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Email: The Misunderstood Security Threat

Email risks go way beyond phishing; the way many employees use this digital tool leaves their employers wide open.

Are you guilty of any of these insecure email practices?  Remember, most data breaches are caused not by malicious workers, but by those who are cutting corners or simply don’t understand best practices.

Bullet Clicking links.  It seems so basic: You receive an email with a link, perhaps a spreadsheet, perhaps a bit of humor from a friend, and you click to open it.  Oops!  Unless you are absolutely certain the link is valid and work-related, this is a mistake.  Attackers are very good at spoofing emails to make malware look like innocent documents.  As to those jokes or news items?  Even if your mom doesn’t know it contains malware, it might.

Bullet Copying too many recipients.  Overusing the CC and BCC fields is harmful in several ways.  First, it’s unwise professionally; unless a recipient has a specific need to see your message, don’t waste their time.  And on the security front, keep in mind that the more people who receive an email with sensitive data, the more likely it is that the message will be seen by the wrong eyes.

Bullet Responding to spam.  When you get unwanted email, it’s tempting to fire off a quick “unsubscribe me” response.  But spammers love it when recipients do this, as it confirms that the email address is valid.  You’re better off simply ignoring spam.

Bullet Giving out your data.  Consider how much information is in your email signature: Name, title, email address and URL, possibly your department, quite possibly your cell number.  That’s a lot!  Some attackers blindly send email to people at targeted companies simply to harvest such data.  Don’t feel obliged to respond to all messages, especially those from strangers.

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