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How to Protect Your Email

E-mail is a terrific form of communication for keeping in touch with family, friends, and business partners. However, using it unwisely may make you and your computer susceptible to spam, phishing scams, viruses, and other online threats. Here are some tips to avoid these problems.

 

  1. Install a comprehensive security suite that provides layered defense via anti-virus, anti-phishing, safe browsing and host based intrusion capabilities. Be sure to enable the suite’s automatic update service to keep signatures up to date.
  2. Share your e-mail address with only trusted sources. Only your family, friends, and trusted business contacts should have your personal e-mail address. Do not post your e-mail address on Web sites, forums, or in chat rooms. If you post your e-mail address, you are vulnerable to receiving spam or having your e-mail passed on to others. If you would like to subscribe to a newsletter or Web site and receive confirmation e-mail for online transactions, consider using a generic e-mail address that is not linked to any of your personal information.
  3. Do Not Open Unsolicited Attachments. You can obtain a virus, worm, or Trojan simply by opening e-mail and attachments. If you choose to download files, make sure your security software is enabled and pay close attention to any warnings provided. If the email is unsolicited, never open any attachments. Even if the file looks innocent, you could be in for a world of hurt. Filenames can be spoofed. JPEGs could be EXEs in disguise and those EXEs will run as soon as they’re downloaded. And then you’ll have a virus on your hands.
  4. Be smart when using IM programs. If you use an IM program to communicate with friends and family, be careful when sending any personal information. Protect yourself by using a nickname for your IM screen name. Never accept strangers into your IM groups. Be smart about how you use your personal IM at work because your employer may monitor and view your personal messages.
  5. Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent e-mails and fake Web sites, masquerading as legitimate businesses, to lure unsuspecting users into revealing private account or login information. To be safe, if you receive an e-mail from a business that includes a link to a Web site, make certain that the Web site you visit is legitimate. Instead of clicking through to the Web site from within the e-mail, open a separate Web browser and visit the business’ Web site directly to perform the necessary actions. You can also verify that an email is in fact from a legitimate business by calling the business or agency directly.
  6. Use e-mail wisely. E-mail is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, and as a tool to conduct business. Even if you have good security software on your PC, your friends and family might not have the same protection. Be careful about what information you submit via e-mail. Never send your credit-card information, Social Security number, or other private information via unencrypted e-mail.
  7. Do not reply to spam e-mail. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t respond. Even replying to spam mail to unsubscribe could set you up for more spam.
  8. Avoid Public Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, public Wi-Fi can be extremely insecure. There are programs out there called “network sniffers”. The sniffer monitors all the data flowing through a particular network – and that data can be analyzed for important information. Like your username and password.
  9. Create smart and strong passwords. Make it difficult for hackers to crack your password. You can create a smart password by incorporating capital letters, numbers, special characters and using more than eight characters.
  10. Never enter your personal information into a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real organization’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.

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