Being Stalked or Just Paranoid
We spend a lot of time helping our clients with their technology or digital life issues. Sometimes, its a quick answer to help understand what is going on.
Other times, the issue is more complicated to pinpoint. A common question: “A friend called and said they got a strange email from me that I don’t remember sending. What happened?” It almost always means your inbox has been compromised.
Clues Your Device Has Been Compromised:
1. Did you send these?
If you are worried your account has been hijacked, check your Sent and Drafts folders for emails you did not write. When you’re looking through sent mail, check the recipients and when the emails were sent. If you do not remember sending those communications, that is a key sign your account has been compromised.
It is also worth checking your Sent and Drafts folders for messages with attachments, a primary vector for phishing malware. If you do not remember sending or composing emails with attachments, that is as big of a red flag as you can find. Your contacts may even reach out about receiving strange emails from you.
2. Did you change your passwords?
A compromised email account is a golden ticket for any aspiring hacker. Once they get inside, they can attempt to crack accounts associated with that email address. You need to make sure those passwords were not changed without your knowledge. To do this, search your inbox and use terms like password reset, password verification or password changed successfully. Look carefully through the messages that appear, and make a note of their date and time.
3. Did you read those emails?
Email accounts typically let you sort through messages by read or unread status. But if a hacker gets into your email address, all bets are off. While rummaging through your emails for personal data, they will likely open and close your messages arbitrarily. Read emails are usually presented in a standard, unbolded format, while unread messages are bolded. If you know your inbox was full of unopened messages now mysteriously marked as read, you may have a hacker on your hands.
4. Did you trash these emails?
Not only do hackers rummage through your emails willy-nilly, but they will sometimes erase emails without thinking about the consequences. This means you could lose essential data that could clue you into what happened during the hack, including accounts they may have compromised. When checking emails for signs of a threat, look in the trash and scan carefully for signs of disarray. If you see an important email trashed that you would not have thrown away otherwise, your account may have been attacked.
5. Did you log in?
Most email services let you check login activity, including the IP addresses or locations used to access your account. Some even show the browsers or devices used.
There is the pop-up question, of course. “I can’t do anything on my phone without pop-ups filling the screen.” That’s malware at work, and it won’t go away on its own.