Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Once you've hacked into someone else's account you've not only done something morally wrong - you're at risk of being found out.

A friend told me that my boyfriend was on Match.com. After discovering that he was, it was quite easy for me to guess his password and check the emails he sent/received. I didn't send or receive anything in his account or change any of his settings. I simply read them, copied and forwarded them to myself. After asking him about it and his denying it, I then confronted him with the emails (though I said someone else accessed them and sent them to me). So here's the question....Part 1: How much trouble can you get in for figuring out someone's password and accessing their email on say Match.com? Part 2: Is it possible to tell who accessed the account? If he reports the "break-in" to Match, will they be able to discover that it was me who accessed his account?

I normally avoid these types of questions, because in all honestly they're not about technology or computers - they're about relationships and ethics. And I'm no Dear Abby or Dr. Phil.

The problem is that I get several of these types of requests every day. Seriously.

And it's just wrong on so many levels.

So let me start by answering the questions asked:

  1. A lot.

  2. Possibly.

I've said it before:

Hacking into someone else's account without their permission is wrong.

In my opinion, if you do so, you deserve to get into a lot of trouble. (And yes, if they didn't tell you the password, successfully "guessing" it is still "hacking" into their account.) It's a breach of trust, and it's unethical.

I'm no lawyer, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that it was illegal as well.

So yes, you can get into a lot of trouble with your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, you can get booted from the service you hacked into, and in the worst case scenario I'm guessing you could even face legal action.

Can the service track you down? Quite possibly. Match.com, HotMail and other on-line services are, as you might expect, reluctant to do it, but it's possible they can. I would expect it to require a court order, but when served with one, these services would be required to provide whatever records were available.

"No matter what that other person did, or what you think they did, hacking into someone else's account is wrong."

Here's a hypothetical scenario: you hack into your boyfriends email account, and he finds out about it. He then gets the police involved who then charge you with harassment. As part of the court proceedings, the records of the email provider are subpoenaed, and show that his account was accessed from some IP address. That IP address is tracked down to an ISP - your ISP. The records of that ISP are then also subpoenaed by the court, and they find that that IP address at that time lead to your home.

Each step there is possible. Likely? Perhaps not, but still possible. It all depends on the laws, the courts and the service providers you're dealing with.

Online harassment is definitely getting more attention from the courts, and in my opinion what you've done falls squarely into that category.

The people that write to me attempt to justify their actions by the wrongs committed by the person who's account they've hacked, or are trying to hack. "He's cheating on me, and that makes it OK for me to hack into his account to confirm it" is simply wrong. It's not OK.

No matter what that other person did, or what you think they did, hacking into someone else's account is wrong.

You may not trust him ... but if you're looking into hacking into his account, he shouldn't trust you.

If it's that important, if really you don't trust them - then hire a private investigator to find out - legally.

Or move on to someone you do trust.

Article C2787 - September 13, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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42 Comments
Don Davis
September 14, 2006 8:22 AM

After a 35yr career in law enforcement I can assure you that a very large percentage of our population only repect personal rights when they are their own. Many feel if they are the first to complain society should take their side against the other party. Many expect others, including the police, to commit criminal acts because they ask them to. Few even consider out laws and instututions should protect and serve every member not just a select few. One cynical old man.

mroonie
September 14, 2006 1:50 PM

Haha...this is hilarious...

Don't worry Leo, you aren't a Dr. Phil but well said. I agree with you whole heartedly.

This post reminds me of the HP Dunn scandal.
http://www.iwantmyess.com/?p=100
Although she wasn't going to misuse the information, her tactics in acquiring the data and accessing it was a big no-no....

Honestly, people don't seem to be aware of how easy it is to track online activities. I for one hate it when people snoop around in my business so I always make sure to protect myself. This includes encrypting sensitive documents that are stored on my computer, in motion through email, or being used by others. That doesn't mean I do bad things and then cover my tracks. I have nothing to hide. But for those of us who lack common sense about one's privacy, I don't want to be one who falls victim to such people. Whoever thinks that accessing someone's password isn't a breach on privacy are missing a few marbles....

Roger Huston
September 15, 2006 9:59 AM

Gee, I wonder why your boyfriend is on match.com in the first place? Could it be that he can see the real you?

Marc
September 15, 2006 11:29 AM

I am a retired Attorney, and forensic criminalist. It is , on all counts, a felony. More then 1 felony, if prosecuted. and for sure they know that someone was there, maybe they think it was your sig. other. But they know someone was logged in.

Carl
September 15, 2006 1:09 PM

Please ignore these types of questions Leo. I want a computer newsletter. I DON'T want to read about some "slug's" soap opera. Thanks!

Martin
September 15, 2006 11:20 PM

In one way I agree with Carl...this is a computer newsletter. But, this topic/problem seems to be universal.
....my wife knows what I do online anyway.

We have a pair of 16 yr-old girls. There is no way I apologize for reading what they get via our ISP mail service. They don't even know their own password(s). I choose them and change them often, which is the price they pay for using OUR computer....and online access.

I don't even bother with their hotmail or Yahoo accounts. Sorta figure if they let 94 million! other people have access to their MySpace mail, why should I? Nor should I have misgivings for reading their mail.

danny
September 16, 2006 8:07 PM

Which is sort of funny you know. Because the American government is doing the same to its citizens.

Ah, the wonders of irony.

Tina
September 18, 2006 10:57 AM

i don't know my boyfriends password on myspace and he won't tell me what it is and I don't want to think he's cheating on me. what to do?

Leo Notenboom
September 18, 2006 4:40 PM

Trust him? Get a new boyfriend?

Hacking his myspace is NOT the answer, that's for sure.

jasmine
November 12, 2006 9:11 AM

how do you get someone's password on myspace make it real simple for me

Leo Notenboom
November 12, 2006 9:20 AM

That's this article: http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_hack_into_someones_account.html

Dana
November 24, 2006 1:18 PM

how can i hank in to my boyfriend msn

Rodney
March 24, 2007 11:09 PM

I agree with Carl, Nor do i want to read about someone's personal "drama's" , and i do agree with leo, If you do something like that, Then yes , you do deserve to get into trouble, it is extrememly lame and pathetic.

Seems to me the majority of you people who are asking " how can i hack my bf/gf e-mail" are either seeking attention, like talking about the drama in your life ( Which not everyone wants to hear), want sympathy from others.

Karma - "deed or act;" more broadly describing the principle of cause and effect

:)

niles schwartz
June 7, 2007 12:23 PM

i am in the early stages of a divorce and my wife's attorney submitted hard copy of my personal email account. in other words, she hacked into my email. we have been legally seperated since 10/06 and the email she produced today (6/7/07)was dated april '07. can she do this? if not, is this a civil or criminal issue? if you can not help, do you know of a good resource?

Leo A. Notenboom
June 7, 2007 3:54 PM

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I'mm not a lawyer, and that's exactly who you should be speaking to. Since
you're in process on your divorce, I'd start with your attorney.

Leo
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Donna
October 16, 2007 8:02 AM

Hello,
Just a quick note. I too experienced a cheating boyfriend who would register his name and profile on various site (the cheap buggar only went on free sites, of course.) I finally figured out his password for his email and kept account of his messages to and from women (one particular women, Michelle, he's living with now, who cheated on her live-in boyfriend to be with him at the time he was seeing me...he wrote he'd like to do her in a hot tub, and she responded in kind). One even came from a husband of one of the women! (he got angry that Bob sent a naughty message and warned him to not even try to communicate again.) I finally approached him...the guilt and the pain were too much to bear. Instead of acknowledging his wrongdoings, he actually told the issue was mine, "trust", and the lack of it. What a wanker! I finally caught him in the act after his son ratted on him. He got so mad, he kicked his son out of the house for three days and screamed on the phone to me for one hour. I say, you did what you suspected was correct, and you now know this man is not fit for you. I spent four years being abused by him, and his philandering cost me my confidence and affected how I deal with other men. Grab some pride and kick him out. Let him have the women he wants...they just won't be you. Put out there that you deserve a better man, and the universe will provide it. Healing takes time too, so be gentle with yourself.

Take care and good luck,

D

Ilahna
December 2, 2007 3:26 PM

I agree with Donna, if you suspect your partner of going behind your back in any shape or form and destroying your soul basically, why the hell shouldn't you try and confirm your suspictions. In those circumstances, legallity can kiss my arse, I'll hack, find out and depending on the outcome I will always confront in relation to what I will find. BTW I have always been upfront about my hacking capabilities to boyfriends and they get warned plus I will always ask first if they're hiding something.

I found out my ex husband had slept with a number of men this way - go figure!

Hollie
February 19, 2008 3:50 PM

I agree with Donna and Ilahna completely. Especially if you are married. You really aren't legally allowed any secrets when you are married. During a divorce you can serve discovery if you feel that your spouse is keeping things secret and you can subpoena bank accounts, email accounts, anything. So the whole official response to the initial question was complete BS and I agree - it must have been posted by a cheater. I feel bad the person was even worried about getting in trouble for guessing her man's password. I call that genius! :-)

sharon
February 20, 2008 4:25 PM

is there a something on my computer that tells me someone has access to my e-mail?

Gloria Robinson
June 17, 2008 5:14 AM

I believe my daughter knows my password to my email account. I was upset and expressing my upset to a friend. who my daughter doesn't know. my daughter seems angry at me so I think she snooped into my email I would like to know if I can find out if and when she did. Can I do this myself?

Maureen
July 15, 2008 12:51 PM

My mother has an email account. But it appears that information and settings keep being changed on her: emails deleted. What can she do to regain all of this lost information? Stop someone who is doing this? Or find out who is doing this? She would like her privacy back.

Joe Lia
July 22, 2008 3:34 AM

Folks get a grip. If you spouce, boyfriend or girl friend is cheating on you. You have every right to know. When you take a step back and figure they could give you a deadly disease. Do what ever it takes to find out and put an end to your relationship. There are stealthy programs to help with this. Very good ones as well. I know I used it and found all i needed to know in just 1 evening. Forget the expensive private investigator. These programs are cheaper and get the job done better.

Sophie
September 9, 2008 8:42 AM

Wow, a lot of the women have issues. If you suspect your boyfriend or husband is cheating the best thing to do is confront him, leave him or get counseling. Trust me once he finds out that you hacked his computer. He won't trust you
anymore even if you find out in fact he is cheating. The relationship will be over.

Tara
October 2, 2008 12:26 PM

Hey Sophie,
If you find out he is cheating, who cares if he trusts you???? Like you said the relationship will be over so what does it matter if he does or doesn't trust you? You wouldn't be doing something like that if he wasn't going behind your back in the first place!! If someone is cheating on me and wants to deny it, I'm going to do anything in my power to find the truth. That's putting my health into his hands and being careless with it. If he's got someone on the side, there's no telling how many that person has on the side, and so on....

karl
January 13, 2009 6:33 AM

Well I agree with you guys about figuring out if the person Is cheating . But what if the gf/bf hack into the account and finds nothing irrelevant such as a couple of emails from other females or males? Is the considrered cheating? Or may I ask. Is flurting such as sending friendly emails considered an act of cheating on another?

Hacking is bad, no matter what the reason. Period. As for the rest - I'm a computer geek. You don't ask computer geeks for relationship advice.
- Leo
13-Jan-2009

Kathy
February 25, 2009 7:20 PM

My email address was hacked into by my bosses girlfriend I was looking for a place for myself and had some house appointments in my in box. She accused him of going to move in with me. She is a complete psycho I have no interest at all in my boss as I am attracted to the opposite sex. Not only this she has invaded my privacy by going into the work account and reading personal emails from my solicitor to me. She is continually harassing me and she said to my face” that she is watching me” when I confronted her because she was continually making up lies and telling my boss then he would call me in for a verbal warning for something I didn’t do. Some people think to highly of themselves invading peoples lives is wrong the amount of stress I have had in the past 6 months is unbelievable. Apart from her constant interference I really love my job and the pay is great. Please give me some advice

Larry
February 26, 2009 6:51 PM

Kathy... Report it!!! The laws are gray when it comes to bf/gf h/w if hacked computer if live in same house with shared access to computer. Expectation of privacy is... not yet defined. However, work computers and work emails are definately off limits and it is highly illegal to hack work stations or email.

Jamie
March 9, 2009 9:47 AM

This is ridiculous. How would you feel if someone hacked into your account? True people say we have the right to know blah blah blah. But by hacking into emails and facebook account even mere guessing the password correctly, it crossed the line and is against the law. It's called abuse of technology. It's equivalent to opening someone else's mail. Nevertheless, in spite of the excuses about having the right to know, hacking is AGAINST THE LAW and don't be surprised if the law doesn't take the side of the hacker.
Let's say because your loved one is in Iraq, you are so paranoid that you somehow hacked into the US military database to see where he or she is. Now how would the government respond to this digital trespass?

good thinker
April 26, 2009 4:49 AM

Yes, this is wrong that anyone hack into someone's personal privacy. Now!! i am thinking why god help human being to think for hacking.

BKP
April 28, 2009 7:44 PM

I would have to agree....MY LIFE is in my partners hands! If one was to even think about hacking into an email address then there is obviously a lack of trust anyways! lets say....the so called "hacker" had already confronted their mate and they have a very bad feeling that the confrontation was not truthful? Does the hacker just say..."Okie Dokie"? I dont think so, I firmly believe that person has every right to know the TRUTH by whatever means necessary! To a certain extent though! Of course, you can not tie the person up and beat them til they break! But to look into your wifes email or say a cell phone? Perfectly OK! Like I said, there would have to have been a certain amount of NON-TRUST to begin with, So if the hacker didnt find anything during the "hack". Then that trust level should come up a bit and that person could breathe a lil sigh of relief! BUT, 9 times out of 10, IF you think/believe your spouse is cheating? HE/SHE PROBABLY IS! The law would NEVER hold up for looking at your mates password protected cell phone NOR would it ever hold up for looking at your spouses personal emails!

Long Dong
April 28, 2009 8:03 PM

I would say....It all depends on the relationship between the said couple. IF the relationship was within, lets say 1 year. The NO, they should NEVER look at a persons PRIVACY! BUT, on the other hand, IF the relationship was around 5+ years or longer, and a very committed relationship? I say HELL YES! That person has EVERY right possible to know who their partner is "possibly" sleeping around with! I say a 5+ yr or longer relationship, that is "supposed to be a committed and trusting relationship, then there should NOT be anything to hide! PERIOD! If there is something to hide then it is for a reason that cannot be good for the relationship! If the relationship was open, committed AND honest, then there is simply NOTHING that you wouldn't want your mate to see that would be affecting the relationship! UNLESS...there IS infidelity! Its called CHEATING because the person doesn't want to get caught....AND IT IS WRONG IN EVERY WAY! It outweighs looking at an EMAIL by TONS!

matt
April 30, 2009 8:31 AM

Yes it's illegal and unethical. Legally it's a Federal Crime. You could be sued, and/or the person you hacked can report you to authorities and you would be arrested on grand theft as per the privacy act. The site can track you via ip address which is tracked by them the second your on the site, they do not need a court order to do it and it's very easy for them since you used a user name that they can look up and see when you logged in. They can also alert the authorities who intern will track you ip address and arrest you. Most likely the site will make the user change his/her password or possibly delete the account. If that's all that happens, count your self lucky and don't do it again. Hacking is wrong, but the only people who are capable of it and not get caught are computer savy (techs and teens) people. You have to know how to not leave a trail, like set up gost computers which will bounce your ip to several different places (cities or countries).

chmacka
September 15, 2009 10:43 AM

I don't agree with hacking into anyones e-mail accounts (or hacking into somebody's privacy), but I keep wondering, why are these people using passwords so easy that someone can access their e-mails by just guessing what the password is?

Make yourself a system for creating passwords (e.g. every password contains some letters you choose and some numbers - which you will use for every password, then 3rd and 5th letter in the address of the site you're registering at and 4th and 7th letter of you're user name).

Nobody can guess it and if you remember those random numbers and letters you will never forget your password - no matter how many sites you register at.

BAHMAN
September 15, 2009 11:36 AM

You should have "DONE UNTO HIM BEFORE HE HAD A CHANCE TO DO UNTO YOU". Had you done so, you wouldn't have any reason to turn into a sneaky "HACKER". All's fair "IN LOVE and WAR" baby.

nammy
October 28, 2009 9:44 PM

what if lets say you use like a service like Skydeck which is free and downloaded app on her phone to see if shes cheating by seeing her text and she is the account holder on cell phone service and have been living seprated for 4 months but still married and not legal seprated and are still involved in relationship together.Could you still get in trouble for that?

nicole
January 9, 2010 2:56 PM

Bull. If you have probable cause you have the right to get solid proof for your own sanity. Not doing it is not "moral" as you say it. Anyways if the dude was trying to pick someone else up online when he already had something who cares he's a loser move on. But really in a relationship there shouldn't be any guessing of passwords. My SO and I know all each others passwords hell some are the same as each others. Get real in these days of mistrust it's impossible not to snoop. End of story good bye.

BoB
January 14, 2010 4:04 AM

I completely agree with the last comment.. and not everyone can afford a private detective.. and it is NOT JUST so easy.. to just end things and move on.. if you have no solid proof.. they will just deny it and you will look like the jealous bad guy to everyone.. and ps.. does sky deck really work? how much is it.. and do they have to know your using it???

james
July 28, 2010 9:52 AM

I have a question, wich no one has really been able to awser for me. my wife and i are goign to be getting a divorce im in iraq and she keeps hacking by guessing my passwords and changing my passwords so i have a hard time going in and changing info like where money goes and all that. I have and am still trying to get with police to report these activities and it seems im getting no where. And yes now i have re done user names passwords and secret and pin's all crazy ass # and letters that i had to write down cuase i wont ever rember all of them lol. But in KS the law stats that whats mine is hers and hers is mine, so she can't steal from me money but hacking into my accounts for bank and the army online stuff is some how agist the law and they dont seem like they know what there doing or dont want to get involved wich is said since my taxes pay there asses lol. please any ideas would help.

mandamay
March 1, 2011 9:25 PM

changing my email address cause can not access my old account.. cause my boyfriend is very smart when it comes to computers and he has put blocks on me on some parts of the net and he has parent control on me aswell not very happy he access everything i do and write hmmm who can i stop him PLEASE HELP....!!!!!!!!

mac
March 4, 2011 12:47 AM

my ex out did all your ex's by conveincing certain people she knows(that never met meet) that I was the one who was stalking her, how? very easy I trusted her with my computer/equipment/cable internet bill/my phone/my software/password book/ and other stuff. now microsoft thinks im running stolen software, the law enforcement folks think im a evil guy for hacking her accounts,phone carrier wont even think about tracking ware being on the 3G network,my 1500.00 computer is basically scrap because SHE registered it with my receit on my cell phone standing two feet away from me. Ive tried everything LEAGAL to regain whats mine but no one will listen. BTW her dad is IT @hospital,best friend IT @ dept of corrections and her son is a programer/gamer wanna be! tip is her distant cousin is a certain dutch computer guru(no name) who she proudly posted on facebook. goggle "royally screwed" and theres my picture.

UnhackableHeart
November 3, 2011 7:41 PM

It depends on how tech saavy they are. Technically there are ways and tools to be able to do it, depending on the mail client being used (Yahoo vs Gmail). One example is tracking last IP login on gmail. www.unhackableheart.com shows how you can detect if someone has been reading your emails, so it might be worth checking out to see if you did some of the techniques mentioned there.

Jordan
January 25, 2012 1:36 AM

I have to disagree with you there. In 90% of circumstances, you are correct, it is highly unethical to hack into a spouses account, but if that account is on a dating site, while I can't really say it is. Then again, their presence on the site should be incriminating enough, without the need to "hack."

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