Is your email safe from hackers?
There are 74 trillion emails sent every year, making it one of the most prolific communication formats in the world. Recently, Microsoft published a list of some of the most common email security problems happening today – and many are ones that people completely ignore or don’t know exist.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about email is that most consumers believe that their email information is secure as long as it is password protected. In the case of smartphones and tablets, the general thought is that with a passcode on the device itself, the information inside is safe from prying eyes. This belief is partially true. Yes, someone who steals a device but does not know the passcode will have a difficult time getting into the email accounts and other info on it. Thieves who work through malware, however, often have the ability to crack simple security measures to gain access to private, sensitive data stored in email accounts.
Are there email mistakes you are making that you aren’t even aware exist? Here are few of the biggest security problems with email that Microsoft reports:
Lack of email encryption
If you are relying on your password or email carrier to protect your messages, you could face a rude awakening. Hackers can break into your email account, and those of the people who are the intended recipients of your communications. One way to strengthen the power of your email is to add encryption features. For sensitive emails, a code is needed by the receiver to open the message. There are email security companies that help implement encryption services for individuals and businesses.
Have you ever sent something via email that you probably wouldn’t say in person? How about attachments that contained personal or medical information? Most people operate under the assumption that their email communications are secure and under their control at all times, but hackers are smart and know some pretty savvy ways to gain access to the communications you believe to be secure. A trending avenue is called crypto-ransomware and essentially the hackers hold your email hostage through encryption. Until the email user pays a fee, he or she cannot access emails or email services.
How do these hackers take over your email in the first place? By sending you an unsolicited emails with a link that looks legitimate. The email may look like it’s from a utility company, or a friend, or your favorite mobile app. There is not one standard format and hacker vary their malware packaging. So how can you avoid your email being held hostage? There is really no reason to ever click an unsolicited email and if you receive one from a friend or company you recognize, double check that the link is one they intended to send you before clicking.
Private information on mobile phones
A smartphone that ends up in the wrong hands is more than an expensive nuisance. It can mean loss of personal data, particularly in your email accounts. As a general rule, don’t keep emails on your phone that you really don’t need. Clear off excess emails and secure the important ones with encryption (see above) so that a stranger cannot pick up your phone and see what’s stored in your email. It’s also wise to always have your passcode activated and have a remote locking/shutdown application that you can implement from anywhere.
Are you making email mistakes? How do you keep your electronic communications safe?