You use your email every day if you’re like most people. You may have several accounts that you use as your primary form of communication with co-workers and clients, your spouse, family members, and more. Email is pervasive, and it’s a constant part of most of our lives, but it can also leave you extremely vulnerable.
In September 2016, a cyber attack impacted at least one billion customers. That’s around one-third of all users of the internet from around the world—and that’s just one, single attack.
Email security breaches can be catastrophic not just for companies that fall victim to them, but for individuals as well. You likely have so much personal and financial information housed in your email records.
So what should you know about email security?
Why Is Email a Target?
Emails are a popular target among cybercriminals because they tend to be a point of weakness, both for companies and individuals. Of course, targeting one single individual’s email account in attack is less fruitful than attacking an entire organization with thousands or millions of email accounts.
Email accounts that are stolen can have a plethora of information cybercriminals find valuable, including corporate documents, contacts, data, and more.
Businesses, as mentioned, tend to be a prime target for cybercriminals, but it’s not always the big businesses.
Hackers love small businesses because they have weaker security measures in place, and they’re easier to infiltrate.
Business Email Security
Whether you’re a small, medium, or larger business, in terms of organizational email security, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, look for email services that offer two-step verification, which is also known as two-factor authentication. What this means is that users need to have two identification forms to log into an email account.
You’ve probably seen this before—you might enter a password and also have to enter a code that comes to your smartphone.
You should also have spam protection in place and updated malware protection.
If you’re looking for an organizational email hosting service, it should have what’s called built-in data loss prevention policies, meaning that you’re compliant based on industry standards and it will keep your company and client data protected.
Use More Than One Account
What about personal email protection, outside of the steps a business should take?
First, separate your email accounts. That way, if one account is hacked at least the thieves don’t gain access to everything. For example, maybe you have one email account for family correspondence, several for different financial needs, and one for work.
If you put all of your email activity in one account and someone breaks into it, it can mean serious consequences that are difficult to dig yourself out of.
Educate Yourself on Phishing
Phishing attacks aren’t new, but they do grow in their sophistication, and they are still one of the most common ways hackers successfully target people and their accounts.
With phishing, a cybercriminal will create an email and website that looks exactly like a big company or a company you’re familiar with. It can be extremely hard to tell the difference.
They’ll then often send you an email saying something like your account needs attention, so then you click a link and end up giving them your user name and password.
One of the best ways to avoid this is to never click a link in an email. Even if you get an email you think is legitimate, don’t click the link in the email. Go directly to the site. The same goes for banks and financial institutions. Don’t copy and paste the link either—just type it into your search bar manually.
Similarly, don’t open attachments unless you know what it is and where it’s coming from.
Don’t Check Your Email on Public Wi-Fi Networks
We’re all guilty of using public wi-fi from time-to-time, and it’s very likely we’re checking our email when doing so. While it can be convenient, this is a very bad idea from a security standpoint.
When you’re on public wi-fi, there are programs that can run in the background of a hacker’s device. Then, the wireless data going through that network can be stolen, including usernames and passwords.
Finally, before you ever open any email, make sure you run your virus and malware scanners, especially if you’re not sure where it’s from. It can take extra effort to protect your email but not doing so can be extremely damaging.