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How to Make Email More Secure Against Viruses, Phishing and Other Threats

written by: Daniel Brecht•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/8/2011

Email security is obviously a concern when using the Internet, so here is a guide that lists ways to making email more secure. Emailers will find several options here in the article that can help them ensure they are safe and protected when sending and receiving emails.

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    Email Security Issues

    Email is insecure (as explained by LuxSci) when messages are stored on SMTP servers—that is because they appear in plain, unencrypted text. If an email is insecure and contains confidential information or personal data, be aware it can be susceptible to hackers or others who are eavesdropping unless encrypted. Usernames, passwords, and credit card information are just a few examples of what can be stolen if an email is insecure.

    Securing email is necessary to safeguard sensitive information: to protect emailers from outsiders who could steal their identity, credit card information or banking information for their personal gain or use. Securing email is also necessary to ensure that emailers' messages are not disclosed, read, altered, or stolen.

    There are ways to make emails more secure (as shown in the next section).

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    Fixing the Problems

    Email Sign & Envelope (by jscreationzs) Here are 10 ways to make email more secure...

    (1) While at the office and reading emails, ensure to display the contents only when it will be read to avoid exposure to "prying eyes" or "unauthorized disclosure" by a third party. Many times the content of an email will contain private or confidential data, so to avoid any type of invasion of privacy, be sure to be cautious of your surroundings and never leave a computer unattended. Lock the computer if having to leave it for any length of time. It is also a good idea to check to see if there is an email security policy at the office, as it may contain important information on how employees can help protect their emails too.

    (2) Avoid following web links in email messages and clicking or opening a link or program unchecked that may be part of an email because it may lead to malware being secretly installed on the computer (as affirmed by TIO).

    (3) Use caution before opening email attachments as there are many known email security threats. Only open email attachments that come from a trusted source (not unsolicited email) as many viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses have been known to attach themselves on to them. Opening an infected email attachment may damage or harm the computer.

    (4) Scan before opening email attachments. According to "The PC Security Reference," viruses tend to attach themselves on to file extensions like .cmd .scr .pif .bat and .exe.

    (5) Send and receive confidential email in encrypted form. Choose and use a suitable email encryption program when exchanging emails. Use public-key encryption like the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt data. Also, PEM (Privacy Enhanced Mail) secures email by encompassing encryption, authentication, and certificate-based key management. Used in conjunction with SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), they can provide privacy-enhanced mail services and electronic mail transfer on the Internet. As a coding system PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) is an extremely secure program to send secure messages: signed and encrypted.

    (6) Delete and do not respond to suspect emails. Nowadays, there are just too many suspicious emails being sent and forwarded to those who have an email account. Understand that users are susceptible to spamming and phishing, so an email security solution is needed.

    (7) Practice signing and encrypting email. Why not try secure email by using the Comodo SecureMail Software, which is free! It can help to avoid anyone from eavesdropping when emailing. Alternatively, use "End-To-End Email Encryption." SecureLine by LuxSci provides this service, and is compatible with PGP and S/MIME.

    (8) Use a web-based interface like the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) or the Post Office Protocol (POP) that require a username and password to login and read emails. With regular IMAP and POP, they are insecure when messages are sent back and forth to the email server, so ensure to look for a "Secure IMAP and POP over SSL," like at LuxSci.

    (9) Implement email filtering to get rid of "junk" emails that could be part of a potential phishing scam or malware. Filtering also protects emailers from receiving spam emails.

    (10) Use a service provider that can offer email security and protection. LuxSci, for example, can provide a great email solution. They have control measures in place and use dedicated servers that are resilient to denial of service attacks. They say they can keep your communications safe.

    These are only 10 recommendations of many others that exist to make email more secure. Any one of these 10 ways are sure to help in some way overcome email security concerns.

    * Advice: Limit the amount of email accounts in order to secure and protect fewer emails, but create an account that you will use only to request information and plug into web forms online, so to limit the amount of spam on personal accounts.

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    Reference Section




    Image: FreeDigitalPhotos - Email Sign & Envelope (by jscreationzs)