Keeping emails secure is vitally important since so much of our personal information can be found there. This includes information about our relationships, our work, different websites and services we use, and so much more. Not only that, when someone has access to our email, this also grants them access to any other accounts that may be linked to that email.
Weak email security puts your financial, emotional, and social wellbeing at risk, as well as those close to you from the likes of fraudsters and imposters who could pretend to be you.
To help prevent any of these nightmare scenarios from happening to you, I have outlined five easy steps you can take to protect your emails.
Step 1: Protect Your Account from Hacking with a Strong Password
To be sure that no one else can access your account, you can change the password. Creating a unique, random, and strong password is what makes a password effective. This means that you should only use this password for one email account and nowhere else.
You can further increase your email security with two-factor authentication (2FA). When set-up, two-factor authentication will send you a one-time password via text message to your mobile every time you log in. Even if someone knows your password, they would not be able to access your email without having the secondary 2FA password as well.
Step 2: Use Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)
PGP is a security protocol which encrypts emails and ensures that only the intended recipient can see the content.
A pair of keys is created for both you and your recipient in PGP. The key-pair consists of a public and a private key which have different functions. The public key can be shared and is used to encrypt emails, while the private key is never shared and only used to decrypt emails.
TLS works to verify server integrity and ensures that your connection with a website is encrypted. Both your connection to the email server and the connection between email servers can also be encrypted with TLS.
However, you need to make sure your emails are fetched over encrypted channels when using an external email client like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail.
Step 4: Do Not Load Images and Beware of Tracking Links
Companies and newsletter providers often track their emails with links to measure their effectiveness and reach. The tracking links allow them to see how many people read their emails, clicked on links, or forwarded the emails.
Another technique used it to include trackable images within the email. A remote server will automatically load an image when you open the email, and this image could contain a tracking code which notifies the sender the email has been opened. You can prevent this from happening by accessing the settings within your email provider and disabling it from automatically loading external images.
It is strongly advised that you do not open any email attachments unless it’s from a trusted sender, as attachments could contain harmful malware like trojans or cryptolockers.
One solution is to open the commonly infected file formats such as xls, pdf, and doc in a virtual machine or your webmail providers built-in functionality.