Male professional after email account takeover
4 min

Account Takeover Attacks: How To Lock Down Your Email Inbox

Email is still a crucial way to communicate, whether for business or personal use. But what do you do if your email account gets hacked, especially when it holds sensitive information?

This guide will explore what an email account takeover is, its potential consequences, and how you can protect yourself.

What Is Email Account Takeover?

Email account takeover is when someone gains unauthorised access to your email account.

Cybercriminals often use various methods to break into accounts, aiming to steal sensitive information, money, or use the account to launch further attacks.

Who’s At Risk Of Email Account Takeover?

Anyone with an email account can be targeted.

However, certain groups, like high-net-worth individuals or those in professions handling sensitive information (such as legal and financial services), are at greater risk.

How Do Hackers Gain Access To Your Email Account?

Hackers use several techniques to infiltrate email accounts. Here are the most common methods:

Phishing Attacks: Cybercriminals send fake emails or messages to trick you into clicking malicious links. These links often lead to counterfeit login pages where you unknowingly enter your email credentials.

Phishing is the most reported method of cyber attack

Credential Stuffing: Hackers use automated tools to try combinations of usernames and passwords from past data breaches to gain access.

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks: Attackers intercept communications on insecure or public networks, capturing or altering sensitive data, including login details.

Keylogging: Malware installed on your device can record keystrokes, capturing your login details as you type them.

Social Engineering: Cybercriminals manipulate you into giving away confidential information, often by impersonating trusted individuals or entities.

What Are The Risks Associated With Account Takeover?

If your email account is hacked, you could face several serious risks:

Financial Loss: Attackers may access financial information in your emails, leading to theft or misuse of critical business details.

Identity Theft: Hackers can use data from your emails to commit identity fraud, making purchases or opening accounts in your name.

Spreading Malware: Compromised accounts can be used to send malware to your contacts, leading to more data theft or ransomware attacks.

Damage to Reputation: If business emails containing client data are compromised, it can harm your reputation and erode customer trust.

Business Email Compromise (BEC): Hackers can impersonate you, tricking others into authorising fraudulent transactions or sharing sensitive information.

Prevention: Best Practices To Secure Your Email Inbox

A robust cyber strategy can help prevent many digital threats. Here are some steps to protect your email account:

1. Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are your first defence against email account breaches. The National Cyber Security Centre recommends using three random words to create a unique and strong password for each account.

If remembering multiple passwords is challenging, consider using a password manager to securely store them.

DORA is an EU regulation enhancing IT security in financial sectors from January 2025.

2. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an extra layer of security by requiring a code sent to your phone during login. This way, even if someone has your password, they can't access your account without your device.

MFA can also be used to secure individual emails, ensuring only the intended recipient can read them.

3. Implement Encryption

Email encryption scrambles your email content, making it unreadable to anyone without the decryption key. This ensures that only the intended recipient can read the email.

For handling sensitive data, consider investing in robust security solutions that offer end-to-end encryption, protecting emails both in transit and at rest.

4. Keep Devices Secure

Make sure your devices are secure and updated. Outdated software, especially security software, can leave your devices vulnerable to attacks. Enable automatic updates to keep your software current.

5. Conduct Awareness Training

Training can help you and your employees recognise and avoid threats like phishing. Awareness is key to preventing human errors that can lead to email account compromises.

Recovery: Immediate Steps To Take After A Suspected Attack

While prevention is crucial, knowing how to respond to an attack is also important. Here’s what to do if your email account is compromised:

1. Change your password: Immediately update your password to a new, strong one.

2. Review account activity: Check your login history and sent emails for any suspicious activity to understand the extent of the breach.

3. Inform your email provider or workplace: Report the incident to your email service provider or IT team to regain control and receive further assistance.

4. Check other accounts: Review other accounts linked to the compromised email, especially those with the same password, as they may also be at risk.

Prioritising Email Security

Protecting your email account is crucial to safeguarding personal and business data.

Implementing a solid cybersecurity strategy and using secure email software is essential to protect the sensitive information in your emails.

Deliver sensitive information securely with Mailock


Three Random Words: Making Passwords Easy to Remember, National Cyber Security Centre, 2021

Multi-factor Authentication for Online Services, National Cyber Security Centre, 2021

Security for People, National Cyber Security Centre, 2022

Reviewed By:

Sam Kendall, 12.06.24

Sabrina McClune, 12.06.24


Originally posted on 02 10 23
Last updated on June 21, 2024

Posted by: Sabrina McClune

Sabrina McClune, an expert researcher with an MA in Digital Marketing, was a finalist in the Women In Tech Awards 2022. She excels in conducting and compiling research for B2B tech companies. Sabrina enjoys reading fantasy novels and collecting special edition books.

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