Today, cybercriminals are constantly targeting victims via email. Sending malicious communications in this way gives illicit actors the ability to access hundreds or thousands of individuals instantly. Phishing scams, malware infection, and other consequences can come from email-based attacks, so it’s paramount that you’re safeguarding your account in every way possible.
Let’s get into how you can protect your email account and steer clear of malicious actors.
1. Use a Strong and Unique Password
This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often people use the exact same passwords for all of their accounts. This is certainly convenient, but very dangerous. Once a cybercriminal has your password and knows your email address, a slew of additional accounts become accessible to them if you’re using the same password for everything.
So, cut off this possibility by using alternate passwords for each account you have. You can store all your passwords in numerous ways, including on a piece of paper, hard drive, password manager, or otherwise. Make sure that, if you’re storing your passwords on a physical object, it is being kept in a very safe place.
If you’re using a password manager app, note that these can be prone to hacks, as they rely on internet connections and software programs to store your data, both of which can be exploited by cybercriminals.
You should also make your passwords as unique as possible to make them harder to crack overall. Including upper case letters, numbers, and symbols can help you here.
2. Use Your Provider’s Anti-Spam Features
Because spam mail is now so prevalent around the world, email providers have developed anti-spam tools that you can use to avoid these illicit communications. Different email providers have different features, but, if you’re using a well-known and trusted email service, like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail, you’ll likely be able to activate a spam filter that puts all suspicious emails in a spam folder.
This means that most spam mail will not arrive in your direct inbox, which lowers the chance of you interacting with it. You can always check your spam folder if needed, as sometimes spam filters mistake legitimate emails for malicious ones. But you should still be wary about what mail you decide to interact with in your spam folder.
3. Block Suspicious Addresses
While some scammers may only try to contact you once or twice, others will make repeated attempts at getting in touch. This is why you should block email addresses that you have confirmed to be dangerous.
It’s usually pretty quick and easy to block an email address, but the process may differ slightly depending on the provider you’re using. It can usually be done by highlighting a specific email and choosing the Block option, or by going into your email account settings.
4. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication can be invaluable in protecting not just your email account, but your other social media accounts, banking accounts, and more. This process works by verifying a sign-in via another trusted device or platform. For example, if you’re trying to log into your Gmail, you can choose to verify the login via your smartphone.
Alternatively, you can use security keys, have codes texted to you, or use an authenticator app like Authy or Google Authenticator. This additional layer of security makes it that much harder for a malicious actor to access your email account, even if they have both your email address and password for login.
5. Use Antivirus Software on Your Devices
Antivirus software should be a top priority for anyone using a PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. It’s now incredibly easy for cybercriminals to load malware onto your devices, be it to steal data, perform unauthorized actions, or even demand a ransom.
While all antivirus programs differ, reputable providers can run regular scans of your device to find and eliminate malicious programs to keep you safe. Cybercriminals often try to spread malware via email, be it via malicious attachments or links, so having an antivirus program active can help stop such dangerous software from infecting your device.
Antivirus programs can also stop criminals from hacking your email account through the use of malware. So, regardless of the angle by which malware is being used, having an antivirus program in place can help you keep your email account protected.
6. Update Your Apps Regularly
These days, many individuals use their email accounts via apps. While you usually can access your email account via the web, using an app makes the process that much easier, especially if you’re using your smartphone or tablet on the go.
But applications are not perfect. These programs sometimes come with vulnerabilities (or security flaws) that cybercriminals can exploit. In an email app, for example, a cybercriminal could use a vulnerability to hack accounts and steal data or spread spam mail further.
So, whenever you can, update your email applications. Updates can be annoying and time-consuming, but updating an email app shouldn’t take long and can help eliminate bugs or vulnerabilities. Updates can even give you access to improved security features, which can help further in protecting your email account.
7. Use a “Burner” Email
Sometimes, you want to sign up for something using your email address, but you’re unsure whether the platform is safe. It’s important to do a little research into the site at this point to see if it can be trusted.
If, however, the overall reputation of the platform is neither here nor there, and you still want to use it, consider using a burner or throwaway email address. This is an email address that you can use if you’re worried about receiving spam.
Of course, you shouldn’t start using a throwaway email for your day-to-day emails. Its only purpose should be to keep your main account safe. So, do not link your burner account to your legitimate account, and do not store much, if any, data on it.
You can use a burner email on a long or short-term basis, depending on its purpose. But having one there to use at all times can be super useful, and can help keep potentially dangerous actors away from your main email account.
Keep Your Email Safe and Avoid Scammers
Using the tips above, you can ensure that your email account is as protected as possible from malicious actors. With cybercriminals continuously exploiting email providers to spread malware and spam, it’s crucial that you’re on top of your email security and are doing what you can to safeguard your account.