You have just retired from the work force after 35 fruitful years and with a perfectly-designed retirement plan. During your service years, you exchanged several private emails with a loved one. One of the emails contained classified information about your investments and finances. Suddenly, you receive a debit alert from your financial institution showing the withdrawal of your capital savings. You are struggling to come to terms with the reality of the situation, then, you receive a call from a friend that someone has already taken over your property with valid approvals. Immediately your blood pressure rises, an atmosphere of frustration envelops you. An email notification shows that your account was breached. Your post-service design is ruined.
Think how you would feel if this experience was yours.
People sometimes believe that if their passwords are enhanced and emails are handled professionally, they may be immune from hackers. Unfortunately, you don’t need to exchange emails with anyone to get swindled. Your email address alone can be the perfect pass into your account. You may be wondering how that is possible without your password. Regrettably, email is not a secure means of communication. One report indicates that at least 25 million email accounts were sold on the dark web in 2017 alone. This surge in breached emails informed the emergence of a dedicated website to identify compromised email accounts.
Email platforms offer no great commitment when it comes to keeping your conversations safe. This is understandable. A single email routes through a plethora of servers, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Email servers save multiple copies of your information. Your receiver keeps a copy too. Thus, even when we discard them, some channels retain many copies of the disposed emails.
Information by FindLaw shows that email accounts are easily accessed by employers and law enforcement agencies.
Email may have challenges, but it remains one of the most professional ways of exchanging messages. When you have fears about using it, do know that there are ways to secure your email accounts. The tips below can help you:
Password formation and protection
Your account’s password is its first weak point. Passwords like ‘1’, [email protected] and ‘X’ are among the top 10 common passwords attempted by intruders to access accounts. Email users sometimes use their username and password on several accounts. That is not a good way of managing the privacy of your channels. Hackers can easily access all your accounts with just a single username and password.
Your passwords should be strong and long. You can utilise software that automatically generates passwords if you are out of ideas. Passwords alone cannot guarantee the kind of security your account may require, so it is advised that you enable the two-factor-authentication feature. Since SIM cards can be spoofed, it is better to use an app for authentication rather than SMS. Users of Yahoo can take advantage of its latest app which provides a one-time-use password on demand.
It is important to understand that communication through email is not private. Your personal and work emails can be accessed at any time by an external body. Your personal email address may interest criminals. Your work email may be tracked for supervision by your employer as it travels through the organisation’s network servers. Ensure that you don’t reply to suspicious email addresses. You can flag any suspicious address and expunge it later if you don’t need it. There is a difference between ‘reply’ and ‘reply to all.’ Make sure you don’t confuse one for the other when responding to a group email.
Are there other alternatives?
Yes, there are other alternatives. Almost every adult with internet access has an email account. Emails may be easy to use and readily available, but it is better to explore other alternatives so that you can make your account more secure. Instant messaging apps like TextSecure for Android and Signal for iOS are available with greater promises of security. This does not mean encrypted apps are immune to issues, however. Apple recently disengaged Telegram from its App Store for allowing the distribution of child pornography. Although Apple later reinstated it, the message was clear. Facebook Messenger allows encrypted messages, but these are expected to be deleted permanently to block breaches.
Use a VPN
VPN is a great option to explore if you are considering enhancing the security of your emails. VPN creates an encrypted ‘tunnel’ to secondary servers and decrypts your data before it is sent to the internet. VPN has its own limitations too. It does not offer enclosed privacy. It is a good way to keep your emails from your ISPs, but it allows email clients to keep an unencrypted copy.
Encrypt your email
One of the best ways to secure your email is to encrypt it directly. Some email clients are aware of this and set the feature running at the backend.
In 2014, Google activated this feature and offered it as a default setting on its apps. The emails are, however, not encrypted if a different browser is used. Those without a Gmail account are completely left out of the calculation. Google is the internet’s big brother. Its recent email update offers suggestions while typing. This indicates that Google may be reading user’s messages in the name of bettering its service experience or targeting them with more specific content.
Microsoft Outlook also has an encryption option. Outlook requires the sender and the recipient to exchange digital signatures that include a public key and a certificate. The signature has a digital ID which authenticates the sender’s identity. The encrypted strand of Outlook is not available to users of other services, including some of Microsoft’s platforms like Outlook.com and Windows mail app.
Another strategy to secure your email account is to use disposable addresses. Maildrop offers free random addresses that can be replaced at the user’s convenience. The problem is that the service is only ideal for outgoing emails.
Take advantage of the recommended options to improve the security of your email account.