Wait a minute…who’s been sending emails from my account?
Did you know every day thousands of webmail accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) are taken over by cyber criminals? Compromised webmail can be used to make purchases, transfer money from bank accounts or even trick friends and family into giving out information that allows access to their webmail – in a matter of minutes.
Take time to do a few simple things to ensure your webmail accounts are as secure as possible:
Weak passwords can be easily hacked and used to access your account.
- Avoid using the same password on numerous accounts. This may make your email vulnerable if another site is compromised.
- Change your password often.
- Use strong passwords. For example, think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. For more tips, visit OnGuardOnline.gov‡
Even a strong password can be compromised if security questions are easy to guess.
- Make sure answers can’t be researched on social media sites.
- Pick a question that only you know the answer to.
- Choose the custom security question option if available.
Phishing scams use a convincing message to trick you into clicking a link, downloading attachments or other “bait” that can be used to log your online activity, give a cyber criminal control of your computer or even direct you to a phony website where you’re asked to enter your username and password. All of these can be used to commit online crimes. To avoid phishing scams:
- Look for misspellings or grammatical errors.
- Question suspicious email; don’t click questionable links or download attachments that appear out of the ordinary, even if from a friend or company you’re familiar with.
- If you aren’t sure, OnGuardOnline.gov‡ provides help for identifying phishing scams.
The best protection against cyber crime is staying alert.
- Check sent, trash, and other folders for suspicious incoming or outgoing mail.
- Check advanced account options for changes you didn’t make. Your email may be forwarded to someone else and you didn’t even know it.
- Investigate security options offered by your provider like notices for suspicious log-in attempts or two-step verification using a code that’s texted to your phone.
- Regularly review financial accounts associated with your email address for suspicious activity.
- Contact your bank and all other financial institutions immediately if you think your email has been compromised.
Don’t fall victim to cyber crime. Take time to secure your webmail accounts and encourage friends and family to do the same.
Ms. Matheys serves as vice president and information security and privacy officer, providing oversight of UMB’s formal information security and privacy programs. She joined UMB in 2010. She attended Kansas State University with a focus on management information systems and is a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) as well as Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).