While you can reclaim your Gmail account from a hacker, it’s not always evident that your account is under attack in the first place. As such, it’s a good idea to learn about the tools and tricks available to you, so you can catch a hacker red-handed and protect your account.
Let’s explore how to tell if someone hacks your Gmail account, and what to do if you find someone snooping within your inbox.
How to Tell If a Hacker Has Your Gmail Account
There are several “tells” that will tip you off to a hacker, some more obvious than others. If you notice any of these occur, be sure to act quick and regain access to your account.
1. You Receive Security Alert Emails From Google
Thankfully, you don’t have to do a lot of sleuthing when it comes to Gmail accounts. That’s because Gmail does all the work for you; every time someone logs into your account, Gmail double-checks to see if it’s from a location or device you’ve previously used.
If something looks suspicious, Gmail will suspend the login attempt and send you an email asking to verify the login.
This is a handy tool against hackers, as their login attempt will be flagged as suspicious by Gmail. Even if they’re on the same Wi-Fi network as you, using a different device than what you usually use will trigger an alert.
As such, Gmail’s suspicious sign-in detection a great way to keep scammers out. Best of all, it’s enabled by default, so you don’t need to do anything more.
2. You See Strange Inbox and Outbox Activity
If you think someone else has hijacked your account, keep an eye on your inbox and outbox. If the hacker is using your account as part of a spam email botnet, you’ll see a lot of spam emails in your outbox (known on Gmail as “Sent”). Hackers can delete messages in your outbox, however, so be vigilant even if your outbox is empty.
You may also see some strange activity in your inbox. For example, people may email you asking you to stop spamming them, or you receive sign-up notifications for services you never used. This implies someone else is using your email account, so change your password while you still can.
3. Friends Tell You Something Is Wrong
If you start receiving emails from your friends that something is wrong, it may be due to unauthorized activity on the account. Some scammers will send messages to the contacts on a compromised email account to trick friends and family into clicking malicious links.
As such, they may email or phone you to inform you that they received a strange correspondence from you. If this happens, double-check the activity log as above to see if anyone managed to sneak in.
4. Gmail’s Login Activity Log Shows Weird Entries
There is a problem with the suspicious sign-in emails, however. What if someone used your devices to access your account?
While the above method is fantastic for catching overseas hackers, it won’t stop a family member or co-worker from using your account. That’s because they’re using the same device and IP address as you, which doesn’t tip Gmail off that something suspicious is happening.
If you’re looking to catch someone snooping on your devices, you can still find their tracks via the activity log. This keeps a detailed account of every time someone logged into your Gmail account, and from what device. This includes any non-suspicious login attempts, including ones made from your computer.
To check the activity log, scroll to the bottom of your inbox and look at the bottom right. It’ll inform you of when your last activity was. If it’s displaying a time where you’re sure you weren’t using Gmail, you have a hacking problem.
You can go more in-detail by clicking Details underneath the text. Here, you’ll see a table of recent login attempts, including the device used, the IP address, and the date and time the login occurred. This makes it easy to spot strange entries that identifies a hacker.
5. Your Gmail Password Suddenly Changes
Sometimes you don’t quite type the password correctly. If you’re absolutely sure you’re entering it right, and it’s still not accepted, there’s a chance that someone has gone in ahead of you and changed it.
How to Get Your Gmail Account Back
If you notice a hacker gained access to your account, you need to take action immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage a hacker can do with your account. Thankfully, it’s not too complicated to get your account back.
Change the Password (If It Still Works)
Sometimes, a hacker won’t change the account password in fear that it’ll tip you off to their presence. If this happens, consider yourself lucky; you can use your old password to get back in and lock the hacker out again.
When you’re making a new password, be sure to choose something stronger than your old one. Ideally, it should be different from the one you just used for the account. That way, the hacker can’t get back in by making small modifications to your old password.
Use the Lost Your Password Tool
If the hacker has changed your password but hasn’t changed your emergency secondary email address, you can request a password change via the lost password tool.
When you go to log-in, click the “Forgot Password” text that appears underneath the password field. Follow the steps to get a new password sent to your emergency account, then log in and reset it to something different—don’t reuse any passwords!
Use the Account Recovery Tool
If the hacker has changed your password, they’ve made a move to lock you out of your account. This may include changing the emergency email on the account, so you can’t use the above method to get back in.
If this happens, your best bet is to go through the Google Account Recovery Page. This will guide you through the steps of getting your account back. You need to remember a password you previously used on the account, so be sure to have that ready when going through the steps.
Securing Your Account After a Hack
Once you have your account back in your own hands, it’s important to reinforce your security to stop it happening again. By performing some simple actions, you can prevent these attacks from occurring again.
Change Your Password to Something Complex and Different
The reason a hacker got into your account the first time is due to one of two methods; either your password was too weak, or a database breach leaked your password.
In either case, when you gain your account back, you need to change the password to something secure and new. If you want to practice good password hygiene, use a password you use nowhere else on the internet.
You should also make it secure, but easy enough to remember. If you struggle to think of something, study up on the best method for creating a strong password you will not forget.
Add Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to Your Account
2FA is a great way to stop a hacker in their tracks. If you set up 2FA on your smartphone for your Gmail account, a hacker will need both your password and your phone to log in. As such, it’s a good idea to set one up now to prevent this from occurring again.
If you’d like to know more, be sure to learn how to secure your Gmail account with 2FA.
Keeping Yourself Safe in Gmail
Gmail has some great tools for detecting hackers, but sometimes they can slip through the net. Thankfully, there are ways you can play detective to see if someone else is using your account.
If you want to further secure your Google account, be sure to change the four essential Google Account settings for better security.