By this point, people on both sides of the aisle are sick of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the arguments about the impact it should or shouldn’t have on her presidential candidacy. Regardless of your political opinions, however, the constant news coverage has emphasized at least one fact that is true for politicians and the general public alike: it’s important to keep your email secure.
While you likely aren’t sending communications that might include state secrets through your own email account, you probably still have some very sensitive information stored in your digital messages; access to your financial accounts, user names, passwords, medical records, and simple, private correspondence are only a few of the types of information that could be at risk if your email account is compromised.
There are several practices you can follow in order to make this sensitive information more secure, and when it comes to personal information, every little bit helps. Here are just a few suggestions of things you can do to keep your email just a little bit more safe:
Use a secure password
You have probably heard this one several times before, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. Your password is your first line of defense, and while it may be tempting to use a short password that is easy to remember, the convenience is simply not worth the risk. Even if you’re not using one of the most common passwords—”123456” and “password” have been in the top slots for years—most people’s passwords could stand to be a bit more secure. Common words, or words followed by a couple of digits, are simple for programs to brute force their way past.
The more complex your password, the more secure it will be. Don’t worry if it seems difficult to remember at first, either. Eventually, you’ll get used to typing it in and won’t even have to think about it.
Use multiple email accounts for different purposes
Chances are that you communicate through email for several different reasons, whether they’re personal or work-related. Perhaps you are a student who needs to communicate with your professors and classmates regularly. It’s a good idea to keep separate email accounts for different types of communication.
Think of it this way: one of the first lessons you learn about investing money is to diversify your assets. That way, if something bad happens to one of the funds into which you have put your money, you don’t lose everything. The same concept applies here. If someone breaks into one of your email accounts and you’ve been following secure practices, they won’t have access to everything.
Avoid using the same password across accounts
It’s smart to have different passwords for each of your accounts, as well. After all, if someone cracks your password and you use the same password across all of your accounts, then they essentially have gotten access to each of them. Keep your passwords for each account you use distinct from one another.
Tomorrow in part 2 of this article, we’ll look at more ways to make sure you conduct your email business the right way.
~ Carol Evenson
Carol Evenson is a business consultant specializing in cybersecurity and data management. She has worked with Fortune 1000 companies and currently assists organizations within the US and UK.