We use emails for almost everything, from sharing vacation images with friends or tax documents with the accountants. Personal details, financial information, family photos, even social security numbers are usually shared via emails. Emails are one of the most integral aspects of our daily life, if our email access landed in the wrong hands, it has the potential to cause havoc, especially if you are living in a country with a high level of surveillance like 5, 9 and 14 eyes countries. There are ways to keep your email secure – some easy, while others seem complicated.
In this article, we will discuss in detail the importance of securing your email and how to do the job. So, let’s get started:
How to Secure your Email?
Tech experts have suggested tips to secure your email by applying day-to-day easy techniques. Here are some ways which will help you protect and keep your email confidential.
- Your email ID password should be long and a combination of alphabets, numbers and symbols.
- Never choose an obvious answer to your security question, make it unpredictable.
- Use SSL enabled email client that uses OpenPGP encryption.
- Encrypt your email messages and the email server to make the messages unreadable to everyone except you.
Start with a Strong Password
Password is your first line of defence. As mentioned earlier, it should be strong and complicated with a combination of everything.
Always remember a strong password might not guarantee your safety, as per the center of Identity Ecosystem, even the seemingly innocuous information like your pet name or birth data can be used to dig the securest of information. A hacker can use your account to point the password point of entry and then click forgot password. Moreover, other information can be used to guess your password eventually.
Another important thing to remember is that you should not use the same password for more than one account. Keep your password safe with a trusted password manager.
Set up Strong Security Questions
Most sites ask security questions which come in handy while retrieving the password. Sometimes you are asked to choose an answer to a preselected list of questions while others allow you to create your own security question.
If you are asked to answer a question of your own choice, then choose an obscure piece which feels extremely difficult to guess.
If you are choosing a question from the prerequisite list, then it is suggested to answer the question falsely but just be sure to keep track of your answers. For instance; lie about the city where you were born or transpose your birth date, etc.
Use a Secure Email Service
SSL is an industry-standard which helps to create an encrypted link between an email server and a browser. It helps prevent a website from being hacked. If the web address starts with “HTTP,” then it should ring alarms for you as the website is not using an SSL certificate. If it starts with “https,” then use it rather.
One thing to consider is while using the SSL mail server makes sure to save your messages in plain texts. This will ensure that no one can tap into your network without the access of the email server.
Encrypt the Message
If you are using a private and secure email, then you are good to go and safe, but you need to encrypt the message itself. This will make the message unreadable to anyone but you and the recipient.
Two of the common message encryption forms are OpenPGP and Multipurpose and Secure Internet mail extensions. Both of these require contacts to install the security certificates on the computer and then exchange the strings of characters which are more commonly referred to as public keys.
The best form of encryption comes in a VPN package. A VPN, not only provides a higher level of encryption starting from 128bit, but it also routes your emails via a secure tunnel which is nearly impossible to breach. Use an anonymous VPN to protect your email from being read by unwanted parties.
Note: If you are unaware of VPN technology and want to dig deeper about VPN, it’s components and uses, then you should read our guide on “What is a VPN”.
How to Send Encrypted Emails on Gmail and Outlook?
Since emails are pretty convenient and are easy to retrieve on almost any device we own, so it is good to know that there is a way around for Gmail and Outlook users.
Google announced back in 2014 that it is making encryption as a default setting for Gmail. This means that if you are using any Gmail apps or accessing it from the Chrome browser, then your email is already encrypted. Since it is a big bet, so it only holds true until the email recipient is also using Gmail.
Once the email leaves Google’s servers, for instance, if you send it to your friend who uses Yahoo Mail, then the encryption is no longer applied. This is because if the encryption would have been there, then the recipient couldn’t read the message as it was encoded using Google’s encryption.
While Google’s step is a huge move to ensure safety, but it still has loopholes that can compromise your privacy on email. There have been many incidents of email IDs being compromised and how can we forget the biggest scandal of Hillary Clinton. Malware is mostly spread across via using emails.
Google maintains the context which is never read by the persona, and if someone is worried about the sanctity of the data, it can be used as a plugins link Snapmail.co.
It is not surprising to find a built-in feature for encryption in the infamous outlook while using office 365 subscription. Setting up the encryption is a little tough, but then that is often considered as a tradeoff between any security features. Consider reading this guide on Microsoft site on how to secure email messages on using a digital signature.
After doing so, write an email and before you send the email go to;
Options > more options > message options > security settings > encrypt message attachment and content.
Note: These features are not included in Windows and or outlook.com or mail app and are only limited to paid subscribers.
How to Create a Self Destructing Message?
Another method to secure your email is to delete the message which is sent shortly after they are read by the recipient. An example of it is Snapmail, which allows users to send self-destructing emails. It does feel like James Bond to read the email and seeing it get deleted (destruct), but it involves almost no international villainy.
Search for Snapmail in the Chrome web store and add an extension. Then click on the hamburger menu on the top right corner. A drop-down menu will appear, select more tools> ‘Extensions’ and then scroll down until you find Snapmail. Ensure that it is turned on.
Many email and app services promise email encryption, but they don’t use PGP/MIME or S/MIME. These are indeed faster to set up but have their own encryption which may not survive the privacy standard.
Email encryption provides a secure means of sending messages and protects users from unwanted malware and privacy breaches. Securing your email will not only give you an added benefit of ensuring your privacy on the internet jungle but will also give you the self-belief that you are protected and no matter how confidential the information, it is encrypted and away from prying eyes all over.