Nothing makes a day worse than finding out your account has been hacked. No matter if it’s a social media account or your email, the hassle that ensues is nothing short of exhausting. Between trying to regain access to your account, changing all of your other account passwords as a precaution, and trying to explain to concerned parties that may be reaching out, the process is tiring.
If you’re anything like me, you might not always have the time set aside to take action if your account is hacked, which is why it’s important to set yourself up for success by protecting your email ahead of time. Today, I’ve rounded up my best tips to keep your email protected.
Use a Password Manager and 2-Factor Authentication
This may sound basic, but the easiest way to protect your email from hackers and unapproved viewers is to prevent them from getting into your account in the first place. Two easy ways to protect your account are to utilize a password manager and enable two-factor authentication.
So, what exactly is a password manager? Simply put, it’s a piece of software that allows you to keep track of, manage, store, and create all of your online passwords on an encrypted database. It reduces the struggle of trying to remember every password you have and conveniently generates a unique password for each and every account. If there are situations where you need to change your passwords regularly, a password manager makes it easy to do so. I recommend 1Password, due to its MacOS and iOS focus. If you’re looking to sign up for 1Password, I wrote a blog all about getting set up with it – check it out here.
If a password manager isn’t your thing (and even if it is), I recommend you utilize 2-factor authentication on your accounts. With this feature enabled, an access code will be sent to you (either via text or another email) that will need to be entered to complete the login process. It adds an extra layer of security; you can’t login without access to the code that is sent to you. If someone is trying to access your account, they won’t be able to without the code, preventing a potential hack. 2-factor is also a great option because it’s an easy signal that someone is trying to gain access to your account. If you get a code sent to you that you didn’t request, it’s a great reminder to maintain your account security and change your password when necessary.
Most email hacking comes internally – it may be a result of your actions and you might not even know about it. Because this flies under the radar so often, I encourage you to be vigilant when analyzing the content of your emails. Don’t open attachments if you don’t know what they are – they can install malware on your computer and make it easy for them to continue to access your files without your knowledge.
Similarly, don’t click on any links or login buttons you see in an email. Scammers do this to gain access to your account information directly from you. Any email you get from someone claiming to be a business or service provider about important account information, billing information, or anything similar should not be trusted. These emails are designed to look convincing, even when it’s just a sham. If you want to investigate things yourself, that’s understandable, but do not go to a site from any links or buttons provided in an email. Instead, go to a separate window and try logging in to that account. If there’s an issue, you’ll be able to know.
Keep an Eye Out for Phishing and Other Scams
We often encounter scams and not even realize it because our brains are trained to recognize names of people and companies that look familiar. To stay on top of the game, learn to recognize what’s real and what’s not. The first thing you should do when you question an email is check the sender’s email address. Are there any strange characters in it? Is the domain misspelled? Is the sender’s “name” misspelled? Here’s a fun email I just got: there’s a billing error issue with my account – sent from Amazo’n. Fun fact…“Amazo’n” is not actually Amazon. There are small discrepancies like these that can pass us by if we don’t take a moment to stop and look.
When in doubt, contact the business or service provider directly if you are concerned that what you’ve been told is true. Don’t believe any emails with “important information” or “account concerns” without checking it first. The vast majority of these emails can do no harm, especially without action, and can easily be taken care of by disregarding them and moving them to your spam folder.
Encrypt Your Emails
To protect your emails and email content when they’re sent, enable email encryption. Yahoo, Outlook, and Gmail are just a few of the email providers that allow email encryption. Though they may look a bit different from one another, the general concept is still the same. Email encryption prevents someone outside of the email conversation from seeing what the email actually says; if they come across it, all they’ll be able to see is a jumbled mess. This allows email users to send an email and have more control over how the content of the email is viewed or shared. Encrypted emails may not be necessary for all individuals, but can help in times when confidential data and documents are shared.
An example of encrypted email option is Google’s “confidential mode,” which allows users to set an expiration date for an email, require a passcode to send the email, and share content and attachments while disabling “copy, paste, download, print, and forward[ing]” abilities. This functionality is only available when confidential mode is on, but can easily be enabled in the toolbar on the bottom of a newly composed email. Please note: not all email servers will function this same way, but still provide some encryption, which is better than none. To see if your email provider has an encryption feature, check out your account settings and/or support page.
By following the tips outlines above, you can rest a bit easier at night knowing that your email account (and therefore, all your other online accounts) are protected. If you’ve missed out on the previous installments of this series, you can catch up on them here: