Updated July 2022
Way back at the start of the new millennium, the number of emails sent and received per day in America was about 12 billion. Today, that number has grown to more than 306 billion emails!
Every day, 4 billion people log on to their email accounts, check their inboxes and send emails to their friends, family, coworkers, employers, and customers. That number is expected to reach an estimated 4.6 billion by 2025.
For those email users working in American offices, statistics show they will receive about 121 emails per day. What’s more, 49 percent of US employees will check their work email every few hours, even when they’re off duty. 9% of those employees consistently check their work emails outside of work hours.
Of those 306 billion emails sent and received per day, we mentioned earlier, around 14.5 billion of those are spam emails.
Though they’re a familiar part of using email, spam emails can be dangerous. Because of the threats they can pose, email security is imperative in avoiding becoming a victim of these digital scams.
What is Email Security?
Email is one of the most common places that scammers and hackers can weasel their way into your home and office networks. Spam can include malicious links, which will infect a computer with malware when clicked.
These spam emails can look like sweepstakes winnings, antivirus warnings, fake sweepstakes winnings, and email spoofing. Clicking links or opening attachments in these fraudulent emails can infect your computers and networks with malware, and leave them vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Other than spam emails, cyber attackers also use emails to get their hands on sensitive information and valuable company data.
Email security refers to the practices used to protect email accounts against compromise, unauthorized access, or viruses. Through the use of these specific techniques and procedures, your computers and networks will be safeguarded from any potential threats.
Why Email Security is Important
In order for email to work as designed, it needs to be as accessible as possible. It can be used for personal or professional communication between people all over the world, but the ease of access to email networks makes it an easy target for those looking to make an unscrupulous buck.
As mentioned before, spam emails, phishing attacks, and business email compromise are all ways the vulnerabilities of email networks can be exploited by criminals. They try to infect computers and networks and glean any sensitive information they can, all just by sending emails from a free account.
The open format design of most email networks means that anyone who is able to intercept an email can read it, which opens up huge email security concerns for any business. These security threats can lead to large spread hacks and network breaches, which will end up costing a lot of money to fix in the long run.
Email Security Best Practices
In order to keep your work or personal emails (and your internet networks) safe from hackers, fraudsters, and various cybercriminals, you should consistently use these email security practices.
Help ensure all your information remains secure all the time, whether you’re using an email network to share files, planning your next project, or just keeping in touch with the people who are important to you.
Without further ado, here are 10 email security tips to better protect your inbox!
Keep Email Accounts Separate
Most people who have business email accounts also have a separate professional email address which is used specifically for their work correspondences. It’s best to avoid sending personal emails on your work account or work emails on your professional email account.
Keeping your personal emails separate from your work emails helps to safeguard against potential threats and security risks. Exchanging work-related information on a private account leaves it vulnerable if the personal account is ever hacked.
Even if it’s not a hacker, accidental information leaks can happen if you’re using your work account outside of the office. Someone could read it over your shoulder or without your knowledge. Separating your accounts can stop this sort of accident from happening.
Aside from email security concerns, embarrassing mix-ups between personal and professional accounts can be avoided if you compartmentalize your home life and your work life by keeping the accounts separate.
Utilize 2-Factor Authentication
Some email providers like Gmail offer the useful tool of 2-factor authentication, also called multi-factor authentication, as a form of email security.
All this authentication process consists of is prompting you for two pieces of information to identify yourself and gain access to the account. This is usually just a password combined with a temporary passcode and sent to the user’s mobile device through text.
It might seem like an extra step and an annoyance at first, but those few extra minutes could save you a lot of money and a lot of trouble in the long run. Even if a hacker is able to get ahold of your password or guess it, the two-factor identification would still stop them right in their tracks.
Some email providers use other email, voice calls, or time-based one-time password apps instead of texting for their 2-factor authentication options.
Use Strong Email Passwords For Better Email Security
Though it might be a surprise to hear, many people use weak passwords for their email accounts all the time. Something so simple as 123456, or even their names and dates of birth.
While some hackers breach accounts through force, most cybercriminals use social engineering tactics to get information from unsuspecting victims and guess the passwords using what information they can dig up. The easier a password is to guess, the worse off your email security will be. Most email accounts will tell you whether your password is “strong,” “normal,” or “weak.” Strong passwords are difficult to guess, while a weak password is one that could be guessed easily.
To make a strong password, you’ll want to mix up lower and upper case letters, special symbols, and numbers altogether. Cybercriminals will have a much harder time guessing every character slot with this kind of distinct password.
Also, remember, the longer the password, the stronger the password. Every number you add to the chain of characters makes it harder for a hacker to guess it and get lucky.
Once you’ve come up with a strong password, you might think using it for all your accounts is a good idea, do not do that. If a cybercriminal is able to get their hand on one password, chances are they will use it with every account they can find that’s associated with your name.
If that really great password is the one you use for all your online accounts, they will all potentially be compromised.
Changing your passwords regularly is also a good trick to throwing hackers off track. Annually is a good idea, but can be done more if you feel the need.
Use An Encryption Add On or Software
Using encryption to ensure your email security involves encrypting or hiding the content of your emails to keep sensitive information safe from prying eyes.
If you encrypt an email before you send it, even if someone intercepted it, it would look like gibberish to anyone except the intended recipient. If you encrypt your emails before backing them up in an email client like Microsoft Outlook, those backups will be safe even if they are breached.
Only Use Trustworthy Wifi Networks For Improved Email Security
Public wifi can be found in many places outside of work and home, and it can be tempting to log into your email or any other accounts. Only ever access your email account when using a secure internet network.
Unsecured, publicly accessed wifi is not a good idea for use in logging on to your email account. Hackers and scammers have means of accessing public wifi and can monitor you to get any sensitive information they can.
Always be sure to stick to trusted wifi sources.
Don’t Get Fooled!
The accessibility of email means it is an extremely cheap way for scammers and hackers to get away with their crimes, which is a reason they use it so much. Being in the know about what scams are out there is important.
Some cybercriminals will pose as a trusted authority, like an insurance company, eBay, a bank, or a payday loan company. Then they will attempt to get the recipient to give out personal data like email passwords, phone numbers, and credit card numbers.
If you are aware of the typical scams that are out there, you can be on guard and be better prepared to defend your email security.
Trust Your Gut
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the ways cybercriminals operate, you’ll find yourself being much more suspicious of the emails you open. Taking the time to thoroughly read and investigate the email is key. Even something as simple as using a search engine to validate the email’s contents is not fraudulent can alert you to a whole host of red flags and web pages that describe the scam’s specific details.
Before you ever click on any link or download any attachment, just give the email of origin a once-over. This simple step could clue you into something that keeps you from jeopardizing your email security.
If you happen to sniff out a scammer, you could get the idea to respond to them as a joke or because you’re angry. In the long run, it’s better not to reply.
After the scammers find out you have a valid email address, they will continue to try to send spam emails to get ahold of your sensitive information.
Don’t Open Untrusted Attachments
Malware is spread the easiest through attachments. Malware is especially nasty as it can get away with your personal information as well as crash your devices.
Opening an attachment downloads it to your computer. This download could very well include a malignant script embedded in it, a trojan horse of sorts. It might appear to be a zip file or a .pdf file.
Check out the attachment for any storage clues and ensure that the sender is a reputable, trusted source. If possible, contact the sender outside of the email to ensure that they sent the attachment to you in the first place. Read up on how to identify different types of malware here.
Never Offer Up Personal Information
The number one rule of email security when dealing with unknown senders is to never give out your personal info. No trustworthy organization is going to ask for any personally identifying information through emails.
When asked for sensitive information like your passwords, birthday, credit card numbers, or social security number, it is more than likely a scam.
If you need to double-check, you can call the company that is asking. You can find the number by using a simple google search. Once connected to the actual organization, you can verify the request for information is legitimate.
Most of the time, they will inform you that they are not the ones contacting you and will advise you never to give out information like that over email.
Also, be selective with who you give your email out to. Most websites will prompt you to give them your email but don’t be afraid to say no, and only give your email out where you feel is absolutely necessary.
Utilize Virus Protection
Outside of email security, it’s important to have virus protection installed on your machine as a precaution against any and all cyber attacks.
The majority of antivirus software on the market will scan your email attachments and block you from accessing malicious web pages. Virus protection also works to remove any viruses and malware that might get on your computer without your noticing.
Without virus protection, you’re going to leave yourself much more vulnerable to email security problems. It’s always a good idea to make sure you keep your computer and your network safe from the worst parts of the internet, using virus protection.
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