Do you take your Internet safety for granted? If you’re like most people, you probably have the “it won’t happen to me” attitude. But after my previous blogpost, 5 steps to take after your email gets hacked, I for one think differently. I fully believe if we don’t take steps to protect ourselves online, we are setting ourselves up for a potential disaster.
It’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways you can lock down your email account. In fact, I’ve put together 10 things you can do right now to ensure your online presence is kept safe and secure.
- Keep your password private. This is important. The number one way hackers gain access to your email account is by knowing (or guessing) your password. Keep this information as private and secure as you would your social insurance number.
- Create strong passwords. Don’t use your pet’s name or your child’s name. The more complex your password, the more difficult it is for hackers to crack. Different websites will have different parameters in terms of password length etc. It’s best to combine upper case and lower case letters along with numbers and symbols such as &, %. Alternatively, you could use words or phrases combined with numbers.
- Use different passwords for different websites. Don’t reuse the same password over and over again. This makes it way too easy for the bad guys because it gives them access to all your private sites with one password. If you’re like me and can’t remember all these different passwords, consider using a password manager like LastPass. For more information on this, check out my blog: How to take control of your passwords.
- Close old and unused email addresses. Why? Because spammers can hack in and use it for days, weeks or months without you ever knowing they are sending spam to your contact list.
- Remove emails that reference password information to your private websites. This is a gateway through which hackers can gain information to a bunch of your private information. Do a quick search of your mailbox using the term passwords. Delete or file these emails on your computer hard drive.
- Proceed with caution when providing your email address. Give your email address only to people and organizations you trust. The bad guys are sneaky. Some of them set up websites for the sole purpose of sending out malware or spyware.
- Set up a secondary email account. Sign up for free email accounts with Yahoo!, Gmail or Hotmail. Use these accounts only for making online purchases, signing up for private websites or subscribing to newsletters. This is an added layer of protection for keeping your main email address safe.
- Avoid checking emails on a public machine. This is risky, because you never know what kind of spyware may have been installed on the computer
- Don’t click on links that seem suspicious. Even if you receive an email from a friend, if it seems at all suspicious to you, don’t click on it. Call or email them and ask about it. This also applies to Facebook, Twitter or any other method used to send a link to you.
- Never post your private email address online. That means in forums, guest books, blogs or on a website. Spammers are tricky and they use robots to scour the Internet collecting email addresses they can sell. Always use the free account I mentioned in number 7.
Securing your email account will keep you one step ahead of the Internet bad guys … and that is a very good place to be!
Do you follow any of these preventative measures? How do you protect your email account from hackers? Leave your comments below and continue the conversation.