Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.


  1. Tech Paul,

    While it may be true, that in the instance you relate here, a poor choice of passwords may have been the cause, that’s the exception, and not the rule, in Gmail hijacking.

    Having had one of my Gmail accounts hacked this past June, I am more than aware that Google is not immune to hacking, as the fairly recent fiasco in China, in which Chinese hackers compromised Chinese activists’ Gmail accounts, illustrates.

    In fact, Gmail hacking is a much more common occurrence than most users are aware of. If you want confirmation of this, then Google “my Gmail has been hacked”.

    The following is just one example of how this can be done.

    The victim visits a page while being logged into Gmail. Upon execution, the page performs a multipart/form-data POST to one of the Gmail interfaces and injects a filter into the victim’s filter list.

    The attacker writes a filter, which simply looks for emails with attachments and forwards them to an email of their choice. This filter will automatically transfer all emails matching the rule. Keep in mind that future emails will be forwarded as well. The attack will remain present for as long as the victim has the filter within their filter list.

    This is exactly what happened to me. BTW, I did not have any problem recovering my Gmail account since the hackers, DID NOT have my password.

    Bill Mullins


    Comment by Bill Mullins | September 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Bill,

      Thank you for contributing this very important information for my readers. (I included a “related” link to your article – My Gmail Account Hacked From Nigeria – as you have provided excellent advice there.)

      Yes, my correspondent believes they are an example of “what not to do”, and asked me to reiterate some basic password advice… which can and should be applied as “general practice”, and not just to Gmail (I think we all have heard of recent “celebrity” email hijackings.. Sarah Palin leaps to my mind, for some reason), IMHO.

      Folks – what does he mean “filters”?

      In Gmail, click on “Settings” (upper-right), and then “Filters”. You can create filters to perform certain actions when email arrives that meet the criteria you set: such as moving all messages with the word “lottery” directly into your Junk folder. (If you suspect unauthorized activity, look for a filter you didn’t put there. Also check “Forwarding”, and make sure there is none set there either.)

      Also, Folks, Bill’s website, Tech Thoughts, was the very first site I posted to my Blogroll, and he was the winner of my very first Tech Paul’s Friend Of The Internet Surfer Award. If you haven’t visited his site yet.. what are you waiting for?


      Comment by techpaul | September 14, 2010 | Reply

  2. I had this happen to a friend of mine last week with a Hotmail acct.


    Comment by g | September 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Durnit, g! I had a bet with myself you were going to say something about LastPass (as I know you are a proponent).. Now I owe me a dollar.

      With the levity out of the way, allow me to say that I feel for your friend: “stressed out” would only be the beginning of the terms I might use..


      Comment by techpaul | September 14, 2010 | Reply

      • Hold on, there is a subliminal message in all of this leading to tempt the user to use LastPass.

        I’ll send you my address to forward the dollar. lol.


        Comment by g | September 16, 2010 | Reply

        • g,
          When they send me my per-mention commission, I’ll forward it on and deduct the cost of the stamp.. or is a stamp up to a dollar now?

          (Just kidding around, folks. I’m not on anybody’s payroll here.)


          Comment by techpaul | September 16, 2010 | Reply

  3. Thanks Paul & Bill.

    Eye opener for me.



    Comment by Grr | September 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Grr,
      Weak passwords, and easy to guess answers to “secret questions”, are a real.. well, common problem. You know what the most commonly used password is? Well, depending on which study you look at, “password” and/or “12345678” (scoring 1st & 2nd, or 2nd & 1st). Add to that the fact that most of us use the same password in many (all?) places..

      My article, Use strong (and complex) passwords, gives pointers on what makes a ‘good’ password – but for many folks, the simplest answer is a password manager.


      Comment by techpaul | September 14, 2010 | Reply

      • Agree Paul.

        1 more thing that crossed my mind is: how secure is it to access gmail, etc over unprotected networks, like in a library, coffee shop, airports & similar other places?
        Even with a strong complex password would a hacker not able to track the passwords in open network?



        Comment by Grr | September 14, 2010 | Reply

        • Grr,
          It is a relatively simple thing for a cyber-criminal to do bad things in public ‘hotspots’ (WiFi) – such as eavesdropping the data packets as a man-in-the-middle, “sniffing”, or even setting themselves up as the hotspot (see rogue access point) and I would never use them for checking e-mail, online banking, etc.. WiFi is risky risky.

          My local library has public computers for accessing the Internet which are not wireless, but hard-wired terminals, and these are quite a bit more secure.. but. When I was forced (due to a severely long power outage) to use them for online correspondence (and posting this blog) the first thing I did when my power came back on was change all my logons.


          Comment by techpaul | September 14, 2010 | Reply

          • Thanks for answering Paul.

            Thanks, Grr


            Comment by Grr | September 17, 2010 | Reply

  4. Email accounts hacked! I knew about that, but it sort of sat IN THE BACK OF MY MIND – NOT PAYING MUCH ATTENTION TO THIS ISSUE, WITH MY ATTENTION FOCUSED ELSEWHERE…

    Now, after reading these posts, (and thanks for this) I will be fully aware of these risks. As well I will be checking my hotmail, yahoo, and personal accounts, to see if there’s FILTERS there, that can be activated.

    Again thanks everyone


    Comment by Gaia | September 15, 2010 | Reply

    • Gaia,
      Many people I talk to have an attitude (“belief” may be a better word) of “hackers are not interested in boring old me…” and so they think they will not be the targets of cybercrime like Email hijacking.. and so they think they don’t need to inconvenience themselves with security.

      Well, they are sort of right — the ‘hacker’ is probably not interested in reading their e-mail, but the ‘hacker’ is interested in their machine, (to use it to send spam and viruses), their Contacts list, their online passwords, etc..
      How much more likely are you to open an e-mail attachment if it comes from your son or daughter or best friend (their infected/hacked machines, actually) than if it comes from Randell Sedbrook or Onl1nePh@rmacy?


      Comment by techpaul | September 15, 2010 | Reply

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