Last year (2019), email users sent and received approximately 293 billion emails, get this, PER DAY. The estimate is that this number will go over 300 billion already this year (2020) and that it will reach almost 350 billion in four years by 2023.
That is a lot of email going back and forth through inboxes.
It makes perfect sense for people to use email in their communication this much if not more. It’s convenient, fast, free, accessible, user-friendly… you name it.
But there’s one thing that your email account might not be that is as if not more important than any of the above combined.
You might not have a secure email.
For all the positives, email also comes with a huge risk that can negate all your hard work.
Every unsecured email you send can be intercepted by a hacker and your sensitive information stolen.
Look at what happened with Yahoo, not once but twice.
In 2013, 3 billion and in 2014 another 500 million user accounts were affected by two separate data breaches.
That is a huge blow for the company. Not only financial, but even more to how much their customers will trust them from then on.
If you don’t want that to happen to your business, it is high time to secure your email.
Here are five tips to help you do that.
5 Tips to Help You Secure Your Email
- Use an encrypted email service.
Why make life easy for the hacker who manages to intercept your emails? When you can make sure that what they have is useless to them?
How do you do that?
Simple. Make sure to encrypt your emails.
Now, there are several ways to do this.
For instance, popular email providers like Gmail already have built-in encryption. Don’t rely too much on these. What they’re using is called TLS or Transport Layer Security and it only works if both the recipient and the sender are using it.
A much better and more secure option is to use a specialized encrypted email provider like CTemplar. CTemplar uses OpenPGP, 4096-bit which is far superior to TLS. Not only secures email in transit, but also allows the sender to verify that only the intended recipient can read that email.
- Set expiration dates for your emails.
Most users read an email, reply if necessary and then move on with their lives. The only time we bother to delete an email is when it is spam.
But that’s the wrong way. Hackers don’t go just over new emails. Old emails may also contain sensitive information they are interested in.
Because of this, you need to delete emails you no longer need.
Now, you could simply click the “delete” button, but that might not do the trick. You see, many email providers, Gmail among them, keep emails in backup even months after you “delete” them. They are required to do so by laws of the country their servers are located in.
Because of this, it’s important to use a safe email provider that allows you to instantly delete emails after you send them.
- Be frugal about forwarding emails
Forwarding emails is a convenient way to get more people in the conversation. This carries with it more risk than having a one-on-one email correspondence.
You can’t be sure that the person (or people) you or the recipient forwarded the message to is secure enough.
What’s more, encryption may not even work for forwarded messages.
Because of all this, only forward messages if necessary and only toward trusted recipients. If you need to talk to a group, it’s always better to use a chat service like Slack for that.
- Don’t open or download anything suspicious.
That includes links and attachments. One misguided click on these can lead you to become a victim of phishing or malware
Phishing is a tactic hackers use to obtain their victim’s personally identifiable information (PII). In Q3, 2019, the number of phishing attacks according to AWPG’s Phishing Activity Trends Report was 266,387.
How does phishing work?
It’s a very simple, yet effective cyber attack.
In it, the hacker sends a legitimate-looking email to their victim, masquerading as a trusted business or entity. The email will contain a message for the user to take some action, usually to “update their login credentials”, which they can do by visiting a link.
The link will lead to a phishing website that will look almost identical to the real one. The victim will leave their information such as passwords, which the cyber-criminal can use to access their accounts.
Email attachments can also contain malware, which installs on the victim’s computer upon clicking or opening them. The malware may give remote control over the account to the hacker or allows him to see what their victim is typing.
Even the best and safest email provider won’t help you much if you are not careful about what you click, download, or open in your inbox.
- Secure your passwords.
Since passwords are in most cases what the cyber-criminals are after when hacking your emails, make sure to use only secure and protected passwords.
There are a few rules to follow when creating a strong password:
- Don’t reuse passwords across multiple accounts.
- Don’t use a password that can identify you or a member of your family (using your kids’ name as a password for example).
- Don’t write down your password. If you’re afraid you might forget it, use a password manager like LastPass.
- Make sure it’s long enough. There’s no rule as to how long a password should be, but as a rule of thumb, it should be at least 9-10 characters long.
- Use a combination of different characters and not just letters. That includes numbers and special symbols. For example, something like P4Sx2w0rd is harder to crack than simply “password” (though I wouldn’t recommend using it either, it’s an example).
These are just a few tips that you should follow if you want to have a secure email account. There are more things to do to protect your email in 2020 and finding the safest email provider. If you follow these tips, you are already one big step closer to a secure email.