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Can You Be Hacked By Opening an Email?

Mar 21, 2024

One of the most common forms of cyberattack is a phishing email. This is where cybercriminals send an email that seems like an authentic message from your bank, a streaming platform, an online shop, or even your boss.

The email will request you take some sort of action – usually to click a link and reset your password. But doing this may give cybercriminals access to your personal details, which can leave you vulnerable to a much more serious cyberattack further down the line.

Yet you do have to click a link in the email to expose yourself in this way. But what happens if you don’t click the link? Can you be hacked by simply opening an email?

What Happens If I Open a Dodgy Email?

The good news is that there’s usually no harm in simply opening an email. When you open an email, your device, and the application you use to read the email will process any content it contains. It is possible for emails to contain malicious scripts which can be triggered by the simple act of opening an email. It’s also possible for cybercriminals to exploit security vulnerabilities in the email application you use. But this is very, very rare.

I Opened A Dodgy Email. Am I Safe?

Most probably, yes. It’s rare for cyberattacks to operate in this way. As we said, you usually have to take some kind of action, such as clicking a link or downloading an attachment.

But if you’ve opened an email that didn’t seem right to you, talk to your company’s cyber security team as soon as possible. This way, they can monitor for any subsequent suspicious activity. Now might also be a good time to change some passwords and run a malware scan, just in case.

In almost all cases, you’ll have to take some kind of action in order to trigger a data breach. For example, clicking a link to take you to a malicious site, which could trick you into giving up your sensitive details, or else download malicious software to your computer.

Also be wary of any attachments that come with dodgy emails. Downloading – or even simply viewing – such attachments could download malware or spyware to your system, leaving you vulnerable to future attack.

Finally, remember that cybercriminals aim to access sensitive data, and they may not need to “hack” you to do this. With this in mind, never share any login details, or any other sensitive information, via email. You never know who might be reading it!

What If I Clicked a Link or Downloaded an Attachment in a Phishing Email?

If you’ve clicked on a phishing link, what happens next will depend on what exactly happened when you clicked the link. Did you get any pop-ups or downloads when you accessed the bogus site? Did you enter your details into a fake login box?

In some cases, you might be OK, so long as you take immediate action. But no matter what happened, the quicker you act, the better.

Read our full guide to what you should do if you click a phishing link.

Protect Yourself Against Email Attacks

Learning to spot the signs of a phishing email is your best line of defence against this form of cyberattack. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are getting smarter all the time. But there are still a few things you should keep in mind at all times to stay as resilient as possible.

Read our full guide to staying safe when using email.

Want to discuss your cyber security risks? We have a team of experts on hand to help you keep yourself, and your business, safe from cybercrime. Call us on 0208 290 9080 or email us at cyber@anthonyjones.com.

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You can call us during normal office hours, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Outside of office hours you can either email us or leave an answerphone message and we promise to get back to you the next working day.

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020 8290 4560

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