The Secret Sauce to Safer Emails: Email Security Best Practices

Hello, digital wanderer! 🚀 If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at yet another “important message about our privacy policy update” email from IT guys (seriously, how many times can they update it?), then you’re in the right place because we will help you understand the importance of securing email. While those updates might be snooze-worthy or irritating because of their constant supply, your email security is definitely not. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of “I totally get it” and “I’ve got this,” then welcome aboard!

Why Email Security Matters 📫

Emails are like digital pigeons, but instead of carrying notes to your address, they could carry potential threats in email envelops. And those threats can seriously compromise your digital life with fallout to your real life. We’re talking malware, phishing schemes, and hackers out to snag your secret brownie recipe (okay, maybe not that, but your personal data for sure!).

International Standards Weigh In 🌍

Now, if you are not convinced about the critical need for email security, you’ve got to look at international standards. The ISO/IEC 27001, for instance, is the Beyoncé of information security standards. It’s globally recognized and prescribes standard controls to ensure businesses keep their data safe (read your data). Think of it as the VIP club rules for data protection.

And guess what? It’s got guidance that we can directly relate to our everyday email habits and the email security best practices that we will recommend. So, without further ado, let’s break down the best practices in line with these high standards.

1. Use Strong, Unique Passwords 🔐

You know how they say ‘size matters’? Well, when it comes to passwords, it truly does! But it’s not just about the length; the complexity of your email password counts, too, for the security of your email.

ISO Guidance: According to ISO/IEC 27001, password management is critical to overall information security. It advises using a mix of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters.

Your Action: You need to immediately Ditch ‘password123’ and opt for something more complex and longer password like ‘Br0wn!3_Fudg3’. Also, avoid using the same password across multiple sites. Trust me, it’s a recipe for disaster because one compromise, which eventually will happen, will put all of your accounts on other sites at risk too.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) 🚦

Think of 2FA as that second lock on your door, which will act as a second line of defence if one lock is somehow broken into. It’s that additional “Are you really you?” check.

ISO Guidance: Multi-factor authentication is recommended for higher assurance of user identity.

Your Action: It is preferable to activate 2FA on your email account. Typically, this means when you sign in to your email, you’ll receive a code on your phone or a 2-factor authentication app that you’ll need to enter. It’s like having a bouncer for your inbox that stands on the door to ensure that only you can enter your email.

3. Beware of Phishy Emails 🎣

We all receive suspicious emails that might promise us millions without any work or claim to be from our bank, asking for personal details by scaring us that our bank account will be closed if we don’t click on the link given in the email. Here’s the deal: Don’t bite!

ISO Guidance: ISO/IEC 27001 emphasizes the importance of user awareness. That means being informed about potential threats.

Your Action: It is critical that before clicking on anything (links, pictures or any other clickable URL), hover over these links in the email to see where they lead. If in doubt, directly contact the organization if they have sent you that particular email. Remember, banks and legit companies won’t ask for passwords or personal details via email. They will also not unilaterally approach you to correct your account etc, without you being informed.

4. Keep Software Updated 🛡️

You know those annoying “time to update” notifications? There’s a method to the madness because updates are pushed to keep your email secure.

ISO Guidance: Regularly updating and patching systems is part of the standard’s guidance for secure information systems.

Your Action: If you want to ensure your email is not compromised, don’t ignore software updates, especially for your email client and operating system. They often contain security patches to help plug the insecure code discovered in the software. Think of it as feeding your digital guard dog. If you keep it hungry, it will get sleepy and let hackers intrude in more easily. 

5. Encrypt Sensitive Emails 💌

Encrypting emails is like sending your message in a secret language that only you and the recipient can understand.

ISO Guidance: Encryption is highly recommended, especially for confidential information.

Your Action: Not every email needs to be encrypted, but if the data you want to send is sensitive, then use email platforms that offer end-to-end encryption, which will add a layer of encryption security to your email message.

6. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi for Important Emails ☕

Public Wi-Fi in coffee shops or airports is convenient but think twice before accessing your email on these. They can be extremely risky because hackers are lurking on the open Wi-Fi networks to steal your sensitive information like passwords and bank details etc.

ISO Guidance: The ISO standard stresses the importance of secure communications.

Your Action: If you are connected to a public Wi-Fi network, avoid the temptation of checking sensitive emails. Always try to check your email on a network which is private and which you can trust. If you must, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to add a layer of protection.

7. Regularly Review Account Activity 🕵️

Just like you’d check your home for any signs of a break-in, occasionally glance over your email’s activity log. See which devices and locations have been trying to access your email. 

ISO Guidance: Regularly review and monitor system activity.

Your Action: Familiarize yourself with the recent activity feature of your email. Most email services give you that information. During review, if you spot any unfamiliar devices or locations that have accessed your email, it’s time to change that password! But don’t stop here, also try to track the path that was used to break into your email and path that. 

8. Backup Your Emails 📦

Backups are life-saving for digital life. Just as you’d keep a copy of your treasured photos, back up your emails, too in case of use when a disaster strikes and you lose access to your email. If you do this and anything goes south, you’re not left in the lurch.

ISO Guidance: Information backup is a core aspect of ISO/IEC 27001 to ensure data availability.

Your Action: Many email clients provide the option to back up email. Use built-in backup features in email platforms, and if it does not provide its own backup feature, consider third-party tools. Remember, the backups in the cloud are your friend, but local backups can be lifesavers, too.

9. Use Anti-Malware Software 🛡️

Do you know what are the digital world’s mosquitoes? Malware. They’re pesky, and you don’t want them anywhere near you because they are trying their hard to break into your computers and hack your email.  

ISO Guidance: Malware protection mechanisms are essential as per the ISO guidelines.

Your Action: Install a reputed anti-malware software and set it to scan your emails (and attachments) automatically. It is even more important to keep the anti-malware definitions updated because older definitions of anti-virus have open doors for malware. 

10. Educate & Train 💡

If you’re running a business, you make your best efforts to ensure everyone on your team is up to speed. An informed team is a cyber-secure team! 

ISO Guidance: ISO/IEC 27001 recommends regular awareness programs and training sessions.

Your Action: As a business leader, conduct regular workshops or training sessions about phishing threats, password policies, and other email-related risks. Even if you are an individual, keep learning about digital security and the latest recommendations on securing email. 

11. Limit Email Retention 🗑️

It is not easy to let go of older emails. Don’t hoard your emails. You don’t need that promotional email from 2008, unless absolutely important.

ISO Guidance: Data retention policies should align with security and privacy requirements.

Your Action: Regularly clean out your inbox, sent items, and trash. You may also like to set retention policies if you’re using email platforms that offer this feature. With this feature, your older emails will be auto-archived. 

12. Disable Automatic Downloads of Email Attachments 📎

Some malware gets activated just by downloading an email attachment. This is the reason that you should be extra cautious about email attachments. 

ISO Guidance: Restricting auto-download features minimizes potential exposure to malicious software.

Your Action: Go to your email settings and disable automatic downloads of attachments if these have been enabled. It is absolutely critical that you only download attachments from sources you trust, and when in doubt, scan them before opening these attachments.

13. Think Before Granting Email App Permissions 🚫

Many third-party apps request permission to access your emails for various features. You don’t have to grant access unless required by you. Be choosy!

ISO Guidance: Managing user access and ensuring only necessary permissions are granted is a key aspect of ISO standards.

Your Action: As a responsible and cautious email user, periodically review apps that have access to your email and revoke unnecessary permissions when not needed anymore. Remember, less is more when it comes to securing emails.

14. Customize Spam Filters ⚠️

Spam emails are so pesky, and most of these are out to steal your information or data. Max out on the benefits of spam filters that all email clients and services offer. They’re like your email’s guardian angels that alert you about risky emails.

ISO Guidance: Employing filtering mechanisms reduces exposure to threats.

Your Action: Tweak the spam filter settings of your email provider for maximum protection. When a spam email still makes its way to your inbox, flag suspicious emails as spam to train the filter better.

15. Use a Secure Email Service 🌐

There are countless email services. Not everyone deserves to host your emails. Consider email platforms that prioritize security features over fancy aesthetics.

ISO Guidance: Ensuring data protection through the selection of service providers is a core recommendation.

Your Action: Research and opt for email services known for strong encryption, rigorous privacy policies, and a good track record.

Wrapping it up 🎁

Securing your email isn’t just a one-and-done deal because it’s an ongoing process. With hackers getting smarter and always trying new tools and through newly discovered security holes, we’ve got to be two steps ahead in securing our emails. Fortunately, with these international-standard-backed best practices for securing email, you’re well on your way to being an email security ninja!

Whether it’s your personal email filled with cherished memories or your professional one with critical work data, every email account deserves top-notch security. Remember, it’s always better to be proactive than reactive. Happy emailing!

Stay safe, and keep those digital pigeons flying high! 🐦✨

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