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Friday, 21 September 2012

Email security

We are all born as innocent babies; life then makes us less naïve. For some strange reason, what becomes our inherent suspicion all too often does not extend to the Internet.

 

If you met someone in the street for the first time and they promised you the world, it is unlikely that you would continue the conversation. A polite 'goodbye' may well be the best that you could manage.

 

On the Internet, we are plagued by unbelievable promises... and the reason we are is that many people fall into the (honey) trap. Hopefully, none of you are being tempted by the 'please help me transfer these funds' kind of emails; these were prevalent a few years ago but seem to be few and far between nowadays.

 

Whatever security you set up for your email, it will not be perfect. If you are too draconian in your approach and automatically delete all 'unwanted' email using some spam filter, you will undoubtedly also (occasionally) miss a genuine message from a friend or colleague.

 

So, here are a few suggestions for protecting yourself whilst not missing out on genuine communications.

 

  • Set up a spam filter. There are lots of free ones available for all operating systems; just Google 'spam filter' and make your choice. I use SpamBayes which has a version for many email clients, is easy to use, free and is trained by you (believe me, this is a big advantage; would you let someone else train your dog?).
  • Some emails are obviously spam, even if they get through your spam filter. Do not delete them immediately (yes, I really meant to write that). Firstly, tell your spam filter that the email is junk. That way, you are training your filter.
  • Just because an email seems to come from a 'trusted' email address does not mean that it comes from who you think it does; spammers can (and do) hijack email addresses.
  • Do not ever open an attachment to an email unless it is from a trusted source, on a topic that you expect (the email, that is), and you have no reason to be suspicious. If it fails any of these criteria, treat it as spam, before you infect your PC with a virus… and can then spend a frustrating time deleting it.
  • If you receive an email asking you for personal information (including passwords), do not reply. Instead, forward it to the organisation from which it purports to originate, asking them whether it is genuine or spam (it will possibly be fairly obvious so, couch your message in appropriate terms).
  • If there is a link in an email you receive do not click on it until you are sure of the provenance. Just because you see 'Facebook' in blue does not mean that the link is back to Facebook (or whatever). Hover over the link to see the target, or copy the link to your notepad to see where it is taking you. Do not be satisfied that the target site is genuine just because the word 'Facebook' is part of the path.

Spammers are ever more resourceful and the 'quality' of their mailings is ever improving… be very careful and remember one golden rule:

 

If it looks too good to be true then, that's exactly what it is… untrue.

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