Recently more than 5 million Gmail accounts were hacked by some Russians (all those James Bond movies were right after all). If hacking seems like an ominous word to you, then it is but it doesn’t mean your account has been completely destroyed. It just means that somebody has access to your user ID (in fact everybody who knows your email ID also knows your user ID so that is not an issue) and password (now, this is a serious issue). This can be a dangerous development if you use your Gmail account for financial transactions and for retrieving passwords to your sensitive data on the Internet – something like if you forget your online banking password and this is the email ID that you use to retrieve your password. Your Gmail account (or any other email account for that matter) being hacked doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot access your account. If millions of accounts are hacked like this it probably means you weren’t specifically targeted and there is still chance that you can access your account and quickly change your password. In this particular case, as mentioned above, 5 million Gmail accounts were hacked, and the information was posted on various online forums. There is a text file containing usernames and passwords that is being circulated.
Want to know if you’re hacked Gmail account information exists in that text file. This Life Hacker blog post explains how you can check if your account was compromised. If it was, then you should quickly change your password. Even if it hasn’t been compromised, yet, go change your password and create a very strong password.
Google, according to this Forbes update, though, says not to worry if your Gmail account is one of those 5 million accounts leaked. This is because most of these leaks have outdated information and most of the passwords were something like people used a few years ago. According to Google, just 2% of the leaked addresses have current information which brings the figure down to 100,000 Gmail accounts that need a password update immediately.
As a practice you should change your email passwords frequently. I don’t mean every day, but at least twice a year. Create a strong password carrying numbers, alphabets and other characters. Never use the same password for multiple websites because then even if one website is hacked, the hackers get access to all your other accounts also. You may also try using services like LastPass that allows you to not only create one of the strongest passwords possible but it also helps you manage scores of passwords with just one single master password so you don’t shrink away from all that hard work required to create and maintain very strong passwords for multiple websites.