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|August News Letter - Webmail Hijacking on the Rise ó Steps to Protect Yourself|
Here at On Site Computer Services, we have noticed a recent increase in support calls from people using free webmail services, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail. Some have had their passwords stolen and are unable to access their accounts. While some customers are simply experiencing issues with the service, and canít get support from Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo.
Due to these services being free, technical support tends to be limited to email. Itís easy to imagine how this can be problematic when you have lost access to your email account!
To help people protect themselves, we have put together a list of basic steps you can take to keep your webmail secure:
1. Use a strong password
The simpler a password is, the easier it is for hackers to guess it and gain access to your email account. Lists of the most common (and worst) passwords have been posted, so if yours is on the list (http://gizmodo.com/5954372/the-25-most-popular-passwords-of-2012), change it!
The best passwords typically contain a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. %9Jf_NP4! is a very secure password, but make sure itís something you will be able to remember!
2. Add your cell phone number to your account recovery options
If you have lost access to your email account, the email provider can send a text message to your phone to allow you to reset your password, or verify that you own the account. Some services are able to alert you that changes may have been made to your accountís password. For extra security try a two-step verification process using both password and cell phone authentication.
Of course, you must first provide the email service with your cell phone number, before you need to have your password reset.
3. Ensure your account has recovery questions set up
Recovery questions provide an additional layer of security to password protection. Try to pick questions that you will easily remember the answer to, and that are known only to you.
For instance, if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, What is your favourite band? This would likely be a poor choice of security question. By the same token, if your favourite band changes every week, this would be a poor choice as well. (Are you really going to remember that flavour-of-the-week band from 4 years ago when you need to recover your account password?)
4. Do not open any suspicious emails
Email providers will never ask for your password. Ever!
A common password stealing scam is to send emails that look like they come from the service provider. (So if you have a Gmail account, the fake email looks like it comes from Google.) These fake emails will tell you that your password needs to be reset, and give you a link where you can enter it.
In reality, clicking the link and entering your password sends it directly to the hackers. Similar methods are used for stealing credit card information! Be skeptical when you open emails asking for your information. Donít download and run files from people or addresses you donít know and trust.
5. Free email providers will never phone you about your account status
Gmail alone has 465 million users. There is no way they can contact all these users by phone about viruses or to reset their passwords. (If a call takes only 3 minutes, calling each of these users would take 2 600 years on the phone.)
Free webmail is possible due to automation: programs and scripts do most of the work automatically, so it is very cheap. However, paying people to provide support is expensive, and supporting hundreds of millions of accounts for free would quickly put even these giant companies out of business.
If you get a call from Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo about your free email account, you can be sure it is a scam.
While these free email services can be great for personal email, OnSite Computer Services strongly recommends that businesses use a paid service. If your business email is currently hosted on any free webmail service, you should seriously consider switching.
Paid services offer technical support by phone, and will be able to unlock your account and recover the password because they can verify that you are the rightful owner. Admittedly, this defeats the purpose of being free, but consider just how much a lost email account could cost your business in lost productivity, revenue, and reputation. Losing an address that is on all of your business cards, your advertising, and that is in everyone elseís contact list could easily have an adverse effect on your business.
Remember anyone who says they can unlock your account for money is only trying to get your credit card information.
For help securing your email account or switching your business to a more secure hosted solution contact us for more information.
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