E-mail Security Tips

Email has become an inevitable part of our lives. For day to day communications, people are now resorting to email more than the traditional snail mail. This is because of the advantages and flexibility offered by Email. At the same time, many are not aware of the lack of security of an Email. Hacking attempts, Phishing attacks, Spam mails, Identity theft etc are increasing day by day. So it is high time that you are aware of these threats and know how to protect yourselves.

The following are some important security tips that e-mail users should be aware of:
  • One of the best tips to protect your email account is to create a strong password and keeping it confidential. Users often create passwords based on their names, dates of birth etc so as to remember them easily. This makes your email accounts more vulnerable. Virus or worms have the capability of guessing weak passwords.
  • Do not save the username and password of your email account on any system. Virus or worms make use of such saved username and password to propagate them.
  • Be careful when you open an email attachment. Any executable type of attachment has the potential to do much harm to your PC. An executable type attachment (a file with ‘exe' extension) should not be opened unless it was specifically requested or is expected by you.
  • Make sure that you have installed good anti-virus software before you access the email. Since email worms can multiply themselves and automatically sent to addresses found in the infected machines address list. Hence, knowing the sender of an email is not enough, the mail can still be infected. Use of good anti-virus software could potentially reduce the risks.
  • Do not open email received in your mailbox without a ‘To' address. Most of the spam mails are send as a bulk mail which will not have a ‘To' address.
  • Avoid sending credit card numbers, account numbers etc via e-mail. Also do not send user names and passwords over email if you don't want to see your accounts compromised.
  • Avoid accessing your e-mail from an un-secured network or potentially compromised computers. This includes accessing from an Internet cafe. There can be key loggers running in those machines. Key loggers are software or hardware modules primarily meant to steal passwords and other sensitive inputs as they are typed into a terminal.
  • Install and configure a firewall program on your system. If you do not know, get the help of an authorised technician. This is especially true, if you are making use of the machine to access Internet Banking (FedNet).
  • Use email monitoring program. It will check the headers, attachments, source IP address and other necessary information before the email is delivered into your inbox. This way you can get rid of the unsolicited mass (spam) emails. Email monitoring program acts as a spam filter. 
  • Don't open phishing emails. Phishing emails are legitimate looking emails that appear to come from the big companies like banks, eBay, Microsoft, American Online, Paypal etc. They generally inform that you have won the prizes / lottery, are selected for dream jobs, should give your user id / password / personal data for security reasons etc. All these types of emails are an attempt to steal your personal information. So never reply to these mails or click on links provided there.
Spam Mails

Most of us get spam mails every day. If you have an e-mail account it is always there causing headaches to many of us. If you have an e-mail address, it's just about impossible for you to eliminate spam completely. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risks from unsolicited commercial e-mail. Here are some methods for hitting the spam:

  • Do not spread your email address in the cyber world. Treat your email address like your phone number- something you give out selectively.
  • Pick an address that is hard for spammers to guess but easy for you to remember. Also, if chatting online, use a unique screen name that is not associated with your e-mail address.
  • Spammers usually get your email address via chat rooms, mailing lists, websites, customer lists, newsgroups, and viruses which harvest users' address books, and are sold to other spammers. Make sure that you do not join mailing lists, groups and newsletters unnecessarily.
  • Do not forward chain e-mails. Spammers can get bulk of email addresses from chain mails.
  • At any time you receive a spam email, never try to open it. Or if you have opened an email which appears to be spam, then don't reply to the mail and never try to click any of the links in the mail.
  • While you post your email address as a link in any website or blog, always try to obfuscate the email address

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