A phone call from a colleague was the first indication that there might be a problem. The colleague wanted to know if I had sent an email with a link for a document. It was from my email and signed “Cheers,” making it look authentic. But it wasn’t. And soon, the calls were pouring in from all over.
A hacker got into my email and sent the same message to all of my contacts along with some people in groups to which I belong but don’t have emails for. Since then I have been trying to mitigate the damage and reach as many people as possible to let them know that this isn’t from me and that they shouldn’t follow the link.
This is the message I have been sending:
This is a problem that is of increasing concern and one that puts everyone at risk. It’s an issue of particular concern for remote teams that rely even more heavily on email for general communication, planning and progress reports. It is imperative that we take measures to prevent and prepare for hackers who would disrupt our lives.
Be wary of an email from an unknown source even if the email looks legitimate. These may be easier to spot, but they can look legitimate enough to not raise concerns. If you see something suspicious, look up the company or sender to get additional information.
Be wary of an email from a known source that seems unusual. This could include asking for information in an unusual way, requesting funds, or directing you to a site that you don’t know. Things to look out for include odd grammar and cryptic messages.
If you have even the slightest concern about a link that has been sent to you, contact the sender. Use a method other than email to verify whether it’s legitimate or not. Do not hit reply to the email, hackers may respond.
If you get a suspicious email, let the sender know as soon as possible. If you got a fraudulent email, the chances are that other people are getting them too. The quicker the sender knows, the faster steps can be taken to stop the problem and reach out to prevent more damage.
Make a plan for managing if your email is hacked. Hopefully, you will never have to use this plan, but be prepared. Know who to call so you can respond quickly. Have a list of who you will reach out to and how.
Check links before following them. With most email providers you will see the address of a link when you hover over. Check it to make sure it is legitimate and what you are expecting.
If you have received a suspicious email:
- Delete the email
- Reset your email password
- Run a scan on your computer to detect and delete any viruses
- Inform your IT department so they can be on the lookout.