Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 10 Email Safety Tips

Today email security has become a main concern for businesses, due to the emergence of spam, viruses, phishing and identity theft. More than ever companies are feeling the need to secure their business information. The following tips bring more awareness about common emails threat and how to deal with them. However a lot of those issues can be resolved with the support of an email hosting provider.

1. Secure Passwords

Email passwords must be at least 6 characters long, however 8 or more characters are recommended. Email passwords must be case sensitive and contain letters, numbers and can contain most upper ASCII characters like "&" or "%"). As a general rule, secure passwords should contain a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and at least one number or upper ASCII character. The password should not be easy to guess as well. A common mistake is to use the company's name in the password. IT administrators normally have to setup the password policy on their own email server, however some email hosting providers have predefined password policies for their customers.

2. Regular change of passwords

It is recommended to change passwords at least every 60 days particularly if your users currently use and manage emails on public computers. It is common that public computers are infected with spyware that record every word that users are typing. Therefore a regular change of password is highly recommended. Some email hosting providers commonly provide automatic change of password for their users.

Ensure that your email accounts are protected by industry leading anti-virus technology that is updated every hour against the latest virus threats. It is also highly recommended to install and maintain good and well-respected anti-virus software on your computer to prevent infection from USB drives, CDs or DVDs and so on. It is also better to scan all attachments with a virus program before downloading/executing any, even if they come from someone you know.

4. Use of Spam Filters Software

Spam-filters help avoiding spam emails to get into your inboxes or flag spam emails as such so that you are aware of them.

Depending on the software and configuration some spam filters can automatically eliminate junk emails and block web bugs that track your activity and system information. Some email hosting providers offer these services as part of your package deal. Rackspace for example guarantees its customers to get a "premium spam filtering and antivirus solution, eliminating most of unwanted email before it ever reaches your inbox.

5. Never reply or unsubscribe to spam emails

If it happens that a few spamming mails were still able to sneak in, make it a must to delete all of them. Replying or attempting to unsubscribe to junk emails typically only informs the sender that they have found an active email address to send more spam emails.

6. Do not provide sensitive information

Never give out sensitive personal or account information to someone that asks via email unless you have verified the message's authenticity. Common email scams employ email messages and even websites that look official, but are in fact attempts to steal your identity to commit fraud. Also beware of email hoaxes that not only spread misinformation, but also bog down networks as unsuspecting users forward them like spam. Be wary of signing up to free newsletters. Most bona-fide UK businesses adhere to anti-spam guidelines and legislation, but some dubious sites hosted elsewhere may not think twice about selling your email address to a spammer.

7. Remember to logout

Always logout of your email whether it is a web mail or a POP mail after finishing using them, it is also recommended to log-out whenever you have to leave your computer unattended for a considerable period of time.

8. Use up-to-date software

It is safer to use the most up-to-date Internet software (e.g. latest browser version of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari). More recent versions often offer enhanced security protection.

9. Secure Networks

In general corporate networks and Internet service providers (ISPs) are protected by network administrators who watch for possible security breaks and take action to shield users from hackers. Although we may think the risk is less, it is recommended to use caution when using emails on any unusual network. Use stations maintained by sources you trust, or ask if the Internet terminal you are using is protected against security break-ins.

10. Use automatic reply only when needed.

It is savvy to turn-off any automatic replies in your email client saying that an email has been read or received, because this confirms that the email address is a good one. Spammers will then target your email in priority and flood your inbox with spam mails even more .

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