Email was invented way back in 1972, and a couple of decades later it became one of the primary means of communication for virtually everyone worldwide. Today, even in the presence of various instant messaging applications, social media and other fancy new technologies, email is still kicking and is still one of the most reliable forms of communication out there.
How to Protect Your Email
The reason is its simplicity and universality; it’s very easy to send an email message and anyone can use it, regardless of their hardware or software configuration. Email is intrinsic to all computers, so anyone with a computer can have access to it.
Unfortunately, that also means that people with malicious intents have access to it, and if you’re not careful they can compromise the security of your email account and do some pretty scary things, such as infecting your computer with malware or stealing your private information. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen, you’re going to have to take care of a few things before you can start using email safely.
Use Public PCs with Care
If you’re in an Internet café hooked up to a PC that someone else will be using after you’re done with it, you need to make sure that you leave no trace of your presence on that PC. That means that, if you need to check your email, it’s best to do so inside a private or incognito window, an option that most browsers nowadays possess. If you have the ability to clear the browser’s cache and cookies, be sure to do so, as there can be some residual information in those files that can help a proficient hacker gain access to your account. Additionally, if you have the ability to use a VPN on public PCs, it’s most likely a good idea and will definitely give your email account some additional protection.
Make a Strong Password
This one may be obvious, but it’s also the number one thing most people overlook. Most people tend to value convenience over security, and that means that they use the same simple password that they can remember easily across all of their accounts. This is a really bad idea and should be avoided at all costs. Your passwords should ideally be a random mix of uppercase/lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and you absolutely mustn’t use the same password twice, if you’re serious about the security of your email account.
Encrypt Your Attachments
By hacking and hijacking your DNS, hackers are sometimes able to intercept your outgoing emails, which means that any attachments you might’ve included in the message are going to get intercepted as well. This is why it’s always a good idea to secure the file you’re sending with a password (virtually every archiving program these days has this option), and of course you shouldn’t include this password in the message itself. This is a quick and efficient way to add some last-minute protection to your emails and make sure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands, and it only takes a few extra seconds to do so you should definitely make it a habit.
Beware of Fraud Emails
If you receive an email with a subject like “Your email account has suffered a security breach”, think twice before doing what it says or even opening it. Email providers have far more sophisticated methods of handling security breaches these days, so you can bet that they’d do more than send you a cryptic email to inform you of an insecurity within your account. It’s best to ignore these types of emails altogether as they’re most likely phishing attempts to get a hold of your account information.
Lock Your Computer
No matter how much you trust the people around you, we still recommend that you take care about leaving your PC unsupervised. At the very least, you should exit and log out of your email client while you’re not at the computer, and we even recommend that you lock your password-protected account as well. Honestly, no one should be snooping around your computer when you’re not there, so it makes sense to prevent anyone from doing so, just in case they indeed have any malicious intents.