Has your email ever been hacked? Have you received emails from someone whose email was hacked?
If you’ve ever had your email hacked, you know the horrible feeling when you realise someone has been sending out emails from your account.
And they are not good emails. Sometimes they are nasty and sometimes they cause anxiety among the loved ones.
You hope that no one is fooled by the bogus messages, but you worry that your friends and colleagues will fall prey to the hacker’s bait.
If you have not been hacked, know that your day could be on the way and if you have, sorry, it may just happen again.
I receive many emails of people asking what to do after they have been hacked and their whole address book receives emails usually claiming that the account owner is stranded abroad and in need financial help.
Then we have the ever so common 419 scams. The Nigerian, or “419” scams are one of the most common types of fraudulent email currently hitting inboxes. The scams are also known as “419 scams” after the applicable part of the Nigerian criminal code.
The scammers, surprisingly, also use surface mail and faxes as well as email. There are a great many versions of this scam.
Although many originate in Nigeria, hence the generic term “Nigerian scam”, it is certainly not only Nigerian-based criminals that send them.
In spite of the longevity of this type of scam and the large amounts of publicity that it has received, many people around the world are still being conned out of substantial sums of money.
The messages generally claim that your help is needed to access a large sum of money, usually many millions of dollars.
But the fact is, this money does not exist. The messages are an opening gambit designed to draw potential victims deeper into the scam.
Those who initiate a dialogue with the scammers by replying to a Nigerian scam message will eventually be asked for advance fees supposedly required to allow the deal to proceed.
The best way to treat such emails is to delete them without a second glace. PCs are usually prone to hacking compared to Macs.
But Macs are not immune from attack, and spammers are starting to use Quick Response, or QR, codes to trick users into installing Trojans – benign programmes that conceal another malicious programme – onto their Android phones.
To minimise chances of being hacked, use up-to-date security programmes and appraise yourself about hacker tricks.
Such tricks include messages that pop up on your computer stating that your computer is “infected” and can be fixed with an automatic download or offering “free” or pirated versions of computer programmes.
As we approach the General Election and politicians increasingly prop-up their online presence to catch the tech-savvy population, the threat of them being hacked in the last few days or hours to the election are real and should reinforce their online security in anticipation.
Days when politicians employed tech staff that are only proficient in Ms Office are long gone. They need to train their staff or engage people who are qualified and experienced if they have serious regard for their online presence.
Several politicians in Kenya have in the past claimed that their email accounts were hacked. In the US, Mitt Romney’s Hotmail account was hacked in June, echoing a similar episode in 2008 involving Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account.
A few months ago, the social networking site LinkedIn confirmed that it was the victim of a security attack, and more than six million people had their passwords stolen.
This underscores the need to be vigilant, use up to date anti-viral software and have a strong password for your email and change it from time to time.
Sam Wambugu is a monitoring and evaluation specialist. Email: [email protected]