Pavilion Health Today
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The importance of protecting your email address

Medical editor, Dr Harry Brown continues his everyday tips series. In this blog post, he looks at how to protect your email address.

Email fraud attacks on the healthcare sector are on the rise and according to a recent report they increased by a massive 473% between the first quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018.

A report from Ultrascan Global Investigations found that highly qualified people such as doctors, architects and engineers are more likely to fall victim to email fraud than those who are poorer or less educated and advances in technology mean scams have become more sophisticated.

Ownership and sharing of personal data is quite rightly a big issue for most people and we should all take substantial measures to protect our personal data. An email address is an important part of your personal data ecosystem.

It is not just simply about making sure that it is protected from an overload of spam, but having measures in place to protect against hackers and other serious security and potentially criminal threats. All personal data such as phone numbers, home addresses, bank account details should also be protected with the highest security as possible.

One way to investigate whether your email account has been compromised is to check out the website, Have I been Pwaned? (the latter word is the correct spelling). It can be a chilling experience. Also take into account that your email address can be used as part of your log in process to a legitimate secure website such as a bank account; hence compromising it’s security.

One way of protecting your email account is to use a secure email service such as Proton Mail. It aims to provide a high level of security and on the sign up process, you can see that there are free and paid for versions. Naturally the paid for version offers more facilities. It might also be helpful to read one of their blog posts that looks at keeping your email safe.

However, there are other ways to protect your email address either from a hacker or from large amounts of unwanted spam overwhelming your inbox. Releasing your email address to a website, online service or simply handing it to another person does put the security of that email address potentially at risk. You are passing it onto someone else and you have no idea how that information will be subsequently handled or distributed.

A neat trick to preserve the privacy of your primary email address is to use a disposable email address. This is an email address that has no connection with your main email address and you can use it and then dispose of it. My personal favourite is Mailinator and you create an email address without reference to the site. It will receive emails (but no attachments and no sending emails from the public version) and the account will be created on receiving the email and auto delete shortly after. The downside is that the account can be publicly viewed. Other disposable email addresses on the market have varying features.

Of course there are other ways of communicating if privacy is an issue because email is not always the most secure of modern internet communication mediums. Assuming the recipient is using the same software, there are plenty of alternatives such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

Simple measures like having a complex password on your account settings may also protect your email account from cybercriminals. Another solution could be to set up a second email account from within your own domain or have a spare web based account as a home for registering for services that you are unlikely or infrequently to use again. Also be very wary of clicking on links within an email that can occasionally allow cyberhackers to carry out illegal activity on your services.

Common sense, a heightened sense of vigilance plus a dose of high technology can help to protect your email address and other digital activities.

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