Recover from a hacked email account

Email accounts are a common target for cyber criminals. They contain lots of sensitive information and are often the key to accessing other accounts. When your email account is compromised it is critical that you act fast.

Hacked email account - Do this first!

  1. Change your password - If you can still log into your email account then follow the usual process to reset your password. Make this a strong password that you have never used before.

  2. Turn on two-factor authentication - Almost all good email accounts now give you the option to turn on two-factor authentication. Turn this on now. This site will help you understand what it is and tell you how to turn it on.

  3. Change your log in details to other sites that use the same - or similar - username and password - Any other online accounts with the same or similar log in details need to be changed immediately. It is highly likely that a cyber criminal will check other popular sites as soon as they get into your email account.

  4. Report the unauthorised access to the email provider - Let the provider know your account was hacked and they will follow an evidence preservation procedure at their end. Useful if you need it in a legal case later.

Approaches to dealing with a hacked email account

Follow these steps now you have changed your password and turned on two-factor authentication:

  1. Check your email account security settings - Go into your email accounts settings and find the security settings area. Check what devices and apps are connected and disconnect any you don’t recognise. Check recent log ins and screenshot the information of unauthorised log ins - most provide time, date, IP address, browser type and device type.

  2. Scan your devices for malware - There are a number of ways the perpetrator may have got your log in details - from a past breach (you can check known breaches here), guessed it, seen you type it in or you may have told them in the past. However, they could also have malicious software on one of your devices that gives them access to what you type into websites. Scan all of the devices you use to access your email with an anti-virus solution and remove any malware.

  3. Check your email settings - If the perpetrator has been monitoring your emails and plans to use your email account for personal gain then they may have set up some filters and rules in your email account to hide emails from you that they have been sending/receiving. Check these and make sure there is nothing you don’t recognise. If there is take a screenshot and then delete the criminals changes. Also check your sent and deleted items for any correspondence you don’t recognise - the criminal may have been pretending yo be you!

  4. Set up a recovery email - If you haven’t already set up a recovery email or phone number go to your email settings and do this now. If you get hacked in future and get locked out of your email account this will give you a way back in.

  5. Change the answers to your security questions - You will have set answers to security questions when you set up the account. Most of the answers you have probably shared on social medial without thinking about it. Change these now and make them random so they couldn’t be guessed.

  6. Think about the repercussions of someone having access to the data in your email account - Review what information is in your email account and use it to make changes to limit what the criminal can do with it. For example if you have other passwords listed or bank details then take precautions to secure these accounts and change the exposed information.

  7. Warn others that your account was compromised - If people in your email contacts were communicated with by the hacker then let them know it wasn’t you and tell them they should look at their own security. They may have copied your contacts and plan to target them, so letting your contacts know if good practice.

  8. Consider setting up a new email address - The cyber criminal knows that you have this email address and is likely to try and regain access by sending you phishing emails to trick you into sharing your password or infecting yourself with malicious software. Moving to a new email account would take away this risk and you can still monitor the old account, with the knowledge that emails may be malicious.

  9. If you are completely locked out - If you have been completely locked out of your account then follow the providers account recovery process. If you have not set up the recovery process before you may need to raise a case with the provider and work to prove that you own the account.

Link to email provider guidance

The following takes you to information and guides provided directly by popular email providers: Gmail, Hotmail, Apple (iCloud), and Yahoo!.

Report the crime

If you are in England, Wales or Northern Ireland you should report all cyber crime to Action Fraud. In Scotland, you can see details of reporting to Police Scotland here.

How do I stop my email account being hacked again?

  1. Get good at passwords - Use strong password, use different passwords on each site, never share them and change them regularly. Use a password manager app to help you do this. See some good guidance here.

  2. Commit to two-factor authentication - Two-factor is a way to improve your security drastically in one east step. Use it on every site that offers it. You can get more information here.

  3. Be careful clicking or downloading - Tricking you to share your password by sending you trick emails or texts is a really common way to have your passwords stolen. As is downloading attachments in email that contain malicious software. Be extremely careful when clicking online links or opening/downloading online attachments.

  4. Get secure - Take time to improve your general online security. Use sites like Get Safe Online and Cyber Aware to understand what good security looks like and make changes.

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To help people like you we rely 100% on donations from people like you.