Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beware of hackers - Why and how to download and backup your Yahoo email

A few years ago I tried to access my Yahoo email account via my mobile and discovered that I needed to sign in but couldn't.  My password recovery questions weren't working. Luckily, I was able to send my request to another email account that was still active. I was really worried about what the hacker may have found in my account. I kept lots of stuff in folders on the server: receipts, manuscripts, doctor appointment and prescription confirmations, utility and mobile bills, and even legal documents like housing contracts. You do it too, right? That's enough information to impersonate me and in worst-case scenarios, open or use my accounts.  However, it wasn't until now that I reflected on that time and started to seriously consider the consequences of my carelessness.

A friend of mine recently had her home burglarized. This is what kicked me into gear. I started thinking about what I would lose if my own home was burglarized. What do I keep on my computer that I can't get back? What about my email? What if my emails and attachments were burglarized? First, I started backing up my photos onto DVDs. I have more copies on an external hard drive. It takes a while, but you can get things started and walk away for a while. We don't print photos as often as we used to. How would it feel to lose all of your photos stored on your computer or your mobile? (Yes, you should download those to your computer to back them up too).

Meanwhile, I ran a quick Internet search regarding Yahoo email attacks from hackers. I was surprised to see so many results. In fact, I'm considering closing my Yahoo account! Until then, I'm taking steps to better protect my privacy and identity. On 30 June 2014 Yahoo announced on it's blog that security attacks are becoming more of a regular occurrence, and that they had discovered recent attacks were part of a coordinated effort to gain access to mail accounts. A blog post on (link to blog post here) reported Yahoo Email users experiences with hackers. Here is one:

"The first one comes from a Yahoo user who is part of a larger organization:

'We were hacked at the end of January. They spammed everyone in the “contact” folder and deleted all the contacts. We just had another yahoo account hacked yesterday. Not only did it spam the entire “contact” folder, but we are unable to send out emails or access our “secret question” to change the password.

There was a toll free number to call and when we did so we spoke with people who spoke very poor English, and they asked for a one time fee of $100 for assistance with the issue. When we refused they hung up on us. We called the number twice, the first time we spoke with a woman and the second time we called we spoke with a man. Both times we called when we refused the payment of $100 we were hung up on.'

It’s fair to say that this number in question does not belong to Yahoo. These are scammers attempting to get a ransom payment in exchange for an account they have compromised."

 I think we've probably all received emails from friends that only have link in them or want us to download some random program. I often get emails from friends with .php links. I still don't completely understand php, but from what I've read, it seems that php is a programming language that is used for server-side website development or can just be used as a programming language. Server-side scripting (more info at: can be used to deliver results back to a client. I found an article from ( that explains how it can be used by hackers. I've only added a few lines to scratch the surface and give you an idea. It's not meant to be an exhaustive explanation.

" One of the most common techniques that can be used on any type of site is to place 100s of hidden spammy links on the pages of a site...

PHP include(); or require(); file_get_contents();
This technique is real common PHP based sites such as Joomla and WordPress sites. The spam content is "hidden" in a file added to the site by the hackers and then inserted by using an include(); or require(); statement in the legit files of the site."

Anyway, I've taken a tangent and could easily get carried away. I'm impressed if you are still reading, as this is not my typical post. Let's not fry your brain. Also, I don't want to include too much of what I don't understand fully. Anybody with a more comprehensive knowledge who feels they can add to the understanding of readers (not confuse more), please feel free to comment.

Moving on. I started downloading my files from my Yahoo account so that anybody who gained access could not download them. Here's the tricky part. Yahoo doesn't make it easy for you to download emails or attachments. Here is what I had to do:

 This is for iMac version 10.9.3. Open your iMac email program. (Please click on photos to enlarge them if needed.)
Click on File and then Accounts
You should get a menu like this from which you can choose your desired email client and enter your login information to import emails.

Once you've set up and imported your emails, highlight all emails that you want to save to your computer. Then click on File and scroll down to Print.
Wait for the print menu to display the total number of pages at the bottom. It will take a while if you have hundreds of emails to print.
Then, click on the PDF button at the bottom left and choose to Save As PDF. Make sure you name your folder something that allows you to easily identify the contents. For example: YahooEmailBackupJune2014_PicturesFromFriends.
Now you have saved the emails. To save the attachments. Highlight those same emails. Go to File, and click on Save Attachments.
Once everything has finished saving, and you've verified that it's all in the folder you chose, you can delete the emails. I also suggest saving these files not only on your computer, but on another device such as a USB drive or other external hard drive.

I hope this post is useful. Happy saving!

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