emails from unknown senders puts you at a high risk of being hacked. Threat actors use various social engineering techniques, such as phishing, to get you to give out sensitive information unknowingly.
Here are the best cybersecurity practices that you can follow to stay safe and avoid getting hacked through email:
Don’t open links or attachments from suspicious emails.
Links or attachments in suspicious emails contain malware, such as viruses and worms. In addition, some links will direct you to spoofed sites that harvest your sensitive information.
Carefully check the sender’s details.
Suspicious/phishing emails usually mimic known entities. However, if you look closely at the sender’s details, you will notice something is amiss, such as spelling errors.
The domain name hackers use will also be something you have never heard before. So, always double-check the details.
Use strong passwords with multifactor authentication.
Strong and unique passwords make it hard for hackers to access your accounts. It would also be best to use multifactor authentication such as 2FA in your accounts.
If you click on a link and your credentials are compromised; multifactor authentication will make it hard for hackers to access your accounts.
Use antimalware/antivirus software.
Antimalware/antivirus software will protect your device against malware. This software will flag or remove attachments that contain malware hackers use to access your device.
Other antimalware/antivirus software will offer online protection against spoofed sites. Usually, they give you a warning when you try to access malicious sites.
Keep your device up to date.
Regularly perform updates as soon as they become available. If possible, set your device to auto-update your operating system and software, such as your browser and email app.
Updates provide fixes and patch vulnerabilities that hackers exploit to compromise sensitive information.
Sometimes, threat actors may trick you into opening a suspicious email attachment or clicking on a malicious link.
If you realize your mistake early enough, here is what you can do to minimize the risk of getting hacked.
Disconnect your device from the internet/network.
Disconnecting from the internet will cut off remote access in case hackers establish a link to your device. Also, disconnecting from the network will minimize the risk of malware spreading to other interconnected devices.
The fastest way to disconnect from the internet/network is to unplug your wired connection or turn off your Wi-Fi connection.
Close open tabs and delete unauthorized downloads.
Don’t interact with the website if you accidentally open a suspicious link. Some malicious websites will automatically download malware to your device.
Close all open tabs that link opened and delete downloads you didn’t initiate.
Scan your device for malware.
Use premium antimalware/antivirus software to scan your device and remove any malware before it severely compromises your system or steals your information.
You can scan your device in safe mode, delete the temporary files and cache, and continue checking for any malware tell-tale signs.
Change your login credentials.
If you suspect some of your sensitive information might have been compromised, change your passwords to prevent hackers from stealing your identity.
Use a password manager to create and store unique and strong passwords for your accounts. Additionally, use multifactor authentication to prevent unauthorized logins.
Report identity theft to relevant authorities.
If you suspect your sensitive details, including financial information, have been compromised, contact relevant bodies, such as your credit card provider, to lock your card.
If you are part of a group such as an institution or an organization, report the matter to the cybersecurity teams so that they can take appropriate control measures.
Get identity theft protection/fraud alert.
Identity theft protection services will help you combat identity theft in case your accounts or sensitive information gets stolen by hackers.
These services usually scan the dark web for your information and will alert you if they find any information associated with your account.
Depending on the service, you might enjoy other benefits, such as anti-phishing, secure browsing, and cybersecurity reports.
In the past, you could get hacked just by opening an email due to the vulnerabilities in the email clients.
These days, to get hacked through email, you need to either open malicious attachments or click on phishing email links.
Nonetheless, you can protect yourself by using antimalware/antivirus software, being aware of phishing email scams, using unique passwords and multifactor authentication, and keeping your device up to date.