Finding out that your e-mail has been hacked can make you feel vulnerable and violated. It may also cause conflict between you and those in your e-mail address book. Hackers typically use e-mail addresses to send out links to their websites that look seem like e-mails from you. Your friends see the e-mails, believe they're legitimate and visit the link posted, often landing on an infected webpage. By working quickly you can mend bridges and secure your e-mail with less damage done.
One of the first signs of a hacked e-mail account is a changed password. This often means that a hacker is controlling the account, making it difficult for you to access your inbox. Complete the password retrieval process and have a new password sent to another e-mail address associated with your account. This procedure allows you to gain access to your account once again. If the hacker has changed the e-mail associated with your account in your settings, you may lose access to the account altogether. So long as you gain access, changing your password to something more difficult is in order. Choose a series of characters that includes lowercase letters, uppercase letters and numbers for a more secure password.
Check Other Accounts
Check your other e-mail accounts immediately, particularly if you use the same password for all of your various accounts. While having one password certainly simplifies the process and makes it easier to remember your login information, when one password is breached all of the rest of your accounts are at risk. Systematically go through e-mail addresses and other personal accounts that share a password to ensure you still have access. Then, change each password to its own unique series of letters and numbers. Save all the passwords in a text file that you can place on an external source, such as a flash drive. That way you can remember your passwords without saving them on your computer to be hacked.
Check your "Sent" folder. Chances are that a hacker has used your e-mail to send spam to your entire contact list. An apology is in order, along with an explanation of what happened. Quickly send out a mass e-mail to everyone in your e-mail address book. Admit that your e-mail address has been hacked and caution your friends to avoid clicking on any link or downloading any product that an e-mail from you may have recommended. Apologize and note that your friends may want to change their own passwords and check access to ensure they weren't targeted as well.
One way that you can protect yourself from embarrassing hacking incidents in the future is to compartmentalize your e-mail address book into separate addresses. That means having a separate address for your friends to e-mail, a separate address for work and a separate address for family. This way, if one account is hacked only a handful of people are affected. Of course, you'll want to set up each account with a unique password and avoid sharing your various addresses online to protect your accounts and your privacy.