It’s time to face the fact that for most of us, email is the single most important digital asset we own: more than anything else, it is our digital DNA. To some degree, email is connected to every online account we have; it contains the username, password reset, and an archive of most of our digital doings. It’s been said that if a criminal owns a person’s email, he owns the person.
With more and more people keeping tabs on their financial statements, contact information and other sensitive data via email, it’s time to double-check your email habits to see if you’re putting yourself at risk.
#1 Never use public PCs. A public computer can be likened to a public toilet. You don’t really know who’s used it before you and you don’t know what kind of virus you can catch from it. PCs in libraries, hotel business centers or internet cafés can easily have keyloggers or keycatchers installed that can steal your usernames and passwords. Checking email on an unsecured computer that you don’t have any control over is risky and, frankly, irresponsible.
#2 Use a VPN over wireless. Wireless was born to be convenient, not secure. Sniffers can read wireless communications over free public WiFi and get usernames and passwords. Always use a wireless VPN, such as Hotspot Shield, that encrypts your wireless access.
#3 Log out of your device when not in use. Staying logged in 24/7/365 is risky. Anyone that has access to your computer or mobile device at home or work can own your email. Contractors, cleaners, vendors, burglars and even a spouse can put you at risk.
#4 Delete phishing emails. Any emails you receive that request you to click links to updating accounts, shipped packages, problems with accounts or for special offers are suspect. Phishing leads to keyloggers or compromised username/passwords. If these emails end up in your spam folder, leave them there.
#5 Never click links. I only click links in emails when it’s a “confirmation” email from signing into a new account or when I’m communicating with a friend, family member, colleague or known contact who then sends me a link. Otherwise, I never click links in emails, including in online statements. I always use my favorites menu or a password manager to get where I need to go.
Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures