What is hacking?
Hacking is when somebody gains access to a system, device or network which they shouldn’t have access to. Hacking can occur for all sorts of reasons, and can effect you in many ways.
There are lots of different ways things can be hacked, but hackers often aim for your email account.
What’s bad about being hacked?
Hackers can gain access to your computer, phone, or other device. In a worst-case scenario, they can gain full remote control of your device. They can also try to hack into your accounts and they may be able to gather sensitive information if they succeed.
Often their end goal is to be able to gain access to your bank account or credit card.
What can be hacked?
Basically everything electronic!
So many things can be hacked that it is hard to think of all of them.
• Home WiFi networks – Always make sure you have a strong password on your home network otherwise hackers may be able to gain access to your entire home network. They man then be able to access shared files from computers on the network, attack devices, or steal information. Android phones with backup turned on send all their WiFi passwords to Google unencrypted.
• Your accounts – If you have lots of accounts with a password that is similar or the same, those accounts may be vulnerable to attack.
• Smart home devices – Devices including smart plugs, Alexa’s and Google Homes, smart fridges, smart TV’s and other devices are all vulnerable to attack. One of these devices may have a loophole which can help a hacker gain full network access.
• Your phone – Hackers may be able to spy on your phone or gain access to data on it.
Why hackers aim for your Gmail account?
You could picture your Gmail account as the hub of your digital life. If hackers can get that one password. They can access a lot more than your personal emails, which by themselves allow hackers to reset passwords for any accounts linked to that address which use email links as the verification method.
If you’ve ever worked on a file in Google Drive, it will be stored in your Gmail account, if you’ve ever used Google Maps, you have likely built up a search history which hackers could use to work out your location.
Once they have your password, hackers may try signing you out of all your devices and they may then change your password to try and get permanent control of the account. If you notice this you should contact Google immediately
There are two other features of your account which hackers aim for.
The password manager
If you use Chrome as your main browser, you will have probable signed into Google at some point. This will link this browser to your your account.
Every time you log in to a website a save password popup will appear. If you forget your passwords you will likely decide to click Yes.
This saves the password in unencrypted form to your Google account.
Hackers can just log in at https://passwords.google.com with this one password and get access to your entire list of saved Google passwords. Unlike iCloud Keychain, your passwords are not end-to-end encrypted and do not require a pin sent to you by text to view.
Sign in with Google
If you are one of those people who thinks the less usernames and passwords the better, you will have likely used your Google account to sign into some websites.
Once hackers are into your Google account, they can work out which sites these are and get access to them all with that one password.
So what can be done to stop this?
Hackers are sadly pretty smart when it comes to guessing passwords. Step 1 to reduce hacking is to have a super-secure password for your Gmail account. It is best to choose a string of words or letters that means something to you but which anyone else, even a close friend, would have a hard time guessing.
There is a limit to how secure a password can be, so let’s explore other options too.
If you use your Gmail account as the central hub of your digital life then it is time to give it some proper protection. One of the best things you can do is enable two-factor authentication. It means that anyone logging in on a new device will need to enter codes which only you have.
There are multiple ways in which you can prove it’s you and they include a prompt on your phone, an authenticator app and an SMS code. Out of these three SMS text message is the least secure so it is best to only use it as a backup.
Don’t forget to write down or save the generated backup codes, so you can sign in in a situation where none of your factors are available.
The last thing you can do is not to use public computers to sign in. Although they are often wiped in between each session, hackers quite often find a way to install a Keylogger which saves every single thing you type. This means that you might give your password to a hacker without realising it. Two-factor authentication helps to protect against it as you will have provided a one-use code, but you should still be careful.
You should also add a recovery email and phone number to your Gmail account, so you have on last chance to get back in if you are signed out by hackers.