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How to tighten up your email security

These days email is a necessary part of communication.

However, this also means that email is one of the most popular ways for a virus to infect your computer. You need to protect yourself from the threat of fraud and infection.

Viruses

Email attachments often contain viruses so you need to be careful whenever you open any type of attachment even if you know the sender. There are some viruses that can infiltrate your address book and then send email that is infected to everyone on your list. This means that you can get a virus from a colleague or a friend. The best thing to do is to communicate with the sender so that you know you are expecting an attachment.

Software for virus protection is your best bet against viruses. This software will scan all your email attachments when they are received on your computer. All computers that have Internet access will need to have antivirus software so that all systems are protected as one big whole. There are some viruses that will start with one computer system and then spread to the rest of the network, eventually encompassing all the hardware that is needed to access the Internet.

Phishing

Email can lead to fraud, which is yet another type of security risk. Phishing, is one type of fraud that will try to trick you into giving out personal passwords or banking information. This type of email will use the logo from a well known banking institution or online business after which they will ask you to update your banking information or your password.

Phishing provides a link that looks as though it is legitimate but that in fact will lead you to a false website. If you provide them with personal information you become a victim of theft or fraud on your credit card. This is also known as "identity theft".

Email content and subject lines can be your clue to phishing. Instead of using your name the subject line might say something like "To our valued customer". It isn't hard to find some variant for personal names so be on the alert.

Less of clue to phishing is when a link is included that has nothing to do with the text in the email. You can verify this by highlighting the link and paying attention to the status bar. For example, if the email text is something about Microsoft, and the URL is www.nowhereland.com, you have a good clue that the message you've received isn't really from Microsoft.

There is software that can detect whether phishing is occurring. Even though this software isn't fully mature yet it can at least identify if an email is fraud. Whenever you are asked for your credit card number or a password you should be suspicious. Always keep in mind that no legitimate banking institution will ask you to give personal information or to verify any passwords in the content of an email.

E-mail Backups

Your email, just like other data on your computer, should always be backed up. Most email programs will be easy to back up. All you need to do is export your email messages to a selected folder and then do a backup on this folder. You can use a backup program and put your email onto a writeable CD, DVD, removable disk, or any other type of media.

You also have the option of buying backup software that is specialized for backing up email. This software is moderately priced and eliminates the need to export your email to a folder.

You can automate most backup software so that backups happen at a time that is convenient without you having to lend a hand. You'll have to find time in your busy schedule to configure this type of software. However, you'll be no more busy doing the configuring as you would be if you need to replace an email that you needed.

About the author
Paul Wilcox writes about internet security and other related topics. Sign up for my free newsletter and receive my special report "How To Lock Your Computer Down - Internet Security in 2006" at http://www.internetsecuritysquad.com/freereport

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