Being online, whether you are checking emails or surfing the Internet, puts you at risk of a cyber-attack. Cybersecurity is threatened daily and is often mentioned in the news as it occurs to celebrities and our own government. We are taught to change passwords every three to six months, avoid entering unsafe websites, and choose wisely what we share on social media… but many people don't seem to think about how secure their email is.
If you think about it, a lot of sensitive information is stored in our emails - financial information, work files, and personal photos just to name a few. This content is like a gold mine for hackers, so it's time to close off the shaft with 6 tips that will turn your email habits from lackluster to ironclad.
1. Use a Reputable Antivirus Program
This one's easy. Have an up-to-date antivirus program running at all times. Browsing the Internet without an antivirus program that includes web and email protection leaves you vulnerable to ransomware programs, which are the perfect tools for blackmailing businesses and individuals alike. Lack of protection from these antivirus programs allows for criminals to access your information and use this to violate your privacy.
2. Never Download Attachments from an Unreputable Source
Are you expecting a DocuSign message from someone? Are you the go-to person for invoices? If not, you've been "phished" by someone trying to get you to download an infected file. These types of data collection attempts fall under the “social engineering” banner and rely on the end user to mistakenly hand over their username or password information to the attacker. Once they have the user’s account info, they can gain access to any number of other accounts or services.
Never download or even view attachments from people you don't know. If you do know them— but you were not expecting an email with attachments— check with the sender to verify the message sent. Oftentimes, criminals will abuse your online address book and send you an email pretending to be someone you have exchanged emails with in the past. Also, be sure to turn on Two-Factor Authentication (as mentioned in number four below) to further protect your accounts from phishing attacks.
3. Always Keep Your System Updated
Security vulnerability and computer bugs are two of the most common reasons why people fall victim to cyber-attacks. Even with a reputable antivirus platform and a heightened level of caution while online, you are still at risk for data breaches if you’re running an operating system with known loopholes. Windows and Mac operating systems tend to roll out security patches quickly, but that's not always the case with third parties. Web browsers or software developers (e.g., Petya made headlines over the summer by infecting a commonly used program used in Ukraine, MEDoc) that fall under this category could put you at an enormous risk.
As with anything, automating the process can make life easier. Ask your network administrator to install software that will automatically patch your system. It'll fix all of your security vulnerabilities before you fall victim to the next data breach or ransomware attack. Major part of the problem is solved!
4. Two-Factor Authentication
If you really want to secure your email, you can’t go wrong with the online two-factor authentication feature. It works by requiring a secondary method of verifying the user — something you might be familiar with if you've seen Facebook send a text or email asking you to verify you just logged in from a device. This is a security feature being integrated into many online platforms, both personal and professional, to protect your identity and everything that comes with it.
It works by sending a one-time password to your mobile device through either a text message or email. Before you can log in, you need to enter this one-time code along with your username and password. Were you notified of an attempted login from Nairobi, Kenya? Chances are, if you are not living in Kenya and do not know anyone living in that region, that's not you trying to log on. Luckily, your phone will notify you of this attempt and stop it from happening again.
5. Have More than 1 Email Account
Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket when it comes to using your email. For organizational purposes, maintain separate email accounts for work and personal use. Using different servers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and iCloud are suggested. Doing so makes it more difficult for a cyber-attack to take place because your information is dispersed and harder to break into. If, for some reason, your email is hacked, at least not all of your life online is at risk.
Remember, anyone can fall victim to cyber-attacks. If it can happen to our own government, it can happen to the average Joe. However, now that you know how to keep yourself more secure, you are far less likely to have your email and personal information stolen by hackers.
6. Don’t Use the Same Password for Every Account
Eventually, someone is going to compromise your data. That’s just life. But by limiting your passwords to one account each, you’re limiting your overall risk. Third party software like Last Pass can work for personal use, but we still recommend the old-fashioned technique of writing down your passwords and storing them offline. Keeping them stored on your computer is like leaving the back door to your house open and hoping no one breaks in.
Need more help securing your information? Our team of experts would love to help you! Click here to learn more!