Another day, another hacking story. From celebrity data leaks to multi-million pound breaches by global corporations.
A hacked email account or server means so much more than a password reset. Think about what’s inside your emails, linked accounts, reused passwords, sensitive data, and you’ll see the snowball effect can be devastating.
Businesses should make sure they’re using compliant systems and solutions to protect their company and staff. But when it comes to your personal email use, there are measures you can take to keep your data safe.
Here are five easy ways you can keep your email secure.
Avoid public wifi
The new foundation block of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, free wifi is ubiquitous. From coffee shops and department stores to banks and country parks, it’s easy to get your hands on a free-for-all password. But with high volumes of users emailing, shopping and browsing on a single network, hackers make light work of accessing private data.
Your mobile network is a more secure option when out and about. Set up your personal hotspot and make sure you have a strong password. Your phone will tell you how many people are using your device hotspot, so you’ll be able to kick off unwanted visitors. If you must use public wifi, make sure your activity is encrypted that your software is up-to-date. Ideally avoid super sensitive tasks like personal banking or accessing payslips. Always verify the name of the network as it’s not uncommon for hackers to set up their own hotspot using a similar name, so you end up spoon-feeding them your personal info.
Reading your email in plain text is the safest way. Sure, it makes exciting and engaging email but reading emails in HTML is bad practice from a privacy point! HTML emails can contain ‘active content’ – code that can possess hidden files or attachments that will be automatically opened, initially infecting the device being used and potentially a number of accounts and devices there on.
You may have filters in place, but those behind the content are well versed in hiding the true intent of the text and are able to find file types that will pass through the filters; e.g., the Winevar Virus which contained .CEO files to get past filters that had prohibited EXE files.
Plain text emails don’t contain anything hidden, the links are displayed – it is therefore a far safer practice to ensure all emails are read in text only format.
Use a separate email account for subscriptions
Subscriptions to newsletters are found in everyone’s inbox – they can be a great source of information and inspiration, but they can also be used in phishing scams (as well being a minor irritation!). Set up a separate email address such as Google for Hotmail, who are great at filtering spam for you to use when registering for these subscriptions. That way should your email addressed be harvested for malicious intent, there is nothing sensitive that can be gained from this email address, it can be closed and you are able to set up a new address very quickly.
Encrypt sensitive emails
The information sent in our daily emails are a cyber criminals dream; names, addresses, company information not to mention banking details and personal information that is freely sent can potentially lead to a lot of trouble. Even if you are using a secure HTTPS connection, you have no control over the recipient’s connection or server (or even if they are using a public WiFi signal).
If you must send these details via email, then encrypting the files or the email is the safest way and there are plenty of tools that will enable you to do this. You will need to provide the recipient with the password – just don’t do this over email!
Multi-layer your defences
As well as looking to prevent your email account becoming infected with a virus, you also need to be proactive in preventing a virus coursing through your emails and infecting someone else. Being the source of infection can be a costly thing to come under, even if you weren’t aware, so ensuring that it won’t be you responsible for the infections moving onto other accounts there are steps that you can take.
Viruses can be contracted from emails, malicious websites and from downloading/installing questionable files so having the right protection in place is crucial.