Information Overload: Has your email ever been hacked?


Jan. 28, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.

Every week we hear of another website suffering from some sort of data breach, where customer accounts are compromised or usernames and passwords are hacked.

A few weeks ago was the target, with hackers gaining access to their database of customer usernames and passwords.

If you were a customer of Zappos, it is a good idea to check on accounts you may have created on other sites where you used the same email address and password.

I'd change those passwords as soon as you can. It's a good idea to change passwords every few months anyway. I know, easier said than done. But trust me, in the long run you will be thankful for it.

A few years ago, one of my email accounts was hacked. It was an old account I used primarily to sign up for newsletters and the like.

I didn't even know the account was hacked until I received messages from friends wondering why I was sending them links from an old email address to this "awesome" website that sold discounted iPads.

After realizing my account was hacked, there was a feeling of awkwardness, embarrassment, then anger.

Soon I was in full battle-mode, informing friends I was hacked, not to click on any links in my messages, followed by me trying to find out who compromised my account.

I was able to determine that someone from China, or someone using an IP address from China, had accessed my email account.

I was able to get back into my account and change my password. I changed the password to not only the hacked email account, but for all my other email accounts as well. I also went one step further and changed passwords for any online accounts I had.

Yes, it was probably overkill, but I was long due for updating and creating stronger passwords for all my accounts.

Hopefully, this will never happen to you, but if it does, it is best to jump into action as soon as possible. After you are able to get access to your account, change the password.

Be sure to use a strong password. For example, instead of using a password with words in it, such as "Ilikecats4ever" a stronger password like "ilc4vr$1" is a better option.

Another thing to check is any forwarding settings on your email account.

The hacker may change your email settings so it will forward a copy of your emails to themselves.

I'd also search your emails and delete any messages you may have received or sent to yourself with account and password information. I've been guilty of this in the past, emailing password information to myself as a reminder. However, it's a practice I've since abandoned.

This email hacking experience taught me the importance of creating strong, hard to remember passwords, and doing a better job at password management.

Keeping track of so many passwords can be a challenge, so using a password manager program like LastPass may be helpful.

It seems I get emails on a regular basis nowadays from friends and colleagues who have had their accounts hacked.

It is a sign of the times, but with a little proactive action, you may be better prepared in case it ever happens to you.

CJ Castillo writes about geeky stuff for the Victoria Advocate. You can contact her at Please send all correspondence c/o Victoria Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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