Read these 16 Email Security Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Internet Safety tips and hundreds of other topics.
Here are some do's and don'ts when choosing a password. Information security demands that you choose a password that will be difficult to guess.
1. Don't use your login name in any form (as-is, reversed, capitalized, doubled, etc.).
2. Don't use your first or last name in any form. Don't use use your spouse's or child's name.
3. Don't use other information easily obtained about you. This includes license plate numbers, telephone numbers, social security numbers, the brand of your automobile, the name of the street you live on, etc.
4. Don't use a password of all digits, or all the same letter. This significantly decreases the search time for a cracker.
5. Don't use a word contained in English or foreign language dictionaries, spelling lists, or other lists of words. Don't use a password shorter than six characters.
1. Do use a password with mixed-case alphabetic characters.
2. Do use a password with nonalphabetic characters, e.g., digits or punctuation.
3. Do use a password that is easy to remember, so you don't have to write it down.
4. Do use a password that you can type quickly, without having to look at the keyboard.
This makes it harder for someone to steal your password by watching over your shoulder.
Hoax warnings are typically scare alerts started by malicious people - and passed on by innocent users who think they are helping internet security by spreading the warning. Do not forward hoax messages. There are cases where email security systems have collapsed after dozens of users forwarded a false alert to everybody in the company. Corporate users can get rid of the hoax problem by simply setting a strict company computer securityguideline: End users must not forward virus alarms. Ever. It's not the job of an end user anyway. If such message is received, end users could forward it to the IT department but not to anyone else. Home users should become familiar with one of several legitimate web sites that catalog and track virus hoaxes.
Unlike previous viruses, macro viruses do not infect programs; they infect documents and templates. As part of your email security practice, don't open unknown file attachments. Opening a document or template that contains a macro virus will infect your system and the virus will spread to other documents and templates you may have on your system. Some macro viruses are not harmful, but they can be annoying. However, there are some macro viruses that can be very destructive. Also, Word macro viruses can be spread across platforms; for example, the macro virus can infect files on the Windows platform, as well as files on the Macintosh platform.
To ensure your email security be creative in your password choice. Here are some other ways to create a good password.
Choose a line or two from a song or poem, and use the first letter of each word. For example, "In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree" becomes "IXdKKaspdd." Or, alternate between one consonant and one or two vowels, up to eight characters. This provides nonsense words that are usually pronounceable, and thus easily remembered. Examples include "routboo," "quadpop," and so on. Choose two short words and concatenate them together with a punctuation character between them. For example: "dog;rain," "book+mug," "kid?goat."
When you are choosing a password to ensure your email security, give the matter some careful thought. The object when choosing a password is to make it as difficult as possible for a cracker to make educated guesses about what you've chosen. This leaves him no alternative but a brute-force search, trying every possible combination of letters, numbers, and punctuation. A search of this sort, even conducted on a machine that could try one million passwords per second (most machines can try less than one hundred per second), would require, on the average, over one hundred years to complete.
Your password is key to your online security, and it is only as secure as you make it. In addition to choosing a password that can't be guessed or found in a dictionary, you need to make sure not to tell anyone your password. If you want to let a friend or family member have access to your computer, set up a separate account for them so they can't get access to your personal files.
As strange as it may seem, one of the oldest tricks in the hacker's repertroire is what hackers call “social engineering”. In other words, conning someone into revealing a password or a credit card number. Beware of email or even phone calls from people purporting to be a systems administrator asking you for your password or other sensitive information. If someone contacts you asking for this information, do not give it to them under any circumstances.
Viruses, Trojans, exploits and other malicious software are only part of the computer security perils of online life. Chain e-mail and Pyramid posts on Usenet are a scam, and most often, they are a crime. Any scheme that involves real mail at any point can be illegal. If you forward one, you will be blasted with hundreds of angry messages in reply. But if you see one, remember that you can't really be sure who sent it.
According to some estimates, 75% of all viruses today are macro viruses. Once a macro virus gets onto your machine, it can embed itself in all future documents you create with the application. Antivirus internet security software can protect your system against most macro viruses, although new ones are always being created that slip by the antivirus internet filters.
Passwords are the primary defense and front-line computer security for your internet security. A good password is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help secure your system and email security. If someone obtains your password, then they have complete access to your account and all its data, and to all the privileges and abilities you have. If you give your password to anyone, you are giving them significant power while keeping all the responsibility for their wielding it.
Many services located on the web such as banking institutions and email services require the use of passwords. Do your best to use alphanumeric passwords such as the following example: uw0ntG3tm3!
and use different passwords for each site. Make it next to impossible for those cyber-snoopers to access your information.
Anti-virus internet security software isn't very good at detecting Trojan horse programs, so for the sake of your information security be extremely careful about opening binary files and Word/Excel documents from unknown or 'dubious' sources. This includes posts in binary newsgroups, downloads from web/ftp sites that aren't well-known or don't have a good reputation, and executable files unexpectedly received as attachments to E-mail or during an on-line chat session.
Viruses can come attached to email attachments, and once opened can release there fury. The best rule of thumb is that if you receive something that looks suspicous, it likely is. Get into the habit of scanning your email attachments with a virus scanner before opening them. Better to be safe than sorry!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|