Email accounts are often considered easy targets for hackers. Once your email password gets in the wrong hands, your privacy and online reputation can suffer tremendously as a result. If you want to protect the security of your email account, consider taking these four steps:
1. Change your password
If your mom can guess your password, so can a hacker. Having your dog’s name or spouse’s last name as your password may have kept your email account secure enough ten years ago. These days, simple passwords that only contain letters and a few numbers put your account at risk. Hackers use programs that can quickly cycle through common passwords and eventually guess yours, if it’s too simple. So, include a variation of letters, numbers, and symbols in your email password, and try not to use dictionary words in your password, if possible. Sure, a long, confusing password will take you a little more time to memorize, but it’ll keep your account safer.
2. Try out two-step verification
Many of the top email providers offer something called two-step verification. Two-step verification recognizes the computer you ordinarily use to login into your email account. When you or someone else tries to login to your email account from a computer you don’t ordinarily use to login to your account, your email provider will request a verification code. Only you will know this verification code. Typically, your email provider will send it to you via text message when you sign up for two-step verification. Two-step verification and similar services definitely add another layer of security to your account, which can be useful in the event that a hacker figures out your password.
3. Protect your whole computer
How secure your computer is on the whole can affect how secure your email account is. If a hacker figures out a way to monitor what you’re doing on your computer, they’ll easily be able to steal your usernames and passwords as you login to your online accounts. That’s why it’s essential to make sure you install and regularly run as well as update trusted anti-virus software on your computer. Anti-virus software may slow down your computer a bit every once in a while, but using it to protect your computer is well worth the occasional inconvenience.
4. Trust your gut
If you receive an email from a sender you don’t recognize, and they’re asking you to provide personal information or are asking you to click on a link, carefully analyze the email before you take any action. If something seems off about any email, simply delete it and move on with your life. Emails offering you high-paying entry-level jobs, telling you that your account security has been compromised, and offering you cash are often hoaxes your email provider’s spam filter didn’t catch. Being smart about who you interact with via email is one of the most important things you can do to protect your account.
You have the power to protect the confidential information in your inbox. So, consider the tips listed above, and keep on practicing safe habits on the wild world wide web!
Silvia Brooks is a security expert and blogger who primarily writes about advances in security technology for security-related sites like http://www.homesecurity.org/. Please leave questions and comments for Silvia below. She appreciates your feedback!