Some lessons learnt from my experience of dealing with a hacked account! What to do to retrieve your GMail / Email account and what to do thereafter to protect your account.

Early this morning, my GMail account was hacked into. I checked my mails as usual around 8am and then had to head straight for a meeting. During the meeting, around 10.30 I get a call from someone who I havent heard from in the past 4 years (but have the number of, nonetheless). I dont pick up. In the next 30 minutes, I get 47 missed calls! My first reaction – there has been a bomb blast and people are just checking!

Well, my GMail account had been hacked. The hacker had sent out an email to several of my contacts, with the following message

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes,my fam and I came down here to London,England for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We’ve been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills.

Am freaked out at the moment.

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It honestly was a shock, since I am extremely cautious when it comes to my emails. And my password is also quite weird for someone to just guess. But it still happened and I have no clue how! But I managed to come out of it…and here is how.

How To Recover Your Hacked GMail Account?

1. As a first step, inform your known ones that your account has been hacked, so any mails from your address should not be acted upon. This is best done from social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. I sent out a mail to the ISB Alumni and called everyone back who call I had missed!

2. Fill up the recovery form on Google. This is the fastest (and usually surest) way of getting your account back. However, this requires you to remember stuff like when you started using GMail, the top addresses that you send emails to, names of labels in your account, who sent you the invite for GMail, which address was it sent to etc etc.

They usually respond in 3-4 hours and if they dont, then send it once again. But not more than that. They will come back.

How To Protect Your GMail Account From Hacking?

1. If you havent done it already, have a secondary account tied to your GMail. The hacker in my case was smart and had changed even that, so I couldnt retrieve my password. But mostly this works fine. Ofcourse, dont use the same password for both the accounts!

2. Its a good idea to keep an eye on the IP session information right on the bottom of your GMail page. Clicking on details will give you information of the last 5 sessions and it will be pretty obvious if your account is being used someplace else too. Best in this segment is the “Close all other sessions” which will sign all other users out, except your current session. If you have any concerns of safety, change your password right then.

3. Google also allows you to setup your mobile as one of the password retrieving mechanisms. Depending on how careless, or careful you are as an individual, exercise this option. If you are the ones who lose their mobiles every 3rd month, might not be the best bet!

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Phew! Its a relief that I have my account and sound. Not to mention that this entire day was a mini-reunion with people whom I hadnt reached out to months or even years! Its scary how much something like an email has become a part of you…!