Email Security and Spam Prevention starts with you the user. Throughout this document we will discuss ways to ensure that your email accounts are secure and spam-controlled. The first aspect we will review is Email Security.
- Use Passwords with Numbers, Letters, and Symbols. Email accounts are only as secure as the passwords used to protect them. Short passwords and passwords that mirror the alias/prefix of the email address are most vulnerable.
- Change your password frequently. This will ensure that your email remains private.
- Avoid sharing your password with anyone ever.
Delete all suspicious emails without opening them.
Never open attachments from unknown sources. Attachments can contain viruses, worms or trojans that can damage your computer, steal sensitive data or use your computer to send spam.
If you do open attachments, scan them with your virus program before downloading or executing them. This includes attachments from friends and family as their computer could have been compromised.
Make sure that you update your virus scanning programs regularly.
A lot of the items outlined above can contribute to spam as well. 80% of all spam is sent from virus-infected computers. Security is the first step in preventing email spam. Below we have outlined some more steps one can proactively take to lessen the risk of email spam:
The first step to keep your inbox protected from spam is to identify it (the spam). You can break it down into categories to identify the types of emails. Below are the categories we chose:
- Automated emails from a known source – These messages would be those from a source whose email notifications you may have signed up for at one point.
- Automated emails from an unknown source – You may get the occasional random spam message such as a family stranded in a foreign country seeking financial assistance or some other unsavory items that we will not mention that you never signed up to receive.
- Forwarded emails – These emails consist of chain messages from friends, family and acquaintances that are usually supposed to be something funny or may be a warning about some impending doom headed your way. Any way you look at it, if you don’t want it, call it spam.
Now that you have categorized the email types, you can now start scanning your inbox to locate the emails that fall into any of these categories so that you can take necessary steps to rid yourself of these messages.
Automated Emails from a known source: Unsubscribing.
The first category that we identified, Automated emails from a known source, are fairly easy to deal with. You simply unsubscribe to them. You should be able to locate the option to unsubscribe within the text of the email. This item is usually located in smaller font near the bottom of the email.
Automated Emails from an unknown source: The most dangerous.
This category is typically the most dangerous. These messages can contain viruses which are activated upon opening the message. The viruses can reside in small images within the message that are downloaded upon opening the email. This in turn lets spammers know that your email address is a valid address. So, if you are unsure of the source, err on the side of caution and do not open. A good way to combat this is to utilize your email client's settings to not automatically download images. You would be best served by just deleting the email.
Forwarded Emails: Now it's personal.
The last category is the toughest to combat, especially for business professionals. We have all received those cheese ball chain emails, chuckle-inducing jokes, and "aawwww" inspiring images being passed around by friends and family. Generally the idea is to set up a rule/filter to route all those messages to their own folder rather than being delivered to and filling up your inbox. But if this is your work email address, this can get tricky, as you more than likely tend to get a lot of forwarded messages from your co-workers or other business contacts. In any case, you may want to setup specific folders for your friends and family and setup filters to route mail from them to those specific folder you created for them.
Most email providers utilize multiple spam solutions for detection, prevention, and removal in the never ending war on spam. Due to the ever evolving nature of spam, some spam can get through. This is where you can take the proactive stance to remove any possible spam that makes it through the first line of defense. By proactively creating filters for spam "buzz' words, you can help filter any email that may make it through the defenses, thus fortifying your defenses. You can learn how to set up filters within Redtail's webmail client here.
As you can see, you the user play an integral part in spam prevention. The approach outlined above is only one approach and can be adjusted to fit your situation. Let it help you get started and customize it to meet your protocol and needs.