Jason Parms

Email privacy has always remained a subject of concern among privacy-concerned users. And in the wake of recent revelations about government surveillance, the concerns regarding privacy and security of this communication medium have multiplied. So here we’ll take a look at seven best practices that you must follow to ensure the security of your email clients. Let’s begin:

1. Choice Matters

The choice of your email client is first important thing that determines how well secured it can be. While almost all popular clients include security features, some of them tend to be more secure than others. So before you choose your email client, visit the websites of different clients and compare their security features together to figure out which ones provide the best security features. You can also read online reviews to learn more about the security part of various email clients.

compare email client security features

COMPARE ALL SECURITY FEATURES

2. Digitally Sign Your Confidential Mails

All emails are not created equal – some tend to be more important and confidential than others. If needed, you should digitally sign the content of such emails. The digital signing adds another layer of security to your emails and helps the receiver ensure that the content of mail wasn’t altered by anyone during transit. Your digital signature is different than the generic signature that you include in the bottom of your emails – it’s made by combining a certificate (that remains privy to you) that you can use to sign the email and a public key that can be used to read (but not alter) the content of email.

SSL/TLS certificate is used to digitally sign your email server and performing encryption for email communications. Microsoft® Outlook, Mail, Mailbird, Outlook Express, Entourage, Opera Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, or any other popular email clients are supporting S/MIME secure email using SSL Certificates.

To protect Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications Server, SAN (Subject Alternative Names) SSL certificates give the best solution for your owa, mail, and autodiscover domains. You can also use a Wildcard SSL certificate to secure email clients if they are referring sub-domains.

Wildcard SSL Certificates SAN SSL Certificates
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Securing unlimited sub-domains

For example –

  • autodiscover.example.com (auto discover)
  • owa.example.com (auto discover)
  • async.example.com (exchange active sync)
  • mail.example.com (webmail)

Securing multiple different domains

For example –

  • autodiscover.example.com (auto discover)
  • autodiscover.example2.com (auto discover)
  • owa.sub.example3.com (outlook web access)
  • async.example4.co.uk (exchange active sync)
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3. Configure Scanning with Multiple Tools

Keep a good antivirus and anti-malware program on your computer and configure your email client to scan your emails with both of them. Again, you need both of them – an antivirus alone won’t do a lot to protect your email client. The steps of setting up virus and malware scanning can vary depending on your client, but it shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re using a popular one. Usually, you’ll be able to find the option for setting this up under security settings of your client.

4. Enable PGP Encryption

Encryption is one of the best ways to keep your information secured and private, and you should certainly apply it to your email client. PGP encryption of emails can protect your emails as they rest in your email client. If implemented properly, no one except for you and the receiver can see the content of a PGP encrypted mail – not even your email service provider.

Outlook, Thunderbird and all other popular email clients include OpenPGP support, which can be used to encrypt emails at rest. However, keep in mind that this security of PGP comes at the cost of convenience – since a PGP encrypted mail can’t be seen by anyone (including your email provider), it’s also quite possible that your email service provider won’t be able to index those emails. As a result, you may not be able to find your PGP encrypted emails by using the search box.

5. Learn Identifying Suspicious Mails

Security can’t be achieved with tools and features alone. You need to be careful as well if you want to stay secure. This applies to all things of life, including email. While security features of your email client are important, you’ll also need to be careful towards spam that sometimes escapes the filters and arrives in your Inbox. You should learn how to identify suspicious and phishing emails so you can discard them straightaway. Some examples of such emails include:

  • Emails inviting you to claim some sort of prize that you’ve won from a lucky draw or contest in which you never participated;
  • Emails offering you to claim some kind of loan/credit card;
  • Emails urging you to help someone financially;
  • Emails that claim to be coming from your bank but don’t include the official domain of your banker’s website in sender’s email address;
  • And various other types of promotional emails.

You should dismiss all such emails immediately.

6. Invest in a Good Spam Filtering Software

The task mentioned in the previous step can become much easier if you invest some money in a decent spam filtering software. While most email service providers and clients come with their own spam filters, they stand nowhere in front of a software that has been developed for the sole purpose of spam filtering. So if you invest in such a program it can make avoiding spam emails much easier for you.

7. Lock Your Computer When You Go Away

A lot can happen to your computer while you’re away and it’s in sleep mode. If someone gets physical access to it, he/she can read your emails as well. And even if someone doesn’t get physical access to your computer, if it has been compromised somehow and someone else can access it remotely, that intruder can check your email while you’re away and you won’t even come to know. Therefore, it’s always best for your computer to be locked down when you’re away from it.

While Windows automatically locks the computer down after it’s in sleep for some time, you should go a step further if you want absolute security. Instead of leaving it to Windows you should go away only after locking it down so no one can get even a minute to mess up with your email and other important stuff.

Conclusion

The fight of email security and privacy will be fought for a long time. Therefore, it’s important that you keep yourself well prepared for it by starting to follow the best practices given above. None of them will take much time, but collectively they’ll keep a wide range of hackers, hacktivists, and other prying eyes away from your email. So make them a part of your life and say goodbye to your email security concerns.