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Gone in 180 Seconds: Hackers Quickly Raid E-Mails in Search of 'Wire Transfer' and Sex Photos

If you fear the website you just visited may have stolen your e-mail password, don't delay taking action. Hackers who use that information to access accounts move at "astonishing" speed, according to a report from Google and the University of California at San Diego.

The new study offers a revealing look at what cyber-criminals do once they have a person's e-mail account credentials -- and how fast they operate. The research focused on manual-account takeovers, in which hackers go through the labor-intensive process of accessing the accounts using the purloined passwords and sifting through the contents in search of sensitive data. This type of attack is relatively rare -- Google estimates it occurs nine times per million Google users per day -- but the damage is more extensive and severe than the automated scams that make up the majority of threats on the Internet.