Five ways to secure your office email | Techworld. (No longer available online. Original text included below.)
Despite the popularity of real-time communications like chat, and social networking communications like status updates, many workplaces still use and rely on email. Email can contain important business data, not only in the message itself, but in the attachment, and can also contain links that take you to websites where you enter passwords and share confidential information. For all of these reasons, it’s important to keep your email secure and use it carefully. Here are five things you can do to help secure your email.
1. Use a Password
Your password is the first and most important line of defense in protecting your email. Though most mail systems require one, there are many ways to bypass using a password to access your email. As an example, using Outlook or Thunderbird on a laptop with no login screen leaves all mail that has already been downloaded exposed, even if you use a password for downloading your mail. If you don’t have a password or PIN on your mobile phone, your email is left unprotected there as well. Be sure to require passwords on any device that contains email, as well as in any program that can download it.
2. Have a Secure Password
Where using a password can be essential in protecting mail that is stored locally, having a secure password is critical for email that can be accessed remotely. By using a password that is complex, containing at least eight characters that are a mix of letters and numbers, and include capitalization and symbols, you drastically increase the difficulty of guessing or cracking it. Also, using different passwords for every account you have prevents a compromised password on one system from being used to access others.
3. Use HTTPS
When using web-based email systems, use the secure HTTPS method whenever possible, since it encrypts your messages as they travel across the Internet, making them harder to intercept and fall into the wrong hands. Systems like Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Hotmail offer an option to use HTTPS whenever accessing your email. Look for the HTTPS at the beginning of the websites address, or often in modern browsers you’ll even see a green padlock, indicating the site is safe.
4. Avoid Attachments
Be careful what you do with your email, especially when opening attachments. Since attachments can contain viruses and malware, only open those that you were already expecting. When in doubt, ask the sender what is in the attachment before you open it, since many viruses pretend to come from your colleagues, but may actually be from someone trying to infect your computer.
5. Avoid PhishingA technique called Phishing uses links to websites you may recognize to take you to a fake website that tries to trick you into typing your login information, which will give them access to your real account. Efforts are being made to reduce this danger, including the recently announced DMARC collaboration that helps assure messages are from who they claim to be. Until this and similar efforts reduce the danger, avoid clicking links in email messages, even those that appear to be from within your own company. Instead use a bookmark you already have or type in an address by hand for a site you wish to visit.