Remove dangerous emails before you even see them with these spam-avoiding strategies.
Email revolutionised how we communicate online, but its wide reach and cheap operating costs also launched a lucrative spamming industry that has continued to plague internet users for years. From fake Nigerian princes offering free money to astronauts stranded in space, the sometimes outlandish nature of spam and junk email can often hide the dark motivations of hackers and cybercriminals.
These days, the humble spam email can be host to a variety of dangerous threats including viruses, spyware and ransomware, all of which can invade your computer with the simple click of a mouse.
To combat these threats, you need to get clued up on how you can fight back. While it is almost inevitable that as a digital citizen you will eventually encounter malicious spam, there are a number of steps you can take right now to curb the threat and cut down on unsolicited mail altogether.
1. Choose a good email client
This goes without saying but a good, mainstream email client will come with strong email protections right from the off. Be it Microsoft's Outlook or Google's Gmail, all have fairly sophisticated spam filtering as standard. This filtering should automatically start to separate the legitimate email from the malicious.
If, however, spam is still slipping through the cracks, you can “train” your client by reporting the messages. If a dodgy email is reported enough times, the client's algorithms will not only block future messages but can also blacklist the source. This is an excellent first step to getting rid of pesky spam emails in the long term.
2. Be smart about your email account
You may have a good email client, but what about your actual email address? A unique account name that isn't easy to guess is a great way of fending off unwanted attention. Spammers can deploy software that will easily guess weak accounts – for example, variations of names and birthdays.
So get smart with what email account name you choose. Similar to when bolstering password security, adding a selection of symbols and numbers to a name can help you stay hidden from spammers. However, if this seems too messy for you, see the next point for the solution.
3. If need be, consider having a backup email account
Everyone needs email for work, applying for jobs or shopping online. However, you should consider having more than one account for each of these separate interests, especially when dealing with websites that are less stringent with data-protection laws.
Creating a backup email account will cut down on a lot of stress. Make a professional email account that you only use for work and official business, then create a backup that you only use for shopping and social media. Not only will this help you keep track of browsing activities and purchases, but it will also ensure all your sensitive data is not stored in one place. That way, if the worst does happen, the damage can be contained.
4. Deploy strong security software
If the past year has taught us anything in relation to security and data breaches, it's that no matter what computer or operating system you're using, there's a spammer working on a way to break in. In many cases, spam email is often the entry point of attack, and hackers will use sophisticated phishing attempts alongside social engineering to trick you into handing over personal data or worse – to gain full access to your account.
Because of this, it's vital to make sure you are using strong security software, which will not only provide real-time protection against cyberthreats, but also comes with a spam filter built in.
5. Please… don't open spam email
It perhaps goes without saying, but you should never open or acknowledge spam email other than when reporting it to your email client. Opening mail can alert the spam operator to the fact they've targeted a valid address, and from there you'll receive a further barrage of either junk or malware-filled messages.
Of course, in many cases it's difficult to recognise spam. It often comes in well-packaged formats disguised as invoices, delivery packages or links to online coupons. In the past, spammers have used mirrored websites of banks, cloud services and shopping websites to trick users into opening emails and entering their details. Make sure you know what can go wrong if malware-ridden spam infests a computer. Learn from the mistakes of others, educate yourself about the threats, and know what the warning signs are.
While surfing the web, you will undoubtedly be targeted by spam. It's inevitable and an accepted part of online life. However, with these handy tips you should be able to effectively cut out any danger before you fall victim to any email-based cyber-attack.