How to Keep Hackers Out of Your Email

The FBI reports that email phishing accounts for 95 percent of cybersecurity threats.  The typical advice to employ complicated passwords and change them often isn’t enough to thwart hackers, said FBI special agent Daniel Wierzbicki, who leads a team of cybercrime watchdogs at the agency’s Chicago field office.

Panelists at the IDFPR Cybersecurity Conference discuss the prevalence of email as a vehicle for cybercrime and business professionals can secure their own email accounts

The FBI reports that email phishing accounts for 95 percent of cybersecurity threats.

The typical advice to employ complicated passwords and change them often isn’t enough to thwart hackers, said FBI special agent Daniel Wierzbicki, who leads a team of cybercrime watchdogs at the agency’s Chicago field office. The email platform you choose to conduct business communications may make you more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Email hacking has become so pervasive that cybercrime now ranks as the FBI’s third-highest priority after terrorism and counterintelligence, he said. And the real estate industry is a major target for criminals. Last year, Wierzbicki’s office fielded 551 cybersecurity complaints from customers in real estate transactions and 328 complaints from title companies. Together, that accounted for 64 percent of the cybercrime victims the office responded to in 2016.

A common practice involves cybercriminals hacking into practitioners’ email accounts and sending fraudulent wire-transfer instructions to their clients. That’s why having a strong email password is so important. Wierzbicki suggested longer passwords—at least 26 characters—is more secure than making them overly complicated with capital letters and symbols.

Edgerton added that frequently changing passwords also isn’t the best prevention against cybersecurity threats. If you use a pattern that’s easy to guess to update your passwords more frequently, “it may actually give hackers an in [to breach your email],” she said. Edgerton recommended using a password management system to store passwords; then you can ensure each one meets security standards without worrying about forgetting them.