It is safe to say it seems that most people have at least one email address, perhaps even a work email and a personal email address.
With businesses often using email as their primary internal and external communication method, data is constantly being exposed as it is shared across the internet within those messages.
Not only that, but when information is shared across email messages, it also becomes stored within account inboxes.
This information stored within email accounts is a treasure chest to hackers and leaves the accounts vulnerable to data breaches.
To ensure that sensitive information stays confidential, businesses need to ask themselves the question: Are emails private?
And should the answer be no, then how do businesses secure their accounts from data breaches?
Are emails private?
We typically assume that all our emails are private and that they are only read by ourselves and the intended recipient, but are they really? In this digital age, emails are a fast and convenient method for sending files across to clients and colleagues, and often little thought is given to whether or not the email has gotten into the wrong hands.
Hackers are aware of how much information is stored and sent in emails. Using phishing methods, viruses to gain access to your email account, or by intercepting emails in transit, emails can be exposed and stolen and users can become victims of a data breach.
What are email data breaches?
A data breach involves data owned by an individual or company being stolen or accessed without permission from the owner.
Data breaches occur when the security of an account is weak, either through the technology used to protect it or through human error.
As emails are known to hold valuable data in their online accounts, hackers could target email accounts for data breaches.
Any kind of breach in security that allows data to be stolen from a company could result in a huge loss in finances.
Additionally, GDPR requires businesses to ensure that unused client data is deleted rather than stored and that businesses take the necessary precautions to protect clients' personal information.
If businesses fail to secure data adequately, resulting in a data breach, the company could be penalized for not taking enough measures to mitigate the risk of an attack.
This means that businesses should ensure that they have a cohesive security strategy.
Individuals also need to be wary of data breaches, whether from being hacked personally or through business hacks where their details have been held.
Their personal data could be used to access bank details or other important accounts.
How do I protect my email privacy?
From securing the email account to protecting messages in transit, there are several steps that businesses and individuals can take to safeguard their email privacy and their accounts from being hacked.
1. Secure your email account and personal information
Setting strong passwords for all your online accounts is necessary, and this is no different for your email address.
Use two-factor authentication (where you must use another online device to confirm your identity) and a password manager to help you create hard-to-guess passwords.
It is also a good idea not to use the same password as other online accounts, as your email can be used to access information about your identity that can expose other accounts.
2. Be aware of potential threats
Phishing hackers use social engineering techniques to trick users into giving away their personal information.
Being clued up on potential threats allows you to look out for suspicious emails and avoid giving away information that could lead them to guessing your password or to gaining direct access to your accounts.
3. Use antivirus software
Install antivirus software onto your computer to detect malware risks on your devices and prevent viruses from accessing your email address before it is compromised.
It is also important to keep antivirus software up to date to keep up with new hacking technology.
4. Email encryption
Email encryption adds another layer of protection for emails in transit. Essentially encryption locks the emails with a key that only the recipient has access to, and it becomes very difficult for hackers to read an intercepted encrypted email.
Many email encryption services require you to change to another email provider. However, Sealit offers an Office 365 extension that allows you to use encryption on your Outlook account.
5. File encryption
Another method of encryption involves individually protecting files with encryption. This would not secure the entire email. However, it would prevent hackers from accessing the data within the files.