It seems to be that you can’t get through the headlines with a cyber security breach or email hacking story! From celebrity’s personal photos, password reminders to sensitive payment information and registration details, it seems that there is always some part of our lives that we want locked away from the world within our inbox. A hacked email account can have a snowball effect and quickly gain momentum leaving devastating results in its wake, so doing all that you can to can to protect yourself is a crucial step with the ever increasing threat of cyber security.
Avoid Public WiFi
From coffee shops, department stores, restaurants and even our country parks; WiFi is becoming a crucial part of our daily lives. However, these sites are a hacker’s paradise! High volume of unsuspecting users all emailing, purchasing and browsing on a single network where the password is available for all makes hacking an extremely task.
There are ways that you can protect yourself when using public WiFi such as using a VPN, ensuring that all of your activity is encrypted and away from prying eyes. Ensuring that your software is up to date on any device is a key area where you can protect yourself.
ALWAYS verify the name of the network, it’s not uncommon for hackers to set up their own hotspot using a very similar name, leaving all of your details in their lap as you are going about your various activities.
Only Use Text
Reading your email in plain text is the safest way. Sure, it makes exciting and engaging email but reading emails in HTML is bad practice from a privacy point! HTML emails can contain ‘active content’ – code that can possess hidden files or attachments that will be automatically opened, initially infecting the device being used and potentially a number of accounts and devices there on.
You may have filters in place, but those behind the content are well versed in hiding the true intent of the text and are able to find file types that will pass through the filters; e.g., the Winevar Virus which contained .CEO files to get past filters that had prohibited EXE files.
Plain text emails do not contain anything hidden, the links are displayed – it is there for a far safer practice to ensure all emails are read in text only format.
Use a Separate Email Address for Subscriptions
Subscriptions to newsletters are found in everyone’s inbox – they can be a great source of information and inspiration, but they can also be used in phishing scams (as well being a minor irritation!).
Set up a separate email address such as Google for Hotmail, who are great at filtering spam for you to use when registering for these subscriptions. That way should your email addressed be harvested for malicious intent, there is nothing sensitive that can be gained from this email address, it can be closed and you are able to set up a new address very quickly.
Encrypt Sensitive Emails
The information sent in our daily emails are a cyber criminals dream; names, addresses, company information not to mention banking details and personal information that is freely sent can potentially lead to a lot of trouble. Even if you are using a secure HTTPS connection, you have no control over the recipient’s connection or server (or even if they are using a public WiFi signal).
If you must send these details via email, then encrypting the files or the email is the safest way and there are plenty of tools that will enable you to do this. You will need to provide the recipient with the password – just don’t do this over email!
Multi-Layer Your Defenses
As well as looking to prevent your email account becoming infected with a virus, you also need to be proactive in preventing a virus coursing through your emails and infecting someone else. Being the source of infection can be a costly thing to come under, even if you weren’t aware, so ensuring that it won’t be you responsible for the infections moving onto other accounts there are steps that you can take.
Viruses can be contracted from emails, malicious websites and from downloading/installing questionable files so having the right protection in place is crucial.