Take a hint from Beyoncé and secure your email data

Getting in touch with Beyoncé isn’t an easy task, but Ed Sheeran recently revealed that he had managed to arrange a recording session with the singer. So why is Beyoncé so hard to get hold of? One of the reasons is that the pop superstar changes her email address every week.

Beyoncé’s precautionary move may be excessive, but anyone who does not take cybersecurity seriously could be in trouble.

Five tips for securing your email account

  1. Keep more than one email account – most email accounts are hubs for social media notifications, website registrations, newsletters, private messages, etc. Limiting your email accounts increases the chance that, if a breach were to occur, criminal hackers would gain access to more of your personal data.Register several accounts and categorize them according to purpose, e.g. one email for personal finances, another for friends and family correspondence, etc.
  1. Create a strong, unique password – after you’ve created multiple accounts, make sure you keep a separate password for each one. Consider the following guidelines:
  • Use a minimum password length
  • Include complex combinations of lowercase and uppercase alphabetic characters, numbers, and symbols
  • Don’t use easy-to-remember words or personally identifiable information, e.g. birthdays – criminal hackers may be able to gain access to that information and infiltrate your email account
  • Consider using a random password generator
  • Update your password frequently
  1. Beware of phishing scams cyber criminals posing as legitimate companies create fake emails to gain access to personal information. The bogus email will contain a ‘bad’ link that, once clicked, installs malicious software onto your computer to access and steal confidential information.The link may navigate to a fake and poorly designed web page mimicking a real company. Cyber criminals also use social engineering to convince victims to click bad links and/or provide personal information such as logins and passwords. Clues that an email is part of a phishing scam include:
  • Poor spelling and/or grammar
  • Suspicious-looking email links – roll over links to see where they go. If the link is different from the address displayed, the message is probably malicious
  • Threats – if you receive a warning that your account will be suspended unless you update your profile information, proceed with caution. Netflix was a victim of such a phishing scam that targeted millions of subscribers
  1. Beware of unsolicited attachments – only open one if you are expecting it. If the email is unsolicited, never open it. Filenames can be masked, e.g. a JPG could be an EXE file in disguise. EXEs will run as soon as they’re downloaded and can infect your computer with a virus.
  1. Install a malware and virus scanner – Err on the side of caution with suspicious emails and run a malware and virus scanner. Avast offers a free antivirus solution.
  1. Protect your physical hardware – Using Wi-Fi – particularly public Wi-Fi – isn’t always safe. Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) is a security standard for users with wireless Internet connections. It provides data encryption and user authentication. Using some encryption is better than using none, so keep a WPA key handy to protect your wireless Internet connection. WPA2 is the current standard, which provides more advanced encryption.