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10 Tips for Secure Emailing and Texting

There’s nothing to be afraid of if you take the following precautions. They also happen to be free. :) It’s that simple.

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Guy at DefCon

A more tame attendee

Hi there!

I know we normally talk about fun stuff and creating your social platform online. But every now and then it’s time for a friendly kick in the pants about your security. Because I care. What’s that? You don’t think anybody cares about what little ole you is emailing or what they might do with your sensitive information?

Oh my my…

As somebody who attended the biggest black hat hacking conference in the world this summer, I promise you that lots of people are paying attention to what people email and text. I attended DefCon as a journalist, for research on an article coming out in Forbes. Can you imagine all 5’3″ of me, looking like somebody’s Mom, roaming the halls with guys like the one at the top of this post? Only he looks friendly and those guys were pretty intimidating at first. As I got to chat with a few I discovered that they’re smart people who are expert puzzle solvers and couldn’t find a place to work that would challenge them. The director of the NSA actually keynoted there, in hopes of recruiting talent. But I digress… ;)

There’s nothing to be afraid of if you take the following precautions. They also happen to be free. :) It’s that simple.

  1. Use Gmail, but use it via your browser (Safari, Firefox, Explorer, etc.), not a mail program like Outlook or Apple Mail. *(For more detail, check out my “Nerd Alert” at the bottom of this post.)

  2. Encrypt your email and texts. Search “Email Encryption”  to see which options most closely fit your needs. For example, I’m an Apple user, so I’m going to look for something up to date that works seamlessly with Apple. Look for testimonials in discussion forums that are elsewhere on the web, so you can get more of an unbiased opinion. ** Nerd Alert follows
  3. Kiss Yahoo goodbye – Debra Russell reports that their database was hacked including all the email passwords and little by little, they’ve been sold to spammers. Yahoo did nothing to protect you, including making sure you changed your password.
  4. Send email newsletters through a reputable service, like MailChimp or ConstantContact.
  5. This one comes via Mallie Hart: Send yourself an email – see what’s/who’s listed as the sender and make sure it’s your name or your company name. If it’s not a recognized name, most people will delete it fearing it’s spam or possible a virus/hack attempt. I get several “WORK Address” and “Home Account” sends each day. SIGH. 
  6. Use the email address provided by your Internet provider. For example, if you’re buying Internet access from Charter, your email address would be something like ImAwesome@Charter.net. If you use this address, others can’t send spam from your email address.
  7. Call with sensitive information like passwords, Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Numbers, etc. Where possible, call from a land line instead of a mobile phone.
  8. Google “Text Encryption” for your brand of phone to see which options look the most reliable. Again, look for third party reviews that look realistic. :)
  9. When you click “reply” on group emails, be positive it’s only going back to the people you want, not everybody.
  10. Check out Hushmail.com for a secure, free email account. It’s geek approved.  

Need more info about creating your online business and spreading the word about it online? Check out my book [amazon_link id=”1118338596″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Online Reputation Management For Dummies[/amazon_link]. :)

* Nerd Alert:

By default, Gmail is set to use HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), a secure protocol that provides authenticated and encrypted communication. When you see https in the url, it indicates that you are using SSL, which is a good thing. :)

For more information check out https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#inbox
 
** Nerd Alert
 
The easiest way to write an encrypted email message is to write it in a simple text editor such as word pad or textedit, save it,
and then encrypt the file.  Attach the file to the message as a mime attachment. And email it off… It’s really easier than it sounds, once you’ve done it a couple times.
 
Now I have to warn you, you can’t use an encryption method that is on the US no-export list.
Since the protected encryption mechanisms are considered a munition under law,
the use of one in a foreign country is currently considered a terrorist act and falls under all of the
“we’re going to ignore your rights since it’s terrorism” baloney.
 
 
Also locally some countries the possession of a encrypted file is a crime.  So you have to be careful of local laws when it comes to encryption. Lastly,  there have been many cases of windows machines in poor and totalitarian countries being enfected by keystroke loggers monitored by the local government. It even occurs in the US http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Lantern_(software) No amount of email encryption will get around this….
 

But the good news is that none of this will probably every apply to you. :) Thanks for visiting! Please scroll down below if you have any questions or stories to share about email and text security.  

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10 Responses to “10 Tips for Secure Emailing and Texting”

  1. If you authenticate through your email provider (gmail) or web host (if you’re using your domain email), you can stop people from spoofing (sending emails that look like they come from you).