Email, and the internet, in general, has become an important aspect of our personal and professional lives. Most of us take the privacy and security of our email for granted, despite the fact that our livelihood depends heavily on the integrity of our mailboxes. But the last few years have taught us that email is a prime target for data thieves and hackers and a pretty easy one for that matter. Hackers can know a lot about you by simply accessing your email account.
From work-related communications, health and insurance information, home addresses and personal contacts, your email inbox contains practically anything there is to know about you, but what measures have you taken to protect it? If the answer is none, here are 5 easy tips to securing your emails.
Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), also called GNU Privacy Guard (GPG), allows users to encrypt the contents of their emails and protects them from being intercepted by hackers. PGP is a third-party software designed to ensure that emails can only be read by intended recipients. Some of the data, including the sender’s email address, the recipient, the time the message was sent, and the size of the email — in general, the metadata — is not encrypted. This is unavoidable, but the encryption ensures that hackers can’t use the metadata to steal valuable information.
Use TLS Encryption
TLS, short for Transport Layer Security, is an encryption tool that prevents the contents of your emails from being read by others. Make sure that you always use TLS if you want to send emails securely. TLS also verifies the integrity as well the security of the server you are connected to and the recipient’s server connection as well. Always make sure that your emails are sent over an encrypted channel when using external email clients such as Thunderbird, Apple Mail, or Outlook.
Beware of Malware in Attachments
Nine out of ten malware or computer viruses are delivered via email attachments. The most commonly infected email attachments are DOC, XLS, and PDF. Webmail providers have built-in virus scanners to help you avoid opening infected documents, so make sure that you scan a document before opening it. Also, don’t open email attachments from untrusted sources or people you don’t know. By opening such attachments, you risk downloading and installing phishing malware into your computer.
Be Careful When Loading Images
Be careful when loading images and clicking links sent to your email. To track the number of people who read the emails, opened the links, or forwarded the emails, newsletter providers and other companies that send promotional emails use various strategies to track the reach and effectiveness of their efforts. One of these strategies involves sending emails that contain images with tracking code in them. On top of tracking you, these images may redirect you to phishing sites. Don’t open them. Change your email settings to prevent external images from loading automatically.
Use a Strong Password
Last but not least, use a strong password to protect your email account. A password should be long and unique. Use a combination of small and capital letters, numbers, and special characters to create your email password. Don’t use the same password for different accounts, even if it’s on a different platform. It compromises the security of your email account should you become a target for hacking or data theft.
Use two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security for your emails. It may sound technical if you are hearing it for the first time but two-factor authentication is pretty straightforward. A code is sent to your phone as a secondary password, which you’ll use to access your email account. Two-factor authentication doesn’t have to use your cell number. Your email client will provide you with available options, so choose whatever works for you.