Typically we think of our bank and financial accounts as being the most important accounts that we want to protect. But where does your bank or credit card link back to? Your email. Email truly is the gateway to your most valued and private information. When you reset your password for any site – of high value or low — it goes to your email. If a hacker has control of your email, they can reset nearly any account that you have. So don’t skimp when it comes to your email just because you’re worried about losing or not having access. The alternative of having your email hacked is much worse! To step up your email security and make it hacker proof, start with these four tips:
1. Create a really strong password
It’s literally the key to nearly everything in your life, so the password to your email should be unique. You should never reuse passwords, especially when it comes to your email. Think of it like a key. Say you live in an apartment building with 50 units. What if your landlord gave the same key to all 50 tenants? That would be crazy, and you should think of reusing passwords as being equally crazy.
Besides being unique, make sure your password is random, long, and complicated. Complicated doesn’t to mean unrecognizable or not memorable. Think of a phrase that you can remember, like “Blue dogs win tall pizza” and make it complicated, with uppercase letters and symbols, so it becomes something like “Blu3d0g$W!nTA//p!zz@”. That password is certainly random (blue dogs!) It’s long with 19 characters, and it’s quite complicated for someone to hack, but is definitely easier for you to remember if needed.
2. Add two-factor authentication (2FA)
Two checkpoints are better than one, right? That’s the point of 2FA, which means that even if someone hacks into your email account, they would need your second device of choice (usually your smartphone) before they’re granted access. Visit the settings in your email provider and check out the options for two-factor. It only takes a few minutes to setup and you can make it easier by specifying to ‘trust’ certain devices, like your own phone, so it’s less hassle for you and un-hackable by others.
3. Outsmart security questions
Many hackers use information that they already know about you, like your mother’s maiden name or pet’s name, to recover your password and hack into your accounts. Avoid this by not using security questions for their original purpose. Use fake answers to those questions, spell the real answer backwards, or just write something random.
4. Take precautions outside your email
There are many things you can do beyond your email that will help secure it. First up – the devices where you access your email. Make sure you have a passcode (the longer, the better) on your phone and tablet, and a password on your computer, so there is yet another barrier to accessing your email. Next, let’s address the browsers where you log into your email. In case someone gets to your computer while it’s unlocked, change the settings on your browser so that closing the browser windows logs you out of accounts, rather than keeping you logged in.
Think of your email as the castle and you need to do everything you can to protect it. Start with these four steps, which won’t take much more than an hour of your day to setup. Also consider signing up for a password manager, if you haven’t already. This gives you a safe place to store that unique and very long email password you just created – and do the same for all of your other accounts, which will ultimately leave you less likely to be hacked.