Email security is essential as the information that is stored in your emails can reveal almost everything about you. This includes your work, places you’ve visited, relationships, and even your medical problems.
If someone can access your email, they can also access any account that is linked to that email address. By impersonating you through your email, someone could also scam your family, friends, business partner or other contacts.
To avoid any of these nightmarish scenarios this article will provide you a few easy ways to secure your emails.
#1 Encrypt Your Emails with GPG
GNU Privacy Guard (GPG), also known as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is software that encrypts email content so that your intended recipient can only see it. However, for this to work the recipient must also use the software. The bonus is that this software is entirely free.
PGP creates a key pair for you and your email recipients. This includes both a public key and a private key which have different uses. You can exchange public keys, verify their authenticity, and use them to encrypt your emails. Meanwhile, the private key is used to decrypt the information.
Even though it’s very secure, GPG does still leave metadata out in the open. This metadata includes information such as the sender and recipient email addresses, email size, and the time that email was sent.
#2 Protect Your Account with a Strong Password
You can be sure that you are the only person with access to your account, just by changing the password. Your password should be unique as this is the most important factor in ensuring good password security. This means that you use that password for only one service and that no one else uses this password either.
You should also use two-factor authentication. After entering your primary password when logging in, two-factor authentication will send a second, one-time password to a phone number registered to your email account via text message. This makes it very difficult for someone to access your email account, even if they know your primary password.
Checking your previous logins is also recommended to see if you find any suspicious activity. Make sure all applications that are linked to your email account are trustworthy and needed.
#3 Make Sure the Attachments Are Safe to Open
All kinds of malware such as trojans and cryptolockers could be contained within attachments. Make sure you trust the sender before you open any attached files that you receive via email.
It is also recommended that you open file formats that are commonly infected such as pdf, doc, and xls in a virtual machine or use the opening functionality built into your email provider.
#4 Beware of Tracking Links and Images
Many companies and newsletter providers, will use tracking links to measure the effectiveness and reach of their emails. From these links they can see the number of people who opened and read their emails, how many forwarded them, as well as who clicked on specific links.
Senders can also track you through images that load automatically when you open an email. These images, which contain a tracking code, will reveal to email list administrators that you opened the email. You can prevent this by changing the settings on your email provider so that it does not load images by default.
Pedro Tavares is a professional in the field of information security working as an Ethical Hacker/Pentester, Malware Researcher and also a Security Evangelist. He is also a founding member at CSIRT.UBI and Editor-in-Chief of the security computer blog seguranca-informatica.pt.
In recent years he has invested in the field of information security, exploring and analyzing a wide range of topics, such as pentesting (Kali Linux), malware, exploitation, hacking, IoT and security in Active Directory networks. He is also Freelance Writer (Infosec. Resources Institute and Cyber Defense Magazine) and developer of the 0xSI_f33d – a feed that compiles phishing and malware campaigns targeting Portuguese citizens.
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