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Email accounts are used as the most common point of entry by hackers to get access to networks and either disrupt services, steal information, or spread malevolent software to more accounts. But, if you improve your email security, you can prevent this!
So, What Is Email Security?
Put simply, email security is a term that encompasses all the measures taken to secure access to an email account and contents of all emails of that account.
15 Ways to Improve Your Email Security
Email accounts are fairly easy to hack, simply because of the sheer number of email accounts there are. With everybody having at least one account, a simple error like clicking an infected link is often enough for them to gain access.
Coupled with a lack of knowledge, some people are easy targets, and can be the weak link for businesses or home offices to get a malware infection or lead to a security breach.
This is why it’s important to be up to date with email security measures and be able to spot hacking attempts.
Here are some of the ways you can improve your email security and help keep your personal and business data safe.
1. Use Strong Passwords
Weak passwords are one of the simplest ways to get access to an email account.
Often, people use simple passwords out of convenience, but this makes them more vulnerable. Most services won’t even let you have generic or weak passwords anymore and demand that passwords have at least eight characters, must include upper- and lowercase letters, at least one number, and one special character.
Our tips for strong passwords include:
- Avoid using meaningful passwords – like the name of your spouse, children, or pets, birthdates, and similar. It’s best to use everyday items that don’t have much meaning. For example, look around your room or office and pick an item or two, then use them to make a password.
- Change your password every 3-6 months. Set a reminder on your phone or work calendar to do so.
- Avoid leaving all of your accounts logged in on multiple devices ALL of the time.
- Don’t write your password down and stick it to your desktop screen! (it happens more often than you think!)
Think it’s hard to steal your password? Read this:
2. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
This puts an extra layer of security in addition to a username and password. It makes it harder for attackers to gain access. With 2FA, the user, after putting in their username and password, also has to input additional information, such as an additional PIN or password, or a security token.
3. Avoid Logging In to Free Wi-Fi and then Signing into an Email
While free Wi-Fi sounds great in theory, in practice, it’s chock-full of hazards. Using public Wi-Fi puts you at risk of being hacked, as hackers might be using the same network to gain access to other devices – if you log in to your email account, they can easily get access immediately.
If you truly need internet access out in the public, it’s best to use your phone and tether a connection instead (just make sure you use encryption while doing so).
4. Use Professional/Paid Services and Avoid the Free Ones
While free email services are convenient (for example, Gmail), they don’t have all the features you might if you’re a business. Always opt for professional and paid services (for example, G-Suite email services) as they have priority support and better security features.
5. Educate Yourself
One of the best ways to stay secure is to be aware of all the risks and ways hackers might try to get access to your email. It’s extremely important for businesses to train their staff as well, to minimise the risk of someone accidentally clicking an infected link.
6. Use Anti-Virus That Includes an Email Scanner
Anti-virus software will scan your device for malevolent activity, but it’s not a bad idea to get AV software that also includes an email scanner. Such scanners will actively scan all links and email attachments and alert you about infected items.
7. Don’t Click Links from Emails and Don’t Log In on Email Pop-Ups
If you are unsure about a link from an email, never click on it. The link might lead to a site that downloads and installs malevolent software to your device. Any pop-up window that requires you to log in to your email is likely a scam too. Always log in through the actual service.
8. Check the Original Sender
If you receive an email that seems to be a bit off, always check the sender. Often, the sender name will be spoofed to make you believe they are someone else. You can do so by hovering over the “From” to see the actual email address and not the name of the sender.
9. Help Your Provider
Every time you mark an email as spam or junk and report them, you help your provider filter the emails better in the future. This way, harmful emails will never even manage to reach the inbox.
10. Be Careful Signing Up for Things.
Using the same email for all the services – from those you use regularly to some obscure mailing lists, is always a bad idea. Always have a “throwaway” or temporary email address for services or websites where you only need one-time access.
11. Check Who Has Your Email
Never share your email on just any websites or public places. Also, avoid posting to public forums with your main email address to make sure it’s not collected and ends up on spam lists.
12. Protect Sent Emails
Use encryption services to protect all sent email. Some services even make it possible to see the email only if the recipient has an authentication code, and you can redact access at any time you see fit. We use Microsoft’s Azure Information Protection and recommend it to our clients for automatic email and file encryption.
13. Be Careful What You Share Online
Avoid sharing personal information that could give hackers an idea on what you are using as a password! And I’ll say it again, don’t use obvious personal information as your password!
14. Run Regular Backups
With so many ransomware attacks happening lately, make sure your data is backed up regularly, just in case!
15. Be Careful About Apps
Avoid installing apps from third-party sites on your computer, browser, or phone. They are often infected with malware. Instead, only download from trusted sources, and always regularly update them.
These are all ways to improve your email security, whether you’re a personal user, have a business account, or are looking for organisational email security! Just remember, the more measures implemented, the higher the security of an email account.