Why You Should Care About the Security of Your E-mail

Security, it's a hassle at the airport, it's talked about too much on the news, people sell junk with the promise of enhanced security.  At some point, you just can't worry about it all anymore, right?  At some point you just want to say "Enough is enough."  And for many people that line is drawn WAY before they get to their email.

But you can't afford to be relaxed in your email security, and this is why.


For many people, this may not be a concern.  However, for many businesses it is critical.  The content of your mailbox may have customer information, or product information that your company does not want to be public knowdlege.  For this reason, many large companies restrict how and where people can access their email.  This is the reason that your Blackberry has a password on it now. But is this the biggest reason to protect your email?


For many people, the content in their email is very boring to someone that might try to gain access to that mailbox.  A hacker doesn't care about the really cute thing your cat just did, or that you are going to have coffee with Mary three weeks ago.  They aren't interested in that super funny joke, and they really aren't interested in the hundreds of not-so funny jokes either.

So what DO they want?


When you forget the password to your online banking site, or your credit card account, or even your favorite shopping site you can visit that site and request that they send you the password again.  Most times they will send you an email with a link you can use to reset your password, but sometimes they do actually send you the password itself.  Even if your forget your login ID, the site will send you that if you can tell them what your email address is.  If a hacker is able to get access to your mailbox, they might be able to identify who you bank with, and then go request a password reset. Because they have access to your email, they can now intercept that link and change your password.  By the time you realize your password is wrong, your bank account is already empty.  If you store your credit card information with an online vendor the hacker can gain access to that account and even if they can't get your credit card number, they can place orders for things with that retailer and get away with the merchandise.

This does not take any special training, or tools, or fancy software.  It is not a difficult or complicated hack. So it's important to protect your email.

How can I protect my email?

What a great question.  The first thing to do is make sure you have a strong password protecting your email.  A strong password is one that does not include any dictionary words, has mixed UPPER and lower case letters and also includes numbers.  For example: mailbox is a very weak password, but 2m@!Lb0x4 is a stronger password.  Substituting numbers or special characters for letters, is an easy way to include these elements, but still make your password easy to remember.  All that being said, the rule of thumb is that any password you can remember is not secure enough.  Consider using a password manager to maintain a unique, long and complex password for your email.

The second thing to do is to be aware of how you are accessing your email, and where.  If you are using a home PC, you are relatively safe.  If you are using a web browser on a shared computer at a library, or a cafe, or a copy store you are at a high risk of your password being intercepted.  If you use a laptop, be aware of how you are connected to the internet.  If you are on free WiFi hotspot, be VERY cautious about accessing your email.  If you ever do access your email from a less than secure location, be sure to change the password as soon as possible when you are back to a "safe" location.  Like your home, or your office