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10 Essential Email Security Best Practices to Keep You Safe

What can you do to secure your email? 

For many internet users, email has become an integral part of daily activities. 

More specifically, we use email for work and networking and even though other channels of communication such as social media do exist, none really can replace an email. 

Unfortunately, emails are also the preferred channel for cyber criminals who want to attack systems and gain access to your personal information and use it to steal from you

If you want to safeguard your email data especially when using public networks, start by using an effective VPN which encrypts your internet traffic.

Meanwhile, a study by Verizon found that 96% of social engineering attacks are delivered by email. Scammers and hackers are working tirelessly to defraud you through your email. 

Email security isn’t something to be taken lightly.

If someone gets access to your account, you might lose your primary channel of work. In addition, scams and malware can hijack your devices and cost you dearly to recover your files.

In this article, we’ll cover the most essential email security best practices to keep you safe. 

Let’s dive in.

1. Use Strong Passwords 

What type of lock do you use for your house? If you value your properties, then I am certain you use a pretty strong look. 

You should treat your email with the same respect. Most people use weak passwords derived from their personal information such as their high school names, birth dates, and the likes. 

While such passwords are easy to remember, they are very easy to break into. 

A hacker can simply intercept your internet traffic (which is why you need a VPN) or collect information about you and use a password cracker that attempts thousands of password combinations using your information. 

One of the most effective email security best practices for users is using strong passwords. Typically these passwords have letters, numbers, and characters arranged in indiscernible order. 

Avoid applying your personal data in your password. Most hacks are done through password cracks. 

2. Use 2FA Authentication 

Besides your password, you should use a two-factor authentication system to add an extra and more effective security layer to your account. 

2FA is an electronic authentication method in which you are required to successfully present two or more pieces of evidence in order to log into an account. In most cases, a code is sent to your phone number so you can input it to access your account. 

email security best practices for users 2fa authentication

Major email clients such as Gmail provide 2FA authentication. Yet most people don’t use it. 

It is one of the most effective email security best practices in 2021. If a hacker can crack your password by intercepting your internet traffic, the 2FA authentication process will block them by requiring a code sent to your phone. 

Additionally, you will also be notified that somebody is trying to hack into your account. 

In case your current email provider does not have 2FA security, consider switching to one that does or use password managers with 2FA authentication.

3. Be Alert For Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are messages designed to trick a victim into clicking a malicious link or revealing personal information that makes them vulnerable. 

Recently, phishing emails have become highly sophisticated, some of which are created by AI. Such emails can be hard to detect and are very convincing. 

In addition, they are the most common attacks performed by cybercriminals. 

To keep your email secure from phishing attacks, use a reputable email client such as Gmail that has enhanced phishing detection. 

Secondly, beware of ‘salesy’ or click-bait headlines and generic salutations like ‘dear valued customer’. Such emails are often created by spammers. 

Lastly, self-education on phishing practices to stay ahead of such attacks is among the most essential email security best practices for users. 

4. Have Multiple Email Accounts. 

Put all your eggs in one basket and you risk losing it all. 

One of the most essential email practices of providing security is having separate accounts for each aspect of your life. If you’re like me, you typically have three categories: personal, work, and miscellaneous. 

Having accounts for each of these categories can help spread the risk of email hacking and is part of crucial email security best practices in 2021. If an attacker gains access to one account, the other account will be safe. 

email security best practices in 2021 multiple emails

Of course, that’s if you remembered to use different passwords for each account. And if you find it inconvenient, use a password manager. 

Use these accounts to allocate different types of messages in several places instead of having a centralized hub. 

Additionally, it helps you stay focused and lets you track down messages easily.

5. Avoid Using Public WiFi

Today you’ll find public WiFi hotspots almost everywhere a business operates. 

Businesses use WiFi to attract customers and provide staff with free internet access. However, they are rarely protected. 

In fact, a study by Kaspersky revealed that 28 % of public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured. If you ever log into your email through a public Wi-Fi hotspot, you risk being hacked. 

Avoiding public wi-fi is among the most significant email security best practices for users.

Hackers use network sniffers to monitor wireless data flowing through specific networks and analyze the data for personal information. For instance, they can easily intercept your email and password as you try to log in and take control of your email. 

While WiFi hotspots are convenient for quick email checking, we can agree it’s not worth losing your account to a hacker. 

Don’t let the convenience overshadow your need for security and in cases where you have to, ensure you use a VPN. 

6. Be Extra Careful With Attachments 

Attachments are often used to spread malware, especially ransomware. 

Once you click on a malicious attachment, this script will be downloaded and run in the background of your computer before it stops your computer and renders it useless unless you pay the ransom. 

Top ransomware attacks such as Ryuk and Petya were spread this way. So you need to be vigilant when handling email attachments. Don’t open attachments from sources that you don’t trust. 

These files can be delivered in the guise of conventional files such as JPG or PDF. But in real sense, they are scripts eager to compromise your device. 

email security best practices careful with attachments

For adequate security, use an email client that scans attachments before they can be downloaded. This alone is one of the most protective email security best practices in 2021.

Therefore, if a file is considered malicious at the onset, you discard the email and block the sender without interacting with the attachment.

7. Install an Effective AntiVirus.

Your best defense against malware is an antivirus. 

Legacy antivirus software checks software signatures against known malicious codes while modern AI-powered antivirus software can detect malware by observing their behavior. 

If a file is considered suspicious it’s flagged and blocked. 

Most antiviruses will automatically scan your email attachments before you download them. Having one already installed in your system before logging into your email is one of the most fundamental email security best practices for users. 

But let’s be honest. There are those few moments when your guard is down and you accidentally click on an email attachment and the attachment is downloaded. 

If this happens, your antivirus will swing into action, scan the file and if the file is malicious, it automatically blocks or quarantines it before it infects your device. 

Hence it’s always smart to have an effective antivirus installed and active on your device.

8. Never Give Away Personal Information. 

Stories are told of how people lose their life savings through email scams. 

You receive an email from a sender disguised to be your bank insurance or mortgage company. They ask for your personal information and credit card details and you carelessly comply. 

A week later you realize your account balance is zero. On asking your bank they denied sending you any such emails. 

email security best practices for users personal information

One of the best email security best practices in 2021 to cultivate in the precarious digital world is to never give out your personal details especially through emails. This rule also applies to online privacy maintenance measures.

Rarely will a reputable company ask you for your personal data and payment details by email. 99% of the time emails requesting such data are sent by scammers. 

If you encounter such an email, call the company and inquire if they’ve sent you the email and use contacts provided by the company’s website.

Chances are you’ll realize it’s a scammer.

9. Never Interact with Spam Emails. 

Email users have a tendency to want to take action against spam emails. 

Courtesy of robust spam filters cloud-based email clients are good at separating spam from good emails. But often, you will visit the spam section to look for an email that was mistakenly filtered out. 

During your quick scan, you’ll feel compelled to click on some links. 

For instance, a spam email might come with an ‘Unsubscribe’ link at the end. You’ll want to click it thinking it will unsubscribe you from the emails, but nothing can be further from the truth. 

Hackers place these links in an attempt to trick you, if you click on it, you might be redirected to a phishing site or download a malicious file that compromises your device for your safety. 

Avoiding interaction with spam emails is one of the crucial email security best practices for users. 

Unless you need to check for an email from a specific sender that you know, always clear your spam file to completely remove the chance of being tricked.

10. Review and Update Security Settings

Cyber security is constantly evolving. New cybercrimes keep rolling out and security measures are put in place to protect you from attackers. 

So much is happening in cybersecurity such as new trends coming up often that you can hardly keep up with. 

But one of the most impactful email security best practices in 2021 is to check your security and privacy settings and update them periodically to match with the current situation. 

email security best practices in 2021 security settings

Email clients strive to secure your account by providing better security features such as 2FA authentication. 

Without periodic reviews of your settings, you might miss out on implementing these features to better secure your account. In addition, your privacy settings determine what type of data is visible and what your client has access to. 

For instance, you can turn on or off the recording of certain types of information such as web and app activity, location, history, and device information. 

Having full control over your email settings gives you power over your security and privacy.

Conclusion 

At this point, you should feel a little bit safer having known what you need to do. 

These most essential email security best practices to keep you safe can get you started on the journey. 

Remember, your email security highly depends on the extra steps you are willing to take. The more measures you take, the more secure your email will be. And the less likely an attacker can take advantage of you. 

Keep updating yourself on security measures and undertake regular security awareness training. 

And if you manage a business ensure your employees take part in it. It only takes one employee’s mistake for your entire business system to be compromised.

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