Online security: get your own private email address
Email is such a common part of daily communication these days that we hardly ever stop to think about it. But even though dozens of emails can be sent and received by you each and every day without incident, it’s still wise to take a few moments to make sure your account—along with all the thoughts and ideas you send off to friends and family in your messages—is as safe and secure as possible.
First of all, it’s a good idea to have a personal email account that only you can access. Yes, of course you trust the members of your immediate family who live with you, but there are still good reasons to have your own account. First of all, if friends and relatives know that you share an email account with your spouse, for example, they may be less apt to share sensitive personal information that they only intended for you to read. And it goes the other way too. Maybe you want to throw your wife a surprise party. Forget trying to organize it via email if she has access to those RSVPs too!
Remember, when you’re sharing an email account it’s easy for an email to be accidentally opened by the wrong person—or deleted entirely—or to go unnoticed by the intended recipient if it gets bumped to the bottom of a long list of incoming email belonging to someone else. Your own account just makes online life a little neater and simpler, and helps to ensure that emails are read and responded to without delay.
You might also want to consider having two personal email accounts. One would be used to contact friends and family—those people you know and trust. The second would be used if you’re filling out contest forms or signing up for newsletters. Spam, unsolicited emails, tend to flood in as soon as you start giving out your email address online, so having a second email dedicated to this sort of activity means that your important personal account that you use to communicate with friends and family should stay as clutter-free as possible.
How can you keep your personal email accounts as safe and secure as possible? IT Security has some great suggestions:
- Make sure to log out and close the browser if you’re checking email at a library or cybercafé. Logging out is the first step—this ensures that your email account isn’t easily accessible to anyone who uses the computer after you. But don’t forget the important second step: closing the browser window. Some email services display your username (but not your password) even after you’ve logged out, so closing the browser window is an extra level of security that means no one will have access to a piece of your security puzzle!
- e careful about using the “reply all” option. If someone has sent an email addressed to you and a group of other people, think carefully about whether you want your response to be sent to everyone or just the original sender. Click “reply” if you only want the sender to see your response or “reply all” if you’re comfortable with everyone seeing it.
- Maintain and keep updated email scanning and anti-virus software, and use it to scan all incoming email, even from trusted friends and family. You never know when someone may innocently introduce a virus to your computer that they didn’t even realize they had.
- Don’t use simple or easy to guess passwords. Hackers often use programs that cycle through common English words and number combinations in order to try to guess a password. A strong password—one that hackers would have difficulty cracking—should have a minimum of eight characters, be as meaningless as possible and include both upper and lower case letters.
- Deleted emails aren’t necessarily gone forever. If you accidentally delete an email, just check your deleted email folder to retrieve it. Some email services, particularly free web-based services like Yahoo and Gmail, automatically empty your deleted mail folder every few days, but others will require you to manually delete your trash. But note that even if you and the sender/receiver delete an email, it may still exist in backup folders on remote servers for years, and can be retrieved by skilled professionals. Think of everything you put into an email as a potentially permanent document.
These are just a few ways you can stay safe and secure while using your personal email. For more information on email security visit IT Security or do your own quick online search for tips and suggestions to keep you safe.
409966 CAN/US (04/15)