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Secure email traffic

Email is still one of the most popular way for cybercriminals to entice people into a trap of online fraud or hacking. There are other ways too like registering domain names for fraud use.

How you recognise malicious emails and how you distinguish them from reliable messages is very crucial. Cybercriminals often try to arouse curiosity or play on fear to get you to open an attachment to the message. Some tips for assessing whether you can trust a message:

If you get a message from a sender for no reason: you are not a subscriber, you did not buy anything, have long had no contact… be very careful and double check.

Check the email address of the sender for spelling mistakes and the text for language errors. Language errors or a strange usage of language can point to a suspect message.

An official authority will never ask you for your password, bank data or personal details via email, SMS or the telephone.

Avoid clicking on links (*) in messages, as you could end up on an unsafe or manipulated websites. Instead, type the address of the website you want to visit in your browser’s address bar. (*) You can check a link by going over the link in the message without clicking on it. You will then see the entire address of the website.

An email attachment can contain a virus. Open the attachment only if you trust the sender. And even then, you must be cautious. The email address of one of your friends and acquaintances may be hacked.

What if you have doubts?

Then you must certainly not open any links or attachments, but must contact the sender in another way:

You can phone friends, send SMSs or a message via social media.

In the case of organisations or companies, go to their website and see how you can contact them online (web form, official e-mail address, etc.).

If you cannot find it, you can also phone them.

Online communication

A lot of the online communication programmes allow users to exchange files and photos. In this way, spyware or other malware can be installed on your device. So it is best not to accept files from everyone. For greater certainty, have the exchanged files checked by a virus scanner first.

Secure websites

More and more websites have a secure connection. You can recognise them by the little lock next to the address bar on top in your browser. When you click on the lock, the details of the website’s certificate are displayed. The certificate is used to encrypt the communication between the server on which the website is hosted and your browser.

Never provide data (email address, address details, etc.) via a website that does not have a secure connection.

Importance of a good password

You use a password to consult your e-mails, log in on social media, consult your invoices online, etc. It is therefore important to choose strong passwords.

These tips will help you use more secure passwords from now on:

Devise a different password for all your online activities. You must certainly not use the password of your e-mail account to register online (often on the basis of your e-mail address).

Opt for long passwords and combine upper case letters, lower case letters, figures and symbols. Do not store your password in your browser, as anyone who uses your computer can use the stored passwords for those sites. Use a special password manager.

Use a two-step verification. A two-step verification usually uses something you know (e.g. a password) and something you have (e.g. a smartphone) or something that you “are” (e.g. fingerprint).

Never disclose your passwords via e-mail or over the telephone, even when the request seems to come from a trusted company or person. A bank or a helpdesk will never ask for your password in order to help you.

Never write your password on a piece of paper that is left lingering in the vicinity of your computer.

It is not safe either to keep passwords in an e-mail or a document on your computer or smartphone.

Keep your computer, smartphone and tablet up to date

Criminals often use leaks in older versions of an operating system to gain access to your device. Therefore, keep your operating system properly up to date by having updates installed automatically.

Keep browsers and other software up to date

Always use a recent browser. Chrome, Safari and Firefox provide new versions with clock-like regularity which address security vulnerabilities and introduce new security measures. In addition to the browser, there are also what are known as plug-ins which have a great impact on how safely or unsafely you surf on the Internet. Browsers use plug-ins to show special information on a website. A well-known example is Java. You should use the most recent version of these software as well.

Protect your device against viruses and other bugs

A virus can cause a lot of damage to your device. Viruses are often spread via e-mails through seemingly harmless attachments or communication programmes used to exchange files. That is why it is advisable to install an anti-virus programme. Such a programme works in the background. It scans files that are received and opened on your device and prevents viruses from doing their work.

Make back-ups

A back-up is an important copy of your data. With a back-up you can reset your data if your device is infected by a virus or if ransomware blocks access to your data and you are asked to pay in order to get it unblocked.

Furthermore, in case of theft, loss or technical problems, having a back-up is a relief if you have to restore your data.

Do not forget the router

Many internet users have a router/modem at home which enables them to surf the internet from various devices. These routers can also be the target of attacks. Protect them by using a strong password. Here once again, it is advisable to consult the supplier’s or manufacturer’s website regularly for possible updates.

Use secure, wireless networks

Be careful when using free Wi-Fi. Chances are that someone is eavesdropping on the Internet connection. There is also a chance that a cybercriminal will create a fake network to manipulate your Internet connection. Use preferably the mobile network of your operator. If you make a connection with a public Wi-Fi network – a network without password – use preferably a VPN solution.This is a sort of digital tunnel that your Internet traffic goes through. Discover how VPN works, how to connect and use it.