Your Email Address Has Been Leaked: So What?

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Your Email Address Has Been Leaked: So What?

So your email address was leaked onto the internet following a data breach… so what? Why should you be concerned? But you should care; the amount you care depends on how much information was revealed.

So, how would a compromised email account effect you? What’s the risk?

What an Email Leak Means for You

When you become a victim of an email leak, the degree of the harm is determined by how much information about you is disclosed. The more data that is released, the more concerned you should be.

When an Email Leak Reveals Your Current Password

A password attack
Image Credit: Julia Tim/Shutterstock.com

One of the worst effects is a breach including both your email address and your current password. Typically, an email provider will not provide the facts. This kind of breach is significantly more likely to occur on a website that utilizes your email address as your login.

Of course, if you used a unique password for each of your accounts, the issue is resolved. Unfortunately, if you use the same password for all of your accounts, this breach exposes all of the information thieves need to get access to your email account.

So, what exactly can a hacker do with your email? Steal your family recipes? It’s really a lot worse than that. When you forget your website password, it normally sends an email to your registered email account. If your hacker has access to it, they may request password resets for your accounts and alter the passwords to something only they know.

Related:Ways Your Email Address Can Be Exploited by Scammers

When an Email Leak Reveals an Old or Different Password

A leak may expose an outdated or different password from the one on your email address. Perhaps you used to use a single password for all of your accounts but then changed the locks on all of them. Or the breach may have affected a website where you use a password separate from your email.

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Fortunately, this means the hacker cannot access your account. They may, however, utilize this information to their advantage by frightening you into believing they know more than they do.

For example, they may send an email that provides the password. They then claim that they obtained it using sophisticated hacking methods when, in fact, they obtained it through a large leak.

The hacker will next attempt to frighten the user into paying a fee to have their operations stopped. Of course, the hacker isn’t doing anything other than glancing at exposed credentials… but sometimes fear is enough to get folks to pay up.

When an Email Leak Reveals Just the Address

If you’re fortunate, a breach will just disclose your email address and not your passwords. This situation is much less serious than if someone had your passwords, new or old—but it might still be inconvenient.

For starters, internet fraudsters and spammers are now aware that your account is live and in use. These two organizations seek to send as many emails as possible to active accounts. If they target a non-existent or inactive account, they are wasting time that they might be spending on live accounts.

As a result, if your email address becomes public, anticipate a rush of spam and fraudulent emails. You’ll get emails ranging from product advertisements to persons asking for your hand in marriage to fraudsters attempting to persuade you to click a link or download an attachment.

Fortunately, current email companies have great spam filters that detect many of these terrible messages automatically. However, sifting through endless piles of junk to find any valid emails caught in the crossfire remains arduous.

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What to Do If Your Email Address Is Leaked

Someone accessing Have I Been Pwned
Image Credit: mundissima/Shutterstock.com

When your email account is compromised, the best course of action is determined on the severity of the breach. The worse it becomes, the more you’ll have to deal with.

If the breach exposes your email address and current password, you must immediately log in and reset your password. If you use the same password on other accounts, you must update them as well.

To avoid this in the future, it’s a good idea to use a separate password for each website.

Related: How to Create a Reliable Password You Won’t Forget

If the breach discloses an outdated password or one you use for another website, update the information for any service that still utilizes that password. Aside from that, you should be protected from hacking attempts.

Expect some strange-sounding emails from hackers revealing you your own password and claiming to be top hackers. They did nothing more than go through the exposed database, something anybody in the know can do.

If the breach merely discloses your address, you have nothing to worry about. Prepare for spam to begin flooding your account. If your email provider doesn’t automatically filter it out, you’ll have to do it manually.

It’s always a good idea to keep a watch on websites that monitor leaked accounts and the information they contain. They’re a convenient method to stay on top of data breaches, and they might be the difference between you safeguarding your account and a hacker breaking in first.

Related: How to Determine Whether Your Online Accounts Have Been Hacked

How to Prevent an Email Address Leak

If you haven’t already had a leak, you may set up your digital life in a manner that decreases the likelihood that someone can get your email address.

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Of course, you have no influence over whether or not a data breach happens. When you sign up for an account on a website, your information is saved on their servers. Then it’s up to the company’s cybersecurity to keep the hackers out—something you have no control over.

And you can’t simply gamble on a large corporation because they’re “too big to hack.” Many prominent technology businesses have had data breaches in the past, demonstrating that no organization is completely protected.

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What you can do, though, is set up a new email account that is “internet-facing.” It’s the one you use to establish accounts and send out newsletters. It makes no difference whether it’s exposed in a link and spammed to infinity and beyond; that’s what it’s for.

Meanwhile, your personal or business email account is protected from prying eyes. Only give it to those you trust, such as family, friends, and coworkers. To keep it from seeping out, never use it to sign up for anything.

Addressing the Problem of Leaked Email Addresses

If your email address is made public, the implications might vary from irritating spam to account theft. You now understand the gravity of a leaked email address and what to do if it falls into the hands of strangers.

While you’re thinking about email security, why not look into an encrypted email provider? They’re an excellent approach to assure that no one is reading your email.

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