Admittedly, most likely don't think too much about their email hosting accounts. If they're not protecting trade secrets, there's not a whole lot in there for anyone to get into. No passwords, no account numbers...in fact, there's not much in email but messages. But for a man in Lake Arrowhead, the true value of email was discovered when it cost him $8,629.
The FBI staged a warning to that effect earlier this year, when it revealed that "cyber-criminals are compromising the email accounts of U.S. individuals and businesses", with an eye toward using said accounts to serve as a badge of authenticity to arrange money transfers to accounts not actually connected with the owners of the email accounts used. That's just what happened to Lake Arrowhead's Bernie Williams when his account was hijacked and a message was sent that directed his accountant to send the $8,629 by wire transfer to a bank in Texas.
Williams, who has served as a producer, executive producer and associate producer with several major movies, only found out about the transfer when his accountant called him after completing the wire transfer he'd requested. Williams, naturally, was taken aback, saying that he'd never requested any sort of transfer. Williams' accountant was very surprised to hear this as the message he followed sounded exactly like one written by Williams. The hackers had actually read enough of Williams' correspondence that they could successfully mimic his tone and syntax, even managing to include references to earlier conversations. When the accountant sent replies via his email hosting platform that might have tipped off Williams to something being out of whack, the hacker intercepted the messages and deleted them.
While Williams' options for recovering his money are slim—as far as most potential participants in the matter, from his bank to his accountant, are concerned, the money is lost—he's not alone. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that there are a growing number of people who have been similarly affected by such scams. When looking at ways to protect yourself against such issues, companies like Google (News - Alert) recommend regular password changes and where possible multi-step password changes. Strong passwords are also recommended to provide minimal chances at guessing, with mixes of numbers, letters and characters. Some recommend using entire four word phrases as passwords, as they're extremely difficult to guess and take a brute-force password cracker much longer to work through.
Additionally, turning to a Hosted Exchange service for email like that offered by SherWeb can also offer a level of extra protection, thanks to its high level of reliability and top-notch hardware from leaders in the industry. The company’s average response time to customer care representatives is about 30 seconds, so making contact when things look just not right is generally the easiest part of fixing the problem.
Protecting email hosting systems are a lot more important than some may think. Keeping unwanted eyes out of email prevents a lot of problems and the combination of secure, regularly changed passwords can go a long way in keeping any particular business from having to learn a lesson the hard and extremely expensive way.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein