A recent survey conducted by leading online safety advisory organisation Get Safe Online in advance of its Global24 2022 event, revealed that 93% of the 5,200 adults questioned were unaware that email account passwords are the most sought after by cybercriminals.
So why are your email account passwords so important?
Think about what you do when you register for online accounts, whether they’re for banking or payments, shopping, booking tickets, streaming entertainment or social media. Usually, unless you’re asked for a specific username, the first thing you need is your email address. Along with a password, this provides you with access to your online accounts. When you’ve completed the registration process, you’ll normally receive a confirmation email. Similarly, if you make an online purchase or other transaction, you’ll normally receive an email acknowledgment.
So if a cybercriminal gets hold of the password for the email account that’s associated with your other online accounts – and they can also guess, crack or otherwise obtain the password for the online accounts – they can stroll right into your accounts and withdraw money, make purchases and generally, act as you.
What’s in your inbox?
Take a look through your email inboxes – personal and work ones – to see what personal and other confidential information is in there.
We’ve already mentioned registration and purchase acknowledgement emails, which should be kept confidential. However, there may also be information about your finances, health, family and other relationships, personal photos and, of course, links to websites and online storage that you’d rather keep private … for whatever reason.
Again, if somebody gains access to your email account, they have access to all of the above.
Protect your email account passwords
Get Safe Online experts have some simple, practical tips to help you protect your email account:
- Make sure you use a different password for your email – but also every online account you have whether it’s financial services, stores or social media platforms. This is because if you do use the same login details and one of your accounts is compromised or the website hacked, criminals have easy access to all your accounts.
- Where offered, use two-factor authentication (2FA / MFA) to confirm that you are actually you. The site you’re logging into will send you a PIN by email or text which you need to enter in order to gain access.
- Don’t log in to your email or other confidential online services when using public Wi-Fi hotspots. This could be intercepted by either unsecured or fake Wi-Fi, capturing your details.
- Can’t remember all those passwords? You’re in good company … most people can’t. Use a reputable password manager which not only stores all your passwords in one place but can also help you set up secure passwords that are difficult to guess or crack.
- Last but not least: it may sound obvious, but don’t share your email or any other passwords with anybody else, however reliable or trustworthy you believe them to be.