A lot of people are likely unaware of just how large of a cybersecurity vulnerability their email represents. This is not to disrespect the good work of our favorite communications tool, but rather because even though it provides an amazing amount of functionality, email was never designed with security in mind.

So much so that many of us don't even realize how insecure our emails really are. With that in mind, below are some great ways to protect your email account from malware and hackers.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication for Added Security

Most email providers are now using two-factor authentication as their default, but if they aren't, you should turn it on. 2FA offers the additional security of requiring you to perform two different actions in order to log in: enter your password and press a verification key on an external device. Some providers offer this option for mobile devices, while others may require you to purchase a dedicated key fob or flash drive. If you really want to take your email encryption to the next level, you should really consider managed PKI. 

Two-factor authentication has saved many accounts from hacker attacks and phishing scams. When someone attempts to log in with your password, but without the verification key, they will be unable to access your account. Even if a hacker somehow manages to steal your password, they won't be able to log into your account without also stealing the device that is storing your authentication key.

Use a Strong Password that is Unique to Your Email Account

A strong password is the foundation of email security. While people can't guess your password if it's not simple to crack, they may still be able to gain access to your account by guessing or brute-forcing. To ensure that an attacker can't easily discover your password, you should make every attempt to include numbers and symbols in your password, as well as words that are hard for a computer to guess. Randomization is another good way to keep your password secure.

When you use a password manager to create and store all of your passwords, you only have to remember one complicated master password rather than dozens of weaker passwords for each website. Use a strong master password that is easy to remember, but difficult for others to guess.

Install Antivirus Software on Your Computer and Keep it Up-to-Date

Whether you are using a corporate laptop or an old PC at home, antivirus software can provide protection against malware that could potentially capture your keystrokes. You may also want to install anti-malware software if you frequently use public computers. A good antivirus will scan all incoming email messages and attachments for known viruses before they can enter your inbox.

Avoid Opening Attachments or Clicking Links in Emails from Unknown Senders

The number of data breaches that occur to both individuals and organizations could be greatly reduced if people only used a little more caution when opening emails and attachments. Emails that are sent by people you know will not contain any links or attachments unless they are expecting an urgent reply. An email from someone you don't know should only ever include a link if you requested to see their contact information or read more about them on their website.

Beyond the obvious security risks of opening an attachment, it is important to avoid this for design reasons as well. Your email client will not be able to display your signature file if you click a link before opening an attachment.

Regularly Scan Your Computer for Malware and Viruses

Don't ignore your computer's update advisory warnings. If your computer's operating system or application software isn't up-to-date, it will be less secure and more vulnerable to viruses and malware.

These updates are critical when it comes to all facets of online security, including email security. If your computer is old and you are having trouble keeping up with all of the required updates, you can purchase an antivirus program or upgrade to a newer computer.

Scan your computer for malware and viruses regularly so you can protect yourself against criminals who are attempting to hack into or take over your accounts. Scanning is a quick process that should only take a few minutes of your time each day, and it could save you from becoming yet another victim of cybercrime.

Back Up Your Email Messages and Contacts Regularly

Your email accounts contain many of the most important pieces of your life's history, but that doesn't mean they will always be safe. If your emails are ever lost due to a system failure, you can rest easy knowing that you have an up-to-date backup on another computer or cloud storage.

While hackers are able to access some information through the use of phishing programs, simply deleting your email messages won't do anything to protect you. The best thing you can do is make sure that all of your important information is regularly backed up so that you never lose it. This includes contacts, photos and other media files, as well as all of your emails.

In Conclusion

Things like two-factor authentication should not be considered an option, but rather the standard for email security. People who are serious about keeping their accounts safe will use this feature to protect themselves from hackers and other cybercriminals. Regularly scanning your computer for malware and viruses is crucial to protecting yourself against phishing attacks, as well as system failures that may cause you to lose important emails.

As long as you are backing up your contacts and other information on a daily basis, you can rest assured knowing that all of your data is safe no matter what happens.

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