The easiest thing that a hacker can retrieve from you is your email address and password. All it takes is a phishing page to convince you to enter your credentials into the hacker's web page and you'd be none the wiser.
Sometimes you don't even have to do anything. Sometimes hackers look for databases of forums, banks, e-commerce website and the like that have been compromised to take those email addresses and passwords and see if you're one of those people that reuses passwords.
Most people don't mind having their e-mail hacked. They think that hackers can just read their emails and maybe reset the passwords of a few old accounts, but the truth is that a hacked e-mail account can be a much larger issue than it first lets on to be.
Trust and Laziness Makes for Easy Prey to Hackers
There are three major ways that hackers easily breech email security. They take advantage of people who use weak passwords, they take advantage of companies that the average person trusts to keep private data secure, and they make full use of malware to steal your password right from your fingertips.
The upsetting thing is that each one of these holes in the wall of security can be patched.
The Way Intelligent Hackers Get into Your Email
The real scary part is not how a hacker gets into your email, it's what he does with it afterward.
Imagine if you're part of the 60% of all internet users who use the same password for everything. That you use the same password for your bank account information, your financial stock information, your 401(k) account information, your work computer login, and any number of things as your email address. Yes, the very same address that the hacker knows your password.
A savvy hacker will then use your email account in order to steal your identity. It's easy, since he can read everything you have saved to your inbox and your sent box. An even smarter hacker can also use your email address to directly pull information out of everyone on your contacts list. That means that not only are you at risk, but so is everyone else you know.
Lastly, your skeleton of an email address gets put to work sending spam emails to everyone on your contact list. If you're even more unlucky, you may get to send spam to everyone worldwide.
Securing Your Digital Accounts
As mentioned earlier, there's a broad number of things you can do in order to keep yourself safe. Invest in an antivirus and antimalware suite whilst keeping your browser and system up to date to deter malware. Change your passwords and make them hard to guess. Don't trust anyone who can't prove that they are who they say they are. Lastly, take advantage of two-factor authentication so that a hacker can't get in to see your personal data even if he has your email address and password.