Think that email is private? Think again — then think some more
Email hacks have apparently become the new normal.
Just over the last several months, hackers have leaked emails belonging to several highly influential people — including former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta. The hacked emails, some containing embarrassing tidbits, have been a major theme in the presidential campaign.
This problem now extends far and wide, hitting not only those with influence and power, but plenty of ordinary Americans, too.
Last month, for instance, Yahoo (YHOO) confirmed that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts had been stolen from the company’s network in 2014 by what it suspects was a “state-sponsored actor.” The pilfered information may have included names, email addresses and answers to some security questions.
Such high-profile breaches serve as a reminder to take basic precautions when it comes to using email, whether it’s for work or personally. As we’ve been warned many times, don’t click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails unless you’ve verified the sender’s identity.
So-called phishing emails — like the one that reportedly allowed hackers to access Podesta’s personal account — often contain links or attachments that can install malware on computers, allowing cybercrooks to get their hands on sensitive personal information, send spam and commit fraud.
The recent spate of public-figure hacks also serves as a reminder to think twice about what you write in your emails, said Davia Temin, an executive coach and crisis manager who has worked with victims of hacks.
Many business and government leaders, she said, have long known that they shouldn’t expect privacy with regard to email, which can be subpoenaed in lawsuits or government investigations or land in the wrong hands through forwarding.