Let’s just take a minute and think about all the information that comes to your inbox. Whether it's messages from family members or offers from your favorite stores, there is a lot someone could learn about you by reading your emails.
“There’s a lot of damage that can be done when someone gets access to your email account,” said Mike Nelson, Midco IT Infrastructure Manager. “To log in to your bank account, you have a password. If you need to reset that password, what do you use? Your email. If someone knows what bank you use and they get access to your email account, they can log in to your email account, reset your password and have access to your bank account.”
But it’s not just your information at risk if your email account is hacked.
“Let’s say your mom gets an email from you saying, ‘Look at this!’, and attached is a link,” explained Nelson. “She clicks on it because she thinks it’s from you, but in reality, it’s a phishing attempt.”
While there may be a lot of potential dangers that come with email communications, fear not! Check out some of the ways you can protect yourself.
Keeping your passwords safe and secure is the main purpose of email account encryption. Without encryption, every time you hit send and receive on your email, you are essentially sending your password across the internet on a sticky note for anyone to read.
“You might think, ‘Well, how can people read my password?’” said Nelson. “But if you’re at a place that has shared Wi-Fi, like an airport or coffee shop, hackers can jump on that same shared Wi-Fi as you and get your password if you don’t have that encryption on.”
Depending on the type of email account you have, you might have encryption already built in.
“If you are using a web-based email, like Gmail or Hotmail, and you are using the web interface, those are already encrypted,” explained Nelson. “If you have an Outlook client or a Thunderbird client, anything that is an application instead of going to the website, that’s when you’re going to want to make sure your encryption settings are checked.”
It may sound like a complicated process. Activating encryption on your application-based email account is actually incredibly simple – and incredibly effective in protecting your personal information.
“Look in the settings,” instructed Nelson. “There will be a box that says use SSL or TLS. You’ll want to have those boxes checked. That means you are using encryption.”
Encryption on Midco email accounts
If you have a Midco email account, installing encryption is simple. Check out our easy-to-follow instructions to encrypt your connection for a variety of devices.
Scammers and hackers are becoming smarter – and, sadly, more prevalent. That means you must be extra careful about what you’re clicking.
“Be aware that when something feels wrong, it probably is,” reminded Nelson. “When you’re looking at emails, look at the address, not just the name. It’s really easy for me to set up an email address and put my name as John Smith. And if that’s your friend’s name, you might not look at the address it’s coming from.”
So, before you click on any links, verify who sent them. Text or call the person you think sent the email to double-check. Spelling mistakes and incorrect punctuation are also a giveaway that something might not be right.
Really examine the link they are trying to send you to, as well. They might ask you a question that compels you to click, like "Do you remember the people in this picture?" It can be so tempting, but what seems like an innocent stroll down memory lane could land you with malware.
Your password gives you – and anyone with it – access to a lot of information. That’s why having a strong one is essential. But according to Nelson, one good password won’t cut it.
“People think they’ll just make one really good password and use it everywhere,” said Nelson. “The bad thing is that once that one password gets compromised in one spot, it gets compromised everywhere. If they get your email password, you might have given them the password for a bunch of other things.”
Nelson recommends having strong passwords for all your different logins. And then, make sure to change them out at least once a year.
Cyber security can seem like a daunting topic. It’s important to talk about it with your friends and family to help make sure you can enjoy everything the internet has to offer.