I ran across this article today on 99 ways to secure your email. Largely it’s email etiquette and efficiency fluff and there are really only a small handful of actual ways to secure your email in it (numbers 78-99). There are a few tips that I’d tell people that are definitely not mentioned on their list. Here are a few from my personal list:
1) Turn off preview panes. When you click an email and it shows up in the preview you are rendering the remote images and the click-tracking that spammers use to verify the email lists executes. That alerts them to the fact that you a) are a real user and b) are a user who reads spam. Having your email automatically open also increases the likelihood of email client automatic exploitation. None of those are good, so turn off the preview pane.
2) Don’t put email addresses or sensitive corporate information into out of office emails. If you are out of office, just tell them the name of who to get in contact with. If they know anything about your company they’ll know how to get in touch with the front desk and use the person’s name to get in touch with them. A number of times people have set out of office messages with stuff like, “If you need information on super secret project x please contact….” Firstly, that’s bad if it’s someone who doesn’t really know you (sales people, etc…) secondly, if it contains email addresses those too can be scraped by the spammers who watch the return addresses for bounces.
3) Use domain keys, SPF (sender policy framework) records or other tools to reduce spoofing. If you want to allow people to know if you are legitimately sending email from all users on your domain without causing them too much grief, install domain keys or use SPF records to reduce the likelihood of people successfully spoofing your email. PGP signing is great but it only works for the one person using it, unlike domain keys.
4) Unlike what the article says do NOT use Yahoo or Hotmail as methods to send anonymous emails. Both send headers showing the recipient where you are originating from. Use something like hushmail instead.
5) Create custom email accounts for specific applications. I’ve seen a number of people who have begun building out vanity email addresses based on the specific site they are visiting, EG: email@example.com
6) Validate users who are allowed to send email to you. This is an ugly one but by only allowing people who you have authorized to email you you can significantly reduce unsolicited email. You had better not use one of these accounts for anything you want to get electronic receipts for, but for personal accounts it’s a pretty decent solution.
7) Use a fake or modified name on each site you visit. If my name is “John Smith” I could use something like John Petsmart Smith will allow me to know that Petsmart has sold my email information when I get spam or phishing emails in the future.
Anyway, there are dozens of ways to secure your email. I’m sure everyone can contribute to this list. It’s a huge topic, that they really only scratched the surface of.