Practice Safe Email with These Essential Tips

Written by Kristina Sink on Wednesday, January 14th 2015 — Categories: Security

In the business world, email continues to be the most widespread form of communication. While consumer email traffic has slowed due in part to preference of other forms of communication (i.e. social media sites, instant messaging, text messaging, etc.), business email traffic is soaring. According to the Email Statistics Report for 2014-2018 by The Radicati Group, 108.7 billion business emails were sent and received per day in 2014. That boils down to an average of 121 emails per user.

With this in mind, the question becomes how do we protect ourselves from the risk associated with this fundamental source of communication? After all, signing up for any online activity, whether it is social media sites, shopping, or banking, an email address is required. 


Prevent viruses, worms, and phishingprotect your hardware and data

A virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and acting in a detrimental way by corrupting your system or destroying data. Unfortunately, one of the most popular and easiest ways in which viruses are spread is through email.

A worm is also self-replicating; however, it is a computer program that infiltrates an operating system with the intent of spreading malicious code. Worms cause harm by consuming bandwidth, deleting files, or sending documents via email. It harnesses the infected user’s machine and contacts to send out copies of the original code to other computers. Usually, the user is completely unaware that these viral emails are being sent from their machine. Even more unnerving, some worms have the ability to spoof the From address into producing an email that looks like it is actually being sent by the user. This causes their contacts to have no idea of the threat until it’s too late, proving that knowing the sender is not enough proof that the email is safe.

Phishing is when a threat poses as a trustworthy entity and attempts to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. They can go as far as including real logos and brand colors in order to appear like they come from the actual organization. It can be tricky to spot a fake, so if you believe that the email has the possibility of being authentic, it’s better to call the company directly by obtaining their number off of a paper statement or invoice and proceeding to verify the email legitimacy with an authorized representative.

The use of antivirus software is not always enough in terms of complete protection; we need to take it upon ourselves to be diligent when it comes to our email safety. By only opening email from trusted sources, only opening attachments that are expected, utilizing the email preview options, and scanning attached files with antivirus software before opening, you can help protect your information and hardware from these malicious attacks.

Below are a few ways to spot a phishing email: (Click image for larger view)


How to spot a phishing email inforgraphic


Handling Spam

Spam refers to the unsolicited commercial advertisements that are distributed online trying to sell products or circulate internet hoaxes. It is a huge time waster, and will not only clog your email accounts, but also your networks and servers.

There are many ways to help reduce the amount of spam you receive and the risk that can be involved with it. First of all, you should be very cautious about where and with whom you post your email address. Maybe not every online shopping site needs it, especially if you are just browsing. Only subscribe to websites and newsletters that you actually need, and consider creating a generic email account for those specific subscriptions; this way you can keep your important emails separate.

If you do not know the vendor or you did not sign up to receive emails for them, that is considered unsolicited email, and you should never open it. It could be a scam, or there could be worms or viruses attached; if it was supplied without being requested, you shouldn’t open it. If you accidentally do open an email like this, do not click on any of the links offering to unsubscribe or remove you from the mailing list. Many email services have an option for reporting spam without having to open the message.



Email is not as safe and secure as many believe it to be. Remember to identify and understand the intent of the email and any attachments that may have come with it. Executable type attachments have the potential to be infected; they should never be opened unless you specifically requested or expected it. If you do not need the attachment or email, then do not open it, just delete it. Take steps to secure your mail client by enabling antivirus screening and remembering to always run your updates and patches for that system. Some mail clients provide update sites where you can have your system automatically scanned then receive a list of the specific updates needed.

Keep in mind that new susceptibilities are frequently discovered, so take precautions and keep your operating system up-to-date to help you combat these potential risks.