Email Security Strategies: 10 Essentials Email Security Tips

December 23, 2008

A large percentage of malware or computer viruses come from email messages. Let’s face it, email keeps our society running and without it we could not function from day to day. There are ways that we can have a more secure environment which could assist not only home computer users but business and network infrastructures around the world. Many of us take email security for granted and we feel that we could help you by sharing 10 essential email security tips to employ a safer environment for working on your computer at home or at work.

We have come up with list of 10 email security tips based on the IT Security blog posts “More e-mail security tips and “Basic e-email security tips” by Chad Perrin. We feel that by adhering to the email tips you will have taken proactive actions to protect your personal information and provide a more secure environment over the internet for anyone using your computer.

PCHubs.com's 10 Essentials Email Security Tips

  1. Never allow an e-mail client to fully render HTML or XHTML e-mails without careful thought.

    If you use Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird that is usually set to render HTML emails then you may want to set it to render simplified HTML rather than rich HTML (original HTML). In some cases you may want to even choose to render only plain text. When an email client to render the full HTML of an email then it creates the risk of receiving spam containing malware through the embedded code of a full HTML message.

  2. Use a local POP3 or IMAP client to retrieve your email to protect the privacy of your data.

    Using web-based email services such as Hotmail, Yahoo or even Gmail may allow private information to be compromised. Some providers are accused of selling email addresses for the purpose of spamming partners.

  3. Ensure that your e-mail authentication process is encrypted, even if the e-mail itself is not.

    Hackers may have the ability to listen in on your authentication session with a mail server. If they are able to listen in then they have access to view sent or received messages which may be confidential or contain personal information. You can always check with your ISP’s policies to find out if authentication is encrypted which will greatly reduce the risk of your transmitted data being compromised.

  4. Digitally sign your e-mails.

    Using an encryption tool to digitally sign your emails then only the recipients who have your public key will be able know for certain that the message was sent by only someone with the correct private key. Encryption tools such as PGP or GnuPG are available to digitally sign your emails.

  5. Use BCC when sending to multiple recipients.

    It is usually not advised to disclose all of the recipients of a particular email message that you send out. It is a privacy issue if the email that you send includes several email addresses if you use the CC (carbon copy) field. Utilizing BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) will hide the email address of your recipients of any message that you send out. Using BCC recipients will not be able to see the other email address that the email was sent too.

  6. Only use private accounts for private e-mails.

    Any chance they get, a spammer will target your email address. If you use a prive account for sending private emails then you greatly reduce the risk of a spammer getting your email address used. If you use an email address that may be used on online forms, social sites or mailing list then a spammer can easily use the address to spam.

  7. Save e-mails only in a safe place.

    Encryption would be useless if you store an email message that has been opened or unencrypted and then saved in a location that others have access too. This is important especially when using a computer on a network or one that is used by other users.

  8. Turn off automated addressing features.

    Many times the automated addressing feature will pull up the incorrect address without you paying attention to it until the email message is sent. It is nothing like sending an email to the wrong person when the message is something confidential or private. You may be liable for sending information to the wrong recipient or even worse, fired from your job for communicating the wrong message.

  9. Avoid unsecured networks.

    If you use a WI-FI hot-spot or publicly access network then you may be at risk for having your sent messages compromised. You must also be aware of your physical surroundings when sending email messages. Your account could be compromised if a certain person is monitoring yoru actions over your shoulder. Remember, you may be legally responsible for messages sent from your email account if they are used in such a manor to commit a crime or bring harm to others.

  10. Double-check the recipient, every time - especially on mailing lists.

    Once again, it is nothing like sending a confidential or private email message to an unintended recipient. It is better to be safe than sorry so please double check each and every recipient on ANY email message that you are about to send. It does not hurt to proof-read your email as well. If you accidently send a message to hundreds of recipients at one time it may be very difficult to recall the message or explain yourself when your boss is about to let you go.

Chime in now. Do any of these tips help you? What will you change about the way you send and/or check emails?

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