The internet can be a dangerous place. It is fun and highly entertaining, yes, but a risky environment nonetheless. This is especially true to the email sphere, where hackers like to lurk. Unfortunately we fall easily into email traps, but it’s never too late to improve! This year, make a resolution to be a safer email user. Let’s look at some common email security issues and associated advice.
The one-off password
Every one of us learned long ago to be safe about password usage. “Never use the same password for multiple accounts,” they told us. “Don’t give your friends access to your account,” they chimed. However, even today we don’t always listen to this advice. Most people have at least two email addresses now—personal and work. Raise your hand if the password is the same for each. If a hacker gets hold of one password, he’ll be able to access both accounts. Do your best to vary your password on an account-by-account basis.
The generic password
This is probably a bit less problematic than it was in the heyday of the early 2000s, but there are undoubtedly still some guilty parties. Are you using your birth date or your dog’s name to log into your email account? It’s not such a great idea, and here’s why…
We’d all like to trust our friends, but even they might go behind our backs. If they’re good friends, they already know these mundane details about your life. On the converse, a total stranger having hacked an internet account of yours like Ebay need only look at your basic account overview to ascertain details such as date of birth (as such websites ask this info as a standard) and provided email address and later try the two together. Most websites, when creating a new account, recommend that users employ a combination of letters and numbers as well as upper and lower case to better secure the account. Consider applying this to email.
Solution: Email Verification
One way to guard against various password issues is to put 2-Step Email Verification to good use. If you are a Gmail user, you may choose to log in via a 2-step process, which not only asks for username and password but also sends a unique code to your phone that you must input to completely log in.
Spam email links and attachments
In general, you shouldn’t even bother opening a message unless you recognize the sender. Sometimes we do, however, and other times spammers and scammers mask themselves as being legit. Without practicing some caution, though, a few different things may happen.
- Viruses and malware. Opening an attachment from an unknown sender’s message has the potential to set a virus upon your system. It is best to avoid opening attached items entirely, but if you must, be sure that you’re wary of these negative possibilities.
- Phishing and information theft. Phishing happens when you open a message a click a link to a site that, by all accounts, seems authentic. We’ve all gotten messages from companies claiming to be our bank or other important entity that is requesting information verification or particular payment. This is usually a scam, and will lead to a phished site. If you provide the requested info, the malicious site and associated wrongdoers have obtained personal information from you.
While it’s nice to know that you may sip your fancy coffee drink and browse the internet at the same time, also remember that these connections are open to public access. This means that anyone using a given unsecured network (via computer or smartphone) has the potential to manipulate it with various “network sniffers.” If they do—there goes your personal information. Of course, WiFi isn’t all bad. After all, wireless internet allows many computers to access the internet in the same household with ease. However, when using public WiFi, limiting your use of email is a recommended security measure. If the email can wait, save its sending for a more secure network.
Generally speaking, if you have a reason to be unsure about something in your email or indeed on the internet as a whole, approach it with caution. Never give information to someone requesting it via email unless you’re expecting to be asked or you know the sender. Even then, use extreme caution. We can all enjoy email and its many functions if we go about it the right way. Think about the email security issues you’ve just read about and take the necessary steps to better protect your accounts.
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