Hackers take advantage of unprotected email accounts for a variety of reasons, with financial gain being the most common reason. Once hackers have gained access to your email account, they can use your email address to send spam and phishing emails to your friends, contacts and work colleagues, In addition, hackers may try to access other accounts you own – such as social media, online banking or PayPal accounts – by resetting passwords and having the new password sent to your email address. Here are a few tips to help you protect your email from hackers.

1. Choose a Complicated Password

This cannot be stressed enough! The number one reason for anyone loosing their email account to a hacker is that they do not use complicated passwords.

The most effective passwords contain a mixture of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters. The longer your password, the harder it is for a hacker to gain access to your account. Avoid using birthdays, real words and anything that could be guessed, such as memorable dates or names.

2. Never Use the Same Password for Different Accounts

Always use a separate password for each of your online accounts. Many people use the same password for email accounts, social media, online banking, gaming websites and other online accounts. They simply find it easier to remember just the one password. This, incidentally, also makes it easier for a hacker to gain access to all your online accounts if they are able to crack/guess that one password.

3. Add an Extra Layer of Security

Many email providers allow you to add an extra layer of security to your account. In addition to using mobile phone numbers, secondary email addresses and security questions to verify your account and password resets, some email providers allow you to add extra security measures. Check the settings of your email account to see which security measures are offered.

Google for example, provides an Android application called “Google Authenticator” which adds “2-Step Verification” to your Gmail/Google+ account. With 2-Step Verification, Google requires you to enter a secure code generated by the Google Authenticator app, in addition to your account password, before it lets you sign-in.

4. Never Open Attachments form Unknown Sources

Attachments, sometimes, contain malicious content that hackers can use to infect your computer or gain access to your email account. Never open an attachment unless you trust the sender! In addition, take care when opening attachments from friends and family also, as their email accounts might be compromised and used to send malicious content.

It is a very good idea to install an anti-virus software and have it scan any/all emails with attachments, before you have downloaded them.

5. Take care when Clicking Links within an Email

Ideally, you should avoid clicking links from within an email. Hackers can use email links to take you to a fake web page, which will often look like a genuine web page – example; a page that looks like the login page for your online bank account. The purpose is to trick you into revealing your password by making you believe that you are entering your details into a trusted website.

6. Use a Separate Email Account for Non-Essential Emails

Many websites require you to enter your email address for registration or confirmation purposes. Unless you want to receive ongoing correspondence from the website, use a secondary email address to help prevent security breaches of your primary email account. Newsletters, special offers and general correspondence can all be sent to a secondary email address.

7. Protect Computers and Mobile Devices

Protect all computers, tablets, mobile phones and other devices that you use to access your email. Anti-Virus software and an effective Firewall are essential for all devices used to connect to the Internet. Most devices come with a range of security measures that can be activated from within the settings menu. In addition, you should use a password to protect your devices from prying eyes.

8. Avoid Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Public Wi-Fi Hotspots are useful for some purposes but should be avoided when entering sensitive information through your device. The information you send and receive using a public hotspot can be intercepted and exploited by hackers.

Hackers can wreak havoc once they gain access to an email account. Vigilance is extremely important when protecting your email address, as hackers are continually finding new and improved ways to gain access to sensitive information.