A free online email service, such as the one offered by Yahoo, is convenient if you want to check your mail from different computers. However, if your account is compromised by a hacker, he may gain access to your private emails that may contain personal information with which he can commit identity theft and extortion. While hackers can gain access to your account by breaching the security of the mail service, more often than not they use easier methods to get your password.
A common mistake that can help hackers gain access to your Yahoo email account is using the same password for several different sites. While a single password might make it easy to remember your credentials, the practice leaves your email account vulnerable if one of the other sites is compromised. Because most sites require an email address to register, hackers already have all the information they need to access your mail if they gain access to the password database of a site. It's often hard to tell how securely a site stores your details, so it is best to avoid using the same password for different accounts.
Another popular method for hacking a Yahoo email account is phishing. This tactic involves the hacker sending you an email that appears to originate from a legitimate source, in this case Yahoo. The email contains information stating that your account may have been compromised, and contains a link to a site where you are asked to log in. In reality, the site is carefully designed to look like the Yahoo mail login page, but instead stores the information that you enter, and the hacker then uses this information to access your account. To avoid these kinds of phishing scams, pay close attention to the URL in the address bar -- it should include "https" to indicate that the server is secure, and should show a padlock that displays the security certificate of the site. A phishing site does not have these features, and often misspells the domain name -- for example, "login.yah00.com" instead of "login.yahoo.com." Use the Yahoo "sign-in seal" feature to be sure that you are on the genuine mail login page.
Hackers employ special software, called keyloggers, to capture and transfer your information to them. Keyloggers are designed to be stealthy, so you might not even be aware that your computer is infected. These programs operate in the background and record all the keystrokes that you enter, such as your Yahoo email username and password. Some keyloggers can also capture screenshots that are then passed on to the hacker. These keyloggers can install themselves on your computer when you visit malicious websites, open suspicious email attachments or if the hacker has physical access to your computer. To avoid this problem, keep your operating system up to date, and install good anti-virus and malware scanners.
If you log in to your Yahoo email account at a public computer at an Internet cafe or library, you may inadvertently help hackers access your account if you are in a hurry and forget to log out of your account after checking your mail. It can also happen if the "Keep me signed in" check box is ticked on the login page. Hackers can also install keyloggers on public computers to enable them to gain access to your account details. Refrain from using public computers to log into your Yahoo email account, if at all possible.
Warnings and Tips
Using an easy-to-guess password or security question for your Yahoo email account also makes it very easy for a hacker to gain access. If your password is something that is easy to guess, such as "1234" or "password," it will pose no problem for hackers. Hackers can also use information listed on your Facebook profile to guess your passwords and security questions. Use passwords of eight characters or more that contain a mix of words and numbers, as well as characters, to prevent hackers from guessing them. A password manager application lets you use more complex passwords without having to remember these off the top of your head.
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