Many people take email security for granted. But did you know that your inbox contains confidential information about your personal and work life? Crooks can misuse them for identity theft.
After all, emails are the gateway to various online accounts. Like most digital natives, yours probably links to your social media profiles, banking apps, and government service platforms.
With that said, we suggest revisiting your email security system. Crooks constantly develop new technologies to infiltrate confidential databases, and your password might not provide adequate security.
Don’t worry if you have no experience with data privacy. We scoured the net for legit ways to protect your email account and rounded up the most effective ones.
By the end of this article, you’ll have several email security measures in your arsenal.
Please read without skipping. We’ll share with you the most damaging mistake people commit when encrypting emails. Careless encryption only compromises your data privacy.
Are you ready to learn how to keep your email secure? Let’s start!
8 tips to keep your email account more secure
Statistics show that most people send and receive an average of 126 emails daily. Although they’ll mainly consist of spam and newsletters, some emails contain sensitive work and personal information.
Take your credit card statements or tax return updates as examples. They might not seem like much to you, but criminals can already abuse the stated information to commit financial or government fraud.
No cybersecurity system wholly deters criminals. However, you can minimize the risks by following these data privacy habits:
1. Use strong passwords
Before anything else, update your password. Complex login credentials serve as your first line of defense against hackers.
They shouldn’t be able to guess your password. So immediately change it if you use something like your birthday, wedding anniversary, or dog’s name.
Also, mix in special characters. Crooks using brute-force hacking methods will struggle to bypass your username-password combination if it has upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation marks.
When in doubt, use a password strength checker. Options like Password Monster and Security.org will give you an in-depth analysis of your login credentials.
2. Avoid potential phishing scams
Stay wary of phishing scams. Hackers often impersonate bank representatives and government workers to trick users into divulging personal information (i.e., credit card number, social security number, login credentials).
To combat hackers, double-check the author before engaging with emails. For instance, if the sender claims to work for your card-issuing bank but uses a random Hotmail account, stay away from them.
Fortunately, most email service providers have built-in anti-phishing features. So you won’t easily fall victim to scams if you always watch out for red flags.
3. Create multiple email accounts
We encourage users to create multiple accounts. Assign one for your day job, freelance gigs, personal affairs, banking apps, online shopping, and newsletter subscriptions.
Minimize the platforms linked to each email address. The last thing you’d want is for hackers to gain control over all your online resources after taking over just one email account.
4. Always scan file attachments
Be careful when downloading file attachments. You must only download files or open links from senders you know; otherwise, ignore the attachments.
But if you need to engage with a stranger’s email, at least set your antivirus software program to scan email attachments and file downloads 24/7.
Remember that hackers send viruses through emails. If you notice a new app, program, or browser extension installed, immediately remove it and scan your device.
5. Enable two-factor authentication
Set two-factor authentication on all your email accounts. Most email service providers will let you choose between the following authentication types:
- SMS Confirmations: If you turn on SMS confirmations, your email service provider will text you a one-time password (OTP) every time you log into your account. It provides a fair level of security. However, we only recommend using it for the email address linked to your newsletter subscriptions or social media accounts.
- Authenticator Apps: Connect your account to authenticator apps like Google Authenticator and LastPass Authenticator. They generate time-sensitive OTPs. We think this security system best suits email accounts that need mid-level security (i.e., online shopping, mobile wallets).
- Authenticator Keys: For email accounts containing super-confidential information like your SSN, credit card number, or tax information, we recommend using a hardware security key. It’s a physical key that you plug into your USB port. If you use secure encryption, crooks will never have remote access to your email accounts; they’d need your physical security key first.
Explore the different authentication systems and see which ones suit your privacy needs.
6. Encrypt your emails
Encrypted emails hide or disguise messages to prevent unauthorized access. So even if a hacker accesses your account, they can’t view encrypted messages unless they know the necessary passwords.
The process of encrypting emails differs based on your email service provider.
- Before sending your email, hit the File button and go to the Properties section.
- Select Security Settings and tick the Encrypt Message Contents and Attachments box.
- Enter your desired authentication password, then hit Send.
- Compose your message and add a recipient.
- Hit the Toggle Confidential Mode button at the bottom of the window. It has a lock icon.
- Next, set an expiration date for email accessibility. Once the time limit passes, recipients can no longer view the message, even if they still have the authentication key.
- Choose whether you’d want Google to send an SMS password or not.
Gmail and Microsoft Outlook use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to hide encrypted email. If you want more sophisticated security protocols, get paid encryption services.
We strongly suggest encrypting all your emails. Selectively encrypting messages with sensitive personal information tells crooks which ones to target.
No cybersecurity system is 100% guaranteed. Some crooks use highly sophisticated tools capable of bypassing encryption security protocols.
However, if you encrypt all your emails, you’d stop criminals in their tracks because decrypting thousands of messages through brute force will take forever.
7. Surf with a VPN app
Your IP address gives away a lot about your physical location. If you don’t feel comfortable with websites tracking you, we suggest investing in a reliable VPN app.
Generally, VPN apps mask your online identity. They redirect your traffic through proxy networks, so you can browse 100% anonymously; no one will know your identity.
8. Use throwaway emails
Scroll through your inboxes. You’ll notice that the email addresses you use for supermarket raffles, newsletters, free PDF books, subscription services, and random website logins get the most spam.
As long as you don’t engage with these messages you receive, they’re basically harmless.
However, you might not want too many websites knowing your email address. Remember that they sell the data and contact information their cookies collect from your surfing session.
To limit the websites that know your email address, always give a temporary one. Disposable or throwaway email service providers will provide you with a fake email address—which forwards messages to your inbox.
That way, senders never directly message you.
Some good disposable emails service providers include:
You’ll find dozens of other options available, but they might charge you a few bucks monthly.
Can crooks easily hack email accounts?
Email security depends on a case-by-case basis.
For instance, let’s say you use a secure 12-character password with no dictionary words and multiple special characters. Technically, crooks would need thousands of years to brute-force their way into your account.
But what if you have a super-simple password like a dictionary word or consecutive set of numbers? In this case, brute-force hackers can take over your account within hours.
The most common email threats
To combat hackers, you have to think like one. While performing your routine email security checkup, focus on addressing vulnerabilities against the following threats:
- Malware: Criminals send malware and viruses through email attachments. As a general rule, avoid downloading or opening anything unless you know the email sender.
- Brute-Force Hacking: Hackers use brute-force hacking to guess possible password combinations. Studies show that most hackers can bypass eight-character passwords in just 39 minutes.
- Spam and Phishing: Crooks trick clients into divulging personal information by creating fake login pages or online shopping checkout confirmations. Always double-check links before you input sensitive data.
- Data Breach: Companies and websites store thousands of personally identifiable information (PII). They’re responsible for securing this data. If they fail to do so, then the hackers involved will gain access to their entire client database. Victims can sue the organization attacked.
Overall, ensure that hackers can never get into your email accounts. With crooks using increasingly advanced technologies, username-password combinations will hardly protect your account anymore.
The likelihood of an email attack
Please do a security checkup at least twice a month. Statistics show that there are over 2,200 cyberattacks daily; don’t wait for hackers to target you before taking action.
Also, watch out for warning signs indicating your accounts have been compromised. Investigate unusual login attempts and update your login credentials immediately to kick out unauthorized users.
Protecting yourself against email attacks and scams
You don’t need a high-end, sophisticated cybersecurity system right from the get-go. Basic preventative measures like using complex passwords, encrypting emails, scanning attached files, and avoiding phishing scams will already boost your data privacy.
But there’s no hard-and-fast rule to protect your email account. If needed, feel free to invest in paid security products like antivirus software programs, advanced email encryption tools, and dark web monitoring services.
Overall, find whatever system fits your lifestyle. Execute different tactics, look into free software programs, then consider paid services as your security needs increase.