Could we live without email? Do we remember what life was like before email? Email has become a vital form of communication in today's world. At the same time, email can be one of the most dangerous forms of communication if you aren't careful. This document covers some of the security basics that you should practice while communicating via email.
Email Security Tips
- Never use email to send confidential information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or your Social Security number. If you do, don't be surprised when you find out there's someone else out there claiming to be you and racking up large bills in your name.
- Never respond to emails requesting confidential information. If the email appears to come from a site that you conduct business with, type the URL of the site into the browser yourself. Links in emails can point you to cleverly designed scam web sites that look like the real thing.
- Never open email attachments from strangers.
- Use virus protection software.
SPAM - What is it?
SPAM is the word used to describe unwanted email. The term is most often associated with Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), but it also applies to any other type of undesirable or unwanted commercial traffic.
SPAM Reduction Tips
- When you receive a UCE, delete it. Never click on links or open attachments associated with UCE.
- When you receive a UCE, do not reply. If you receive the option to "remove your address," do not do so unless the organization is reputable. This is commonly just a way for the originator to verify that your email address is still actively being used. If you request to be removed, your address may simply be resold to other UCE distributors.
- Never buy anything advertised in unsolicited email. Marketers use this method because it is effective. Companies pay bulk emailers to distribute this UCE; they will not continue to spend money on this advertising method unless it is effective.
- Use virus protection software. Viruses and worms are often used to turn home computers into distributors of SPAM without the owner ever knowing.
- Consider reporting SPAM to the FTC. Visit the FTC SPAM website for more information on SPAM and how to report it. http://www.ftc.gov/spam/
Currently the most effective method of virus delivery is through the use of email attachments. Virus developers use clever and mysterious subject lines and messages to peak the curiosity of users, causing them to open the attached virus file. Approaching each email attachment with suspicion and caution can save headaches, time, and money by avoiding virus infections and its consequences.
You should apply the following five tests to every piece of email, with an attachment, that you receive. If any test fails, don't open the attachment. If they all pass, then you still need to watch for unexpected / suspicious results when you read / open the email or attachment.
- The Know test: Is the email from someone that you know?
- The Received test: Have you received email from this sender before?
- The Expect test: Were you expecting email with an attachment from this sender?
- The Sense test: Does email from the sender, with the contents described in the Subject line, and the name of the attachment(s) make sense? For example, would you expect the send - let's say your mother - to send you an email message with the Subject line Here you have, ;o) that contains a message with attachment - IAnnaKournikova.jpg.vbs? A message like that probably doesn't make sense, but it happens to be an instance of the Anna Kournikova virus, and opening the attachment can damage your computer.
- The Virus test: Does this email contain a virus? To determine this, you need to install, maintain, and use an anti-virus program at all times.
Make sure you have reputable virus protection software installed on your computer. If you don't have virus protection software, just don't use email until you install one -- you'll save yourself and others a lot of headaches.
Need virus protection software for your computer? Virus protection software is available at most stores that sell computer hardware and software. You may also purchase it online from a variety of sources - just make sure it is a legitimate source. Some of the more popular virus protection software companies include McAfee, Symantec / Norton, Computer Associates, Kaspersky, Trend Micro, and Microsoft. There are many out there - do your homework and find the best product for your needs.
Based on material provided by EDUCAUSE and The University of Oklahoma.