Is email really safe?

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With email servers and security being talked about in the media (ad nauseam), you might feel like email can’t entirely be trusted. But is that perception based in reality?

Micke, from F-Secure, points out that, “Email is one of the old-school services that we still use today. It was created during an era when the whole Internet was a trusted and secure environment, and cyber crime was science fiction.”

At that time, the email exchange protocols didn’t really have security, largely because there wasn’t a need. Today, the world and the Internet are much different. We live in the era of Edward Snowden revelations, Anonymous hackers, and cyber criminals.

Micke says all of this has led to, “one of the most rapid change processes in Internet’s history, the deployment of encryption. The core email transfers still have glaring security flaws, but we are using protection at other layers. So the question about email security is not that simple anymore.”

But here’s the rub: much of your email’s security doesn’t come from outside sources. Modern-day encryption and protocols can only do so much—the rest of the buck stops with you.

Here are seven simple things you can do to help keep your email safe:

  1. Keep your device clear of malware and spyware. F-Secure says, “crooks may get access to your email by using spyware on your device.”  Make sure your devices stay clean with up-to-date antivirus software.

  3. Clean out your inbox and your trash. If you’re good about deleting emails, make sure you’re emptying your trash. And if you’re not good about getting rid of emails you don’t need or that contain important information, you should start cleaning house. A virtual trash can is just like one in real life – the items sit until you empty it, leaving the information available if your account was ever compromised.

  5. Don’t send certain kinds of information. AllClearID says, “Don’t send your Social Security number, your driver’s license number, account numbers, passwords, etc. in an email, even if you know and trust the recipient.” If you need to communicate this info to someone, use the phone. It’s old school, but it’s more secure.

  7. Never take the sender of an email at face value. It’s easy to fake an email that looks like it’s from a company or someone you know. Spam filters often catch some scams, but not all. If you need a refresher on spotting a phishing scam, here are some tips.

  9. Don’t click the link! If you get an email that only contains a link, don’t click on it. It’s a common sign of spam coming from a compromised account (and it likely contains malware).

  11. Choose a strong password. Yeah, we keep nagging you about this, but it’s true. A good password is a solid “virtual combination lock” that will help protect your account. And, don’t use the same password more than once. If you do, it’s you’re using the same, exact, lock and combination on everything important.

  13. If complete and total security is key, switch services. If you’re sending top-secret stuff, F-Secure recommends switching to an email service designed for it. As you might expect, there’s a lot info available on the net about the advantages and disadvantages of each application.

By following these steps, you’re tipping the odds in your favor that your email will stay secure.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids.

One Response to Is email really safe?

  1. Elizabeth Barrett December 20, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

    I appreciated your tips about making my email more secure. Thank you. Elizabeth

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