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Email Security

Articles in this series:
Email How-tos

How to set up your Email software and configure it

Email Etiquette and Rules

Email Security

Emails with Emotional Zap!

Email Security

Policies You can Set for Your Email Security
You may hear scary stories of failed email security; these may make you hesitant to use your email. But there are simple things you can do to protect yourself, for most problems are caused by our own stupid actions. But you need to be consistent with your email polices on your computer, or wherever you have authority. Viruses come as attachments to emails, so set wise rules for how you deal with attachments. Train yourself, and others under you, to resist the temptation to click on unknown files. Read and understand what you are dealing with, just for starters.

Memorize or even Post on Your Wall these Basic Security Rules:

1. Do NOT read emails or open attachments from strangers. Viruses and malicious software come as attachments, often with an extension like .exe, meaning it is an executable file (It can do things, or cause things to happen).

2. Check out someone before you sign up for their mailing list or ezine - but even then, be cautious.

3. Do NOT respond to financial offers or sweet deals that come to you unsolicited. That is SPAM! Unsolicited. Do not encourage it!

4. Do NOT click on links that promise something fascinating to see if you do not know/trust the sender. Such links can lead to traps.

5. Do NOT respond to emails that ask for confidential financial information like your credit card or bank account numbers. (PayPal and other honourable financial companies NEVER ask you to put this in an email, only enter such information on a secure site - recognized by https:// (note the s) in the address bar, and the closed padlock in your browser).

6. Do NOT forward an email that came unsolicited. Remember, you should not even be reading it!

7. Do NOT send personal emails from your business account. This protects your business as well as your email address.

Personally, I now create a separate email address (or several) for each website, and each area or topic of connecting with people. That way, if one address is compromised and gets dumps of SPAM, I only have to create a new address, delete the old, and notify just those people involved in that area of my life of the address change. If I know who is responsible for all the junk mail I started getting, I make sure that person does NOT get the new address.

Email Security Software

If you are still using a Windows Operating system, I suggest that at the very least, you install the free AVG anti-virus program. It is considered far better than Nortons, and some others. They are often installed by default on your computer, but after 30 days you are to pay them or they disable the software. But even the paid versions have been found to be less reliable than the free AVG.

When you are ready to switch to a Linux system you will find there are many other email security software programs. Some are built in to programs like my KMail, and some I can add if I think I need them. Personally, just applying those basic rules above is generally satisfactory for me.

One thing I do for all of my domain emails is to enable Spam Assassin in the cPanel to the website. That screens and filters out a lot of spam and can be set to varying degrees of strength in email security.

As for keeping your email security up to date, I believe AVG now does that automatically whenever you go online, so you don't have to do anything manually, unless you have disabled that feature. In the Linux world, I watch a certain icon in my toolbar, and when it indicates that there are security updates available, I log in and give it permission to do the updates. There is nothing hard about this, except to perhaps give the go-ahead when it seeks your permission to update.

The main thing is to keep up regular security habits and to insist that others who may share your computer have to do the same. If you have children who are willy-nilly downloading music and videos and others files or software from who-knows-where on the internet, you can expect your computer to seize up on you sooner or later, and to come down with a virus that slows down your computer at the tamest end of the spectrum, or can do things as serious as wiping out your hard drive completely.

In that regard it is also important to schedule regular backups of your files. Once a week might be enough, but if you have several people using your computer and you don't know how well they are following the email security rules you set out, then it would be wise to do a backup every day. Set a certain time, keep CDs, DVDs, or a USB stick on hand and you can get this going in a minute, and then turn away to do something else for a few minutes so you are not trying to use your computer while doing the backup.

You might make a rule that the last person to use the computer at night has to do a backup while they go to brush their teeth or raid the fridge one last time. Or perhaps even better, make it a rule that whoever turns on the computer in the morning or comes to it first, has to do a backup before being allowed to use the computer.

For a time I used to copy every email I wanted to save, first to the hard drive, and then to a floppy disk. But I may have been a bit paranoid at that time because I had lost a big batch.

If you are still having email security problems, I suggest you do more research online and find out about things like IMAP (vs. Pop accounts) and cryptography where you set up Open PGP encryption keys, and SIMIME signing and encryption certificates. There would be a learning curve to setting those up, but it is possible to have very, very secure email systems on your computer.

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Ruth Marlene Friesen

Ruth Marlene Friesen
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