An email is a vital tool of communication in the business world. Without it, sharing ideas and information would be much trickier and less efficient. However, there are many threats to your security and privacy when using an email without sufficient precautions. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent or avoid spam, malware, phishing, and other undesirable or malicious messages landing in your inbox. With a few tweaks to settings, you can make significant improvements and it takes only a minute or two for most of them. Let’s take a look at email security and safety.
1. Choose a secure password
Apparently millions of people still use simple passwords like 123456 and other common passwords include people’s favorite band or artist. People often use the same password for multiple websites and services, and if one is hacked or data leaks, everything that uses the same password is also at risk. Never use the same password twice.
Change your password if it is weak or is used elsewhere. A password should be 8 characters or more and contain upper and lowercase letters, one or more numbers, and a symbol or two if allowed, like plus, minus, exclamation, comma, and so on. The best passwords are impossible to remember of course, so a password manager is recommended. Password managers are great for making complex and secure passwords and then remember them for you.
2. Be extremely careful about opening attachments.
If possible, scan any email with an attachment before you open it, especially if it is from someone you don’t know. Nine out of ten viruses or malware get on to computers via attachments.
3. Always be on alert for phishing
Phishing is a scam designed to steal your login details for online services and stores, like Amazon, PayPal, Apple, eBay, your bank, and other places. Learn to spot fake emails and you go a long way to securing your accounts and increasing your safety.
There are many ways to spot fake emails and the simplest is to look at who the email addresses to. If it is not to you personally, it is almost always a fake. For example, many phishing emails either have no name or begin ‘Dear customer’. Nothing screams fake more than ‘Dear customer’!
4. Use a VPN
When using a laptop with public Wi-Fi there is a possibility that hackers, the hotspot owner, or a fake hotspot set up nearby are spying on your activities. If you access your email over public Wi-Fi you cannot guarantee it is 100% safe and secure. One way to increase privacy and security with email at a public Wi-Fi hotspot is to use a VPN. This is a utility installed on the computer that creates an encrypted internet connection. It keeps out anyone attempting to spy on your internet activities. A side effect is that it unblocks public Wi-Fi, which is sometimes so limited as to be almost unusable. There are many VPNs for PC and Mac and here are some of the free VPNs which might be useful to you
5. Be careful with links
Phishing and emails spreading malware often contain links to bad websites. They will either try to infect your computer directly, get you to download malware, or try to steal your login details for an online service or website.
Be very careful with links in emails where you have not specifically asked someone to send a link or you don’t know the sender. Let the mouse hover over a link in an email and usually, the URL is displayed in the bottom left corner of the mail or browser window. The destination may look legitimate at first glance, but URLs are often designed to fool you into thinking they are real. Study them carefully.
If the link is to a site you know, like Amazon, Apple, PayPal, your bank, and so on, type it into the address box of the browser instead of clicking a link in an email. If you must open a link, right-click it and open it in a private or incognito window. It will not protect you from everything, but it is safer than directly clicking a link.
6. Avoid showing your email address in public places
If you have to include a working email address on a public document (like a press release), consider using a secondary email account. Using an email address tied to an account that you could do without will keep things neater later on, should that email account become compromised.
This tactic won’t work for everyone, but it should at least serve as a reminder: Keep your email address as private as possible and you’ll avoid many potential problems. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. It’s a good idea to Google your email address every so often, to see if it is listed on any page in the results. If your email address does show up in the results, see about getting it removed from those pages.
If you have your own domain name, consider using a private WHOIS service to hide your email address. Or, use a different email address (e.g. beginning with domain@), so you at least know where a spammer harvested your email address. If you receive spam at a domain@ email address, it gives clear evidence the person emailing you harvested your email address from your WHOIS record, and is, therefore, spamming you. You can then complain to the spammer’s ISP (see point 10 for how to report spam).
7. Do not drop your private information in Email
It is not a good idea to send personal or private information in emails and one reason is that the information stays in the inbox forever. Anyone that gains access to the inbox could read that private information, which could be login details for sites and services or even financial information.
It is possible for third party tools to read emails, such as add-ons and extensions for browsers and email services. They might see something you would rather be kept secret, so you should think twice about installing them and don’t send or receive private information.
8. Use a managed IT service
There are many great benefits to using IT services, one of which is security. This comes in a variety of forms, including keeping relevant hardware and software up to date. Doing so means that your company will be able to take advantage of any updates that have been released, some of which help improve security.
These are the 8 small steps through which small business owners can take themselves to boost their email security. For additional insight on the benefits of email encryption, as well as other IT consulting solutions, contact Exxceliq Solutions ( India’s first of a kind company providing subscription-based IT services) today for a free consultation!