I got a phone call from my daughter a week ago and my heart sank as I realised one of my email accounts had been hacked sending out spam to the contacts in the address book there. Apparently, I had sent out spam from my Virgin email account to her and 11 others in the address book. Thankfully, I don’t use that email address very much which is why I only had 11 contacts there. It’s my own fault – I had chosen a poor password years ago – a dictionary word followed by a single digit number so it was apparently able to be hacked.
So I set about securing the account. Fortunately, the hacker hadn’t changed my password so I could still access my account settings. I guess they don’t change the password as this would automatically send an email to me telling me I’d successfully changed my password and the game would be up straight away. For them, it’s all about stealthily accessing the account and sending out spam to the contacts. Luckily, my daughter contacted me when she received it – none of the other contacts bothered. I guess they’re as fed up of spam as I am and just deleted it without a second thought.
So I changed the password to a much more secure one and also deleted all 11 contacts in the address book, just in case. So far so good, she hasn’t reported any spam since.
There’s an obvious lesson for us all here about passwords. I won’t bother repeating it. But if you do receive spam apparently from a friend, tell them politely so they can take steps to stop it. No one else may actually bother to tell them.
If you think your email account has been hacked, you could also check with several online services to see if your email address is in their database. Should I Change My Password and HackNotifier are two worth trying.