Daily you hear about companies being hacked and users personal information such as email addresses being stolen. For most users this means nothing but to others it means a sense of no security. These hackers then post this information for the world to see and unknown to a lot of people, the ones grabbing this information more times than you could imagine are taking these emails and doing whatever they can to try to hack them just for the pure pleasure of saying they did it.
What can you do to protect yourself against this daily war against those that are so dishonest? Try these simple tips to help protect yourself. The focus is on users that use Windows Live Mail but a lot of these tips can be passed over to whichever email client you prefer.
First and foremost!
- Do not choose a password you have used for other online services. If someone were to get into the other services and discover your email ID, they can easily log into your email as well. Your pets name, birthday, your anniversary, child’s name…none of these are good passwords.
- Choose a password that’s not easily guessed by anyone except you. Believe it or not, there are people who spend their days creating text files with list’s of thousands of commonly used passwords that do nothing but run these passwords against email accounts till they figure it out. You cam check the strength of your password at Microsoft Password Strength Checker.
- Change your password regularly. One nice feature of Hotmail is the option to have passwords expire every 72 days and when activated forces a user to create a new password. Click your ID from the toolbar above your Inbox, you may have an image displayed – select View Account Info (opens your browser to Live Sign In) – for Password select Change and check the box that says Make my password expire every 72 days.
- Do not store your password on your phone or anywhere else that someone may happen to pick it up and easily retrieve it.
- Do not add anyone you do not know!
- Before opening an email you think might be a friend but you are unsure, right-click the email and select properties. You will be able to see the true email address the message was sent from. There are too many fake emails that hit Inbox’s daily that try to hide themselves as legitimate messages. With Reading Pane Off (See below), right-click a message\properties\real address displayed.
- Watch who you are adding to your Safe Sender list. One thing I have taught myself to do is every so often, I will remove everyone from the Safe Sender list and start fresh. With the amount of email I receive daily, I am constantly adding so after awhile a fresh start helps me keep up with who I have added. Menu\Options\Safety Options\Safe Senders.
- When adding users to the Blocked Sender list you have two options, add the user to the Blocked Sender list or Block Domain. I have found it helps if I right-click the message and see what the Domain is first before I add Domains to the list. This option is always best as it adds names that end with a certain Domain instead of just adding the user. Checking the Domain first ensures that you aren’t blocking a legitimate Domain such as @Hotmail.com, @Gmail.com or @yahoo.com, in which case it would block email ending with those Domains. Menu\Options\Safety Options\ Blocked Senders.
Safety and Security
- Keep your Inbox and Deleted folder clean of messages that contain personal information.
- Do not keep stored email on your account. WLM comes with a handy Export feature that allows you to export all your email messages to a location on your computer. Menu\Export Email\Email Messages\Microsoft Windows Live mail \Choose Folder.
- As mentioned, always right-click a message before opening it and view properties if you are unsure of the sender.
- Do not set your Inbox to automatically open messages when WLM starts. There are countless threads from people stating they didn’t open a message yet someone hacked their email account and this is in large part due to this setting. Top Tabs\View\Reading Pane\Select Off.
- Keep Junk Filter set to High and enable the option to report Junk Email to Microsoft. Menu\Options\Safety Options\Options.
- Enable the option under the tab Phishing that protects your Inbox from messages with potential Phishing links. Menu\Options\Safety Options\Phishing.
One thing I can say that Microsoft has done well the past few years is work harder to keep the junk email out and if anyone argues this I would recommend checking other email services and see how much junk gets through. Though there are a few features I would like to see added, such as Import\Export Blocked Sender list, Windows Live Mail is a very good email client that all in all is friendly to use.
The Bottom Line is, if you have an email address, protect yourself. Users use email for as much if not more of their daily life as they do physical mail and the daily threat of someone trying to get into your email account is increasing.