The recent decision by FBI director James Comey not to bring criminal charges against Hillary Clinton in regard to her insecure use of email while she was Secretary of State is a good reminder to all of us that we should be more careful when it comes to our emails. Email accounts are frequent targets of hackers and identity thieves who use access to email to steal personal information not just from politicians and celebrities, but also from business people and ordinary citizens that can be used for purposes of identity theft. Many of the biggest data breaches and scandals including the Target data breach, the massive data breach at the Office of Management and Budget and the stealing of nude photos from celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence can be traced back to email security issues. Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to protect the security of your email.
Here is a list of simple tips that you can follow to make your email more secure.
- Having a strong password is still the starting point to being more secure with anything you do online. Go to the Search the Website tab at the top of this page and put in June 7, 2016 which will take you to a Scam of the day in which I tell you how to pick a strong password. Also, make sure you use a unique password for your email account.
- You may wish to use dual factor authentication by which when you log on to your email account, a special code is sent to your smartphone that you must input before you can have access to your account. This provides greatly enhanced security.
- Use a nonsensical answer to your security question so that if someone tries to change your password or get access to your account by answering your security question, they won’t be able to do so. Finding your mother’s maiden name may be easy for a hacker to do online, but not if you make the answer to that security question “grapefruit.”
- Don’t store sensitive information, data, photos or videos on your smartphone or email account.
- Encrypt your emails when you are sending sensitive messages or information. There are many good, free encryption services such as Infoencrypt https://www.infoencrypt.com/ and Virtru https://www.virtru.com/
- Most data breaches are caused by people clicking on links or attachments in phishing or spear phishing emails that contain malware that steals the information from your computer, smartphone or other electronic device. Never, click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.
- Install and keep updated security software including anti-phishing software.