Email is one of the most casual, yet imperative forms of communication. It’s no wonder cyber criminals are trying to access it all the time. An easy way to think about the security of your email, is to ask yourself this simple question: if the information contained in your emails were being monitored by criminals, how much would they know about you, your family, and your business? That’s why we review smart email habits with all of our friends.
Practical Tips for Email Security
1. Be mindful of what legitimate companies will and will NOT ask you for in an email.
No company or service will ever, EVER request your password over email. These are phishing emails end of story.
2. Be skeptical of forwarded emails.
Don’t open forwarded emails from someone you don’t know or that have already been forwarded a hundred times. That “Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Funny kitty cat stuck on a branch” email is almost certainly spam.
3. Look out for something odd in the grammar or spelling.
If the language just doesn’t seem “right” it probably isn’t and should be your red flag. Also, if something feels out of place or context, don’t open it.
4. Always confirm when a person in your company asks for personal information.
Often criminals who create phishing emails will create a mock version of an email account right down to the signature of the user. Then, they send an email to other users in the company requesting some kind of personal information like a wireless phone number, a personal email address, etc. If a coworker asks for personal information, call them and confirm the need. Don’t send it over email.
5. Deals that are too good to be true, probably are.
Don’t click on the link no matter how tempting.
6. Aggressively worded emails containing threats are more often than not a phishing attempt.
They will say something along the lines of “ I took a webcam picture of you surfing inappropriate websites and will release it to everyone you know unless you send me a payment via bitcoin.” These are only effective because people get scared. Don’t allow these criminals to bully you, report it to your IT administrator, email platform (such as Office 365), or your IT provider before taking any action.
7. If you have any doubt, your instinct is probably right.
Find out who the right person, tool, or company you can send it to to verify. If you are a Howard Tech client, send it to us. We would rather research and verify the legitimacy of an email than deal with the fallout of a successful spam or phishing campaign. You’d be surprised how many extremely intelligent folks have fallen victim to this type of attack.
Other Tips to Keep Your Email Secure
Be mindful of your out of office messages. If you give away too much information, you become vulnerable to criminals knowing your email or other accounts aren’t being monitored. Also, your business and home could be exposed to burglary.
Use passphrases instead of passwords. A passphrase should be something specific and personal that only you, and maybe your significant other, would know. For example, your favorite childhood movie and the name of the theatre where you first saw it or favorite lyrics of a song or the name of your high school mascot with the first year the football team made it state championships. Criminals are most commonly people that do not know your historical context so these details of your life are unknown to them.
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