What would the world be like without email? With billions of emails sent every day around the globe, it’s one of the modern world’s most essential forms of communication. It has evolved substantially from its humble origins into a complex network of servers and services. Today, email is also often at the forefront of computer security concerns. It’s the easiest way to reach computer users, after all — and with so many people using it, it’s often a target for hackers and scammers.
As a company who works on building upon the best communication technology has ever provided, email, we want to make sure that people like you and everyone else who ever sends and receives emails are protected and safe.
Do you know the facts about how to avoid these cyber security threats? Unfortunately, there’s often no shortage of misconceptions about how to use email safely. Let’s examine five of the most common myths surrounding email, privacy, and its security, plus the real facts that lie behind them.
Myth #1: A strong password is all the email security I need to protect my account
We hear a lot about password security and how best to create login details that are less vulnerable to guessing or engineered attacks. So, once you’ve come up with a very complicated password, that’s it — you’re safe, right? Not exactly. Someone could obtain your password and use it without your consent. A key logger or other types of malware could try to capture your password. In other cases, hackers could steal your password as part of a corporate hack, like the breaches repeatedly suffered by Yahoo.
What can you do if a password isn’t enough? The good news is that most email services now offer “two-factor authentication.” When you wish to log in from a new device, you must supply a code sent to your mobile phone in addition to your password. This provides a much more robust level of security and alerts you to any unauthorized login attempts.
Many of you have more than one account and are hence using an email client for managing all your email communications. No matter what email client you choose, make sure to use an app specific password and turn on 2 step authentication (if provided). Take the time to set it up, it’s worth it.
Should you need any assistance with that or have questions concerning the 2 step authentication setup, reach out to the customer support from your email client provider. Ask them any questions about your worries and uncertainities. They will be able to help you get it set up right away. If you use Mailbird, our customer support team is available 24h via email.
Myth #2: It’s easy to spot and avoid phishing scam emails
Two-factor authentication, which is different from 2 step authentication, is a valuable cyber security tool to help protect you from phishing efforts as well. On the surface, phishing is simple enough; send an email to a user that looks official, but isn’t, to induce them to share sensitive data. It’s true that many phishing attacks aren’t very sophisticated. Poor spelling and obviously illegitimate email addresses often give away the ruse. However, not all phishing attacks are easy to spot — and some of them can be extremely effective.
The reality is that some phishing scams aren’t simply an attempt to get you to input a password. An email could appear legitimate, but clicking on a link contained in it, might send you to a site full of malware. These efforts aren’t always easy to notice on the surface.
Myth #3: Emails from “Safe Senders” are always trustworthy
Filters keep the most annoying spam email out of our sight, but sometimes they can catch legitimate emails, too. Whether one configures a “safe senders” list or builds a whitelist filter in Gmail, we have options for ensuring relevant emails from friends and colleagues don’t. You know that person or trust the organization in question, so it’s OK to whitelist them. As a result, you never have to worry about the mail you receive from them. That’s the myth — the reality is that these senders deserve just as much scrutiny as any other.
An attacker could compromise any account, even those you’ve whitelisted. Phishing efforts, malicious attachments, and more could then spread to your inbox from their account. Always exercise good judgment and caution when dealing with links and attachments in emails.
Many email clients provide native spam filtering and other options to keep malware out of your main Inbox. If that is not the case, we at Mailbird always suggest to set up the spam filters in your webmail account. This might take a few minutes, especially if you have multiple accounts to manage, but this is time very well spent to keeping your emails safe and under control. Those set filters will be adapted to your accounts in Mailbird and keep them out of your main Inbox.
Myth #4: Spam filters will always stop scams, malware, and more
Speaking of spam filters and how heavily we rely on them, there are often misconceptions about how much they protect users. Spam email is largely just annoying, but some of it serves as a vehicle for malware and viruses. Like phishing efforts, though, one can’t expect automatic filters to catch everything that could pose a threat to your email security. A compromised account you trust is just one way for something to slip past a filter. Because filters aren’t perfect, there’s always the chance that something might make it into your Inbox. Taking a critical eye towards emails that land on your screen from senders you don’t recognize is the best practice.
Therefore we always suggest that Mailbird users should disable “Auto-select next email after archiving”. This will prevent emails to open automatically and will give the user the opportunity to evaluate the trustworthiness of an email.
Make an effort to keep your email safe
Take a closer look at the way you use email — have you fallen prey to some of these common cyber security myths? As such an essential part of modern life, knowing safe and secure ways to use email services is crucial. Threats to users continue to evolve all the time. While providers like Google and Microsoft work to build better email products, it’s still good to take a proactive attitude towards one’s own email security. Whether it’s as simple as enabling two-factor authentication or taking steps to encrypt your messages, we can all benefit from better email security practices.
Our CEO Andrea didn’t just watch the movie Snowden or anything, that inspired this latest post 😉 If you are a person who is highly concerned about online security, don’t watch that movie. Scary stuff. Regardless, at Mailbird we are here for you to keep you informed and are available to answer any questions you may have.