Cybersecurity is a topic that we all know to be important, but it often goes overlooked when we fool ourselves into believing that “it won’t happen to us.” The fact of the matter is, anyone with an email account is highly susceptible to being exposed to cyberattacks.
According to an article published by Security Magazine, 1 in 50 emails contains some type of malicious content. Digital Trends estimates that 10% of all compromised emails contain malware such as spyware, ransomware, adware, or trojans.
Sending emails is a daily habit in our lives, so the inbox is a great place to start when building a cybersecurity strategy. Avoid negligence and inform yourself of safe email practices so you can evade hackers and bypass being a victim of various security threats.
Here’s a list of simple yet essential security tips you should follow in order to keep your email account as safe and secure as possible.
Use strong passwords that are unique
A weak password is no match for a hacker or data thief. Take stock of all the passwords you currently use for your email account (and other important logins). Do they need to be stronger or more unique?
A secure password is practically impossible to guess without previous insight. Hackers use specific password-guessing software that runs through millions of combinations – the more complex the password, the more time it takes for the software to decode it. Using a password manager such as 1Password or LastPass is an excellent way to make and securely store highly unique passwords.
Strengthen your password with these tips:
- Use upper and lower case letters
- Use random numbers and letters rather than words
- Think in terms of phrases instead of words
- Avoid common letter-number substitutions
- Use numbers and special characters
- Never use your hometown, school, university, birthday, or company name
Use two-tier authentication
Implementing two-tier authentication (2FA) on your email account is a surefire way to add an extra layer of security to your inbox. Major email clients have the 2FA option built-in, so you can easily enable it. Consider switching to a new cloud email provider if the option is not available to you.
2FA is a great data loss prevention method, as it makes hacking much more difficult for cybercriminals and those who want to snoop through your emails. Even if a hacker manages to retrieve the password to your account, 2FA will block them by requiring a code texted to your phone.
2FA is one of the smartest safeguards you can implement to protect your email account (or any other web application) from a data breach. It works with virtually any cloud service you might be using, including Google and password managers such as 1Password.
Watch out for phishing emails
We’ve written about phishing emails before and how important it is to keep your eyes peeled for suspicious messages. Phishing is a common method used by hackers to take advantage of a recipient. These emails can goad recipients into sending the hacker money or their personal information.
Here are some ways you can keep your email account secure from phishing attacks:
- Establish a VPN (such as Encrypt.me, ExpressVPN, or CyberGhost)
- Watch out for bad grammar
- Undergo security awareness training
- Avoid public WiFi
- Enhance email authentication (with tools such as DKIM)
The best way to stay ahead of the game is to keep yourself up to date on current phishing techniques and the best defenses against them. Knowledge is power, and in this case, that power can be invaluable to you or your company.
While the phishers of the world may be crafty, you can always stay one step ahead. Be smart, be logical, and be sensible when it comes to questionable emails or links. Doing so can go a long way in keeping your business or personal information safe and private.
Never open unexpected attachments without scanning
Sometimes you’ll receive phishing emails that contain file attachments. If an unknown source specifically tells you to open a file attachment, you can likely bet that there is something malicious going on.
Of course, you might come across some emails from a sender you don’t know personally that might be genuine. This is why it’s important to implement anti-malware and antivirus email security software to scan all attachments so you know immediately if they’re safe to open. We recommend using Malwarebytes.
If the software indicates malicious content, you can block the sender, delete the message, and keep your system secure. This simple implementation can prevent a subsequent data breach.
Scan all emails for viruses and malware
In the same way that you should scan all email attachments before opening them, you should make sure your messages are scanned as well. The antivirus software we mentioned earlier covers your general emails as well.
The top screening software options check messages for vulnerabilities as they arrive in your inbox and will alert you of any concerns. The software will usually quarantine affected emails before it causes damage to your security status.
If you use a well-known email client, you’ll find they follow the same cloud security procedures and will let you know if there’s anything to worry about it.
Use separate email accounts
There’s strength in numbers. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, or all your emails in one inbox. There’s always a chance that someone might break into your account, and if you only have one, you’ll lose access to everything.
Maintaining multiple email accounts helps boost your security by allocating different types of messages in several places, instead of one central hub. That way, if there’s a security breach, you have other accounts to fall back on and you won’t be locked out of everything you have access to.
Your productivity will be improved by having separate email accounts, too. Consolidating your emails into separate accounts for work, personal, and more helps you stay focused and track down messages easier.
Never access emails from public WiFi
Avoid checking your email when you’re on public WiFi, such as when you’re at a coffee shop, airport, or city park. It can be tempting to want to be connected everywhere you go, but unfortunately, public WiFi can be extremely insecure.
Hackers use programs called “network sniffers” that monitor all of the wireless data flowing through a specific network, and then analyze that data for personal and important information. For example, your private information such as your username and password.
Checking your email on public WiFi is always a risk – one that’s not worth taking if you have confidential and work-related messages in your inbox. Don’t let convenience overshadow your need for security, and always use a VPN.
Use a robust spam filter
Cloud-based email clients tend to come with state-of-the-art spam filters. Make sure your provider offers excellent security solutions and your spam filter is actually turned on. Spam filters make sure you’re not bothered by annoying marketing messages while also keeping your email account safe so you don’t accidentally click on malicious links.
You can customize the settings on your spam filter to block out any emails that contain certain words or phrases, which comes in handy when scams target specific keywords. Overall, this should help you prevent opening any spam that contains malware by accident.
Never click the “unsubscribe” link in spam emails
If a spam email does end up your inbox, and you open up the message, the last thing you want to do is click the unsubscribe link. You might think it’s sensible to prevent further emails from the messenger, but that’s not the case. Hackers will place them in emails in an attempt to trick you.
If you do click the unsubscribe link, there’s a chance it will redirect you to a phishing site that will try to steal any of your personal information it can. The link is also a way to provide hackers with a way into your system, which is why it’s so important to never click the link in the first place.
In this scenario, the best thing to do is to mark the message as spam and hit delete. If you’re a SaneBox user, use SaneBlackHole. Placing an email in SaneBlackHole is basically banishing a sender from ever contacting you again. Future emails from the sender will be stored in this folder and eventually sent to the trash. The email then gets moved to trash when it is 7 days old.
Remember smart email security practices
Following this combination of rules and safety precautions will help keep your email account secure. Don’t forget, hackers are everywhere and if you don’t have strong cybersecurity practices in place, your data could be stolen in minutes. Protect yourself and your business with smart email security.