97 Tips to Secure and Productive Hacking Email Address
When people read out a phone number, they use "phone rhythm." No one has to
rhythm," we all just seem to do it automatically, "…713...555...12…34".
Similarly, when we answer a phone call we all say, "Hello." No one taught us
to do that, but somehow we all seemed to pick it up. So why is it that when
it comes to emails, there are no accepted standards? Even though 6
billion emails are sent every day, almost no one agrees about simple things
like email etiquette, how to organize a note, or whether emails are
considered private or not.
The 97 tips in this article make up the best in email practices. From how to
ethically use the ‘BCC:' to what attachments will make your mobile emailing
compatible with everyone else's, this list covers everything you need to
know about emailing.
We're all guilty of bad manners once in a while, but when it comes to
emailing, some people are downright clueless.
Don't send private messages with the company account. If you want to send
personal messages from work (and you should probably try to minimize this),
use a freebie account like Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, or Excite, if your office
permits it. The content of your emails is less visible to employers through
these accounts, so the private messages you send will stay private.
Use BCC if necessary. If you must send a group email to people who do not
know each other, don't add their addresses to the form's CC field; this is
one method spammers use to harvest email addresses. Instead, use BCC (Blind
Carbon Copy) for their addresses, and put your own email in the form's "to"
Don't send form letters. Its impolite to send form letters, especially to
your friends and colleagues unless they are all part of a group that is
Don't forward chain letters. Just don't do it. Enough said. That includes
the email that says that if you don't forward it to 10 people you'll die. I
don't care how superstitious you are, don't send them.
Be professional. Ensure your work emails don't contain 'u', 'afk', 'ty', 'jk'
and/or several million other texting/chatroom acronyms. These developed
because cell phones' keypads aren't well-suited to writing fully-formed
words, sentences and paragraphs. In business communications, however, they
may give the impression of childishness and illiteracy.
Be professional, part 2: Check tone. Be aware of the professional (or not)
relationship between yourself and the recipient before starting an email.
Use that to gauge what topics are appropriate to write or not, as well as
the tone of your writing. This may be common sense to most, but you’d be
surprised at how often the rule is ignored.
Be careful. Email is not private; it can be intercepted anywhere en route to
its recipient. In addition, it can live on for years in recipient email
boxes, later to return to its sender in choice quotations. Think before
sending email you will later regret.
Cut down on sigs. Signature files, especially in business, should contain as
few lines as possible. Four lines is a figure generally agreed-upon. Email
that consists of a two-line statement and a ten-line signature will have its
recipients rolling their eyes.
May I quote you? When you respond to an email, the original email is quoted.
Cut the most relevant sentence from the message to which you are responding,
preface it with a '>' (if it's not already there) and paste the quote above
your response. Delete the rest of the original email from your response,
unless you are responding to other points in the original.
Don't use email when you are angry. This is a tip from Joan Tunsall's
Better, Faster Email (non-affiliate Amazon link). While most of the time
email does not convey your emotions, particularly humor, it somehow seems to
transmit anger - even when you don’t intend it to come through..
Get clarification. If someone sends you an email that upsets you, make sure
you haven't misunderstood. As mentioned previously, emotion and tone do not
always carry over well in email. Instead of responding angrily, in your
response, quote the portion of text that you are unsure of and ask the
sender to clarify. Indicate what you think it means, if you like, then ask
if you've misunderstood.
Don't spam friends. Occasionally, company mail servers go on the fritz and
send forty-five copies of the same email to the recipient (personal
experience). Even if it's not your fault, it is polite to apologize
profusely to your friend, family, or roommate.
Consider the quirks of other email systems. For example, say that you have a
friend with a Hotmail account and want to send a list of hyperlinks. Hotmail
doesn't handle hyperlinks inside of an email very well. For example, you
cannot easily copy the actual URL, without a bit of effort. So anyone used
to tabbed browsing, such as with all recent web browsers (including,
finally, IE7.x), may find it frustrating trying to open a link in a new tab
or window. It's hard to know about all types of email systems, but some
awareness reduces frustrating situations for recipients.
Respond to group email appropriately. If someone has sent a group email that
requires a response, but only to the sender or a couple of parties, don't
copy everyone on your reply.
Don't respond to every group email. More specifically, it is alright to sit
out a thread of group conversation if you are not being addressed directly.
However, read the emails carefully to make sure that you are not being
expected to respond.
Respect email laws and regulations. Some countries have very specific rules
about bulk emailing. If you use email to promote your business, you need to
know the laws for not only your country but probably wherever you are
emailing to. It's a tall order, given the global village of the Internet,
but its importance cannot be overstated.
Communicating & Effectiveness
Now that we've covered the basics of emailing with manners, it's important
to make sure your
intended message is actually getting across.
Use meaningful subject lines. Write something "meaningful" in the
subject line, to give recipients a clue as to what your email is about. This
is increasingly necessary to distinguish legit emails from spam. The
latter's subject lines are are often deceptive.
Be brief. Do not send excessively long emails if at all possible. Try to
summarize your information so that your recipients are more likely to read
the email and actually respond. When possible, break long emails into
numbered point form so that recipients can respond by reference number.
Summarize. Precede a long email with a short summary.
Cheat with templates. In his Five Fast Email Productivity Tips, author
Merlin Mann recommends 'cheating' -- using templates and form letters - when
you find yourself answering (or asking) the same questions repeatedly. A
good percentage of first-year college students learn to do this when writing
email to family, friends, and significant friends back home.
Use 'Reply All' when necessary. Usually, the common advice is to not use
"reply all" if other recipients of a group email do not need your response.
But forgetting to use "reply all" when appropriate is simply inefficient. If
the vast majority of a group needs to hear a message, writing in individual
emails addresses will waste your time and increase the chances that you’re
going to leave someone important out of the email.
Remember the telephone. Unless you need a written record of a given
communication (or if the
person you're communicating with is long distance), consider calling (or
sending a letter to) your intended recipient instead of an email. People
often default to writing an email because it is quick and easy; but
sometimes a handwritten letter or phone call can provide the personal touch
your communication really needs.
If it's urgent, say so. Writing 'URGENT' in front of your email's subject
will make it stand out from the crowd, and most likely get timely attention
from the recipient. Make certain it is urgent, however; remember how much
attention was paid to the boy who cried wolf when his cries really mattered.
On vacation? If you will be out of your office for a lengthy period of time,
set up an autoresponder to inform whomever emails you of your absence and
your expected return. This is polite (the message is only sent to a given
email once), and it prevents a lot of "I'm waiting for your response"
emails. A quick warning, however, to not use an autoresponder for your home
email; you shouldn't advertise an empty house.
Use smileys. If you think that something you've written might be
misunderstood in tone or emotion, use the appropriate smiley. It should be
obvious, but this tip does not apply to work or other professional emails,
or if the person doesn't know you already. Marketing genius Seth Godin wrote
the The Smiley Dictionary [book], and there are several sites with something
similar: Helvig's smiley dictionary, the unofficial smiley dictionary, and
EFF's unofficial smiley dictionary.
Proofread. There is a difference between typos and poor writing. Poor
writing improves with practice. Typos stay typos unless you take the time to
eliminate them. If you are applying for a job or freelance gig, it's
especially important to prufreed before you send that email. And as if you
needed another reason to be concise, remember that the chance of typos is
directly proportional to the length of your email.
Know your limitations. Mobile email is best for very dexterous people.
It isn't always the most productive way to communicate for everyone. Reading
emails via mobile is fine, but if you don't have the thumb dexterity to use
the keypad to respond, save your thumb the pain and just handle your emails
on a computer.
Use voice-to-text. There are mobile applications out there that will convert
your spoken word to text, which you can then use for mobile email responses.
Because this technology is just starting to go mainstream, if you want it
you are going to have to shop for phones specifically with voice-to-text
Duplication of email, or lack thereof. If you plan to access email from both
a mobile device and a computer, keep in mind that some email servers and
client software download each email to the device you are using, and delete
it from the server. This could be hazardous to your career, if you access
with a mobile device, read it, and then delete it with the intent of
responding from a computer later. So make sure that you know how your client
handles the mobile/computer divide.
Be exclusive. It's best to set up a separate email account for your mobile
devices. If you plan to be away from a laptop or desktop for an extended
period, you can redirect your regular email, with full filters on. Use this
email account only for your mobile device. By having to separate accounts
you can make sure to send all your subscriptions and other large regular
emails to your main account. You can also sign up for new products with the
computer account to make sure you won't get spammed, before you have those
emails come to your mobile account.
Don't send email attachments to mobile devices. If you know that a colleague
will be using their mobile device to check email for an extended period of
time, avoid sending him or her attachments. Send a snippet of text instead,
if possible, or a URL where they can download when they have access to a
laptop or desktop.
Use mobile email sparingly. Cellular wireless data plans often have a
monthly bandwidth cap.
Sending attachments (or receiving them) can be hazardous to your wallet.
Some mobile email
services function by letting you see that you have attachments, but others
automatically download. So for the sake of you and your colleagues wallets
attachments for later.
Productivity, Folders, and Filtering
Email is only a useful technology if it remains an efficient means of
communicating. The dual threats of spam and disorganization make email less
efficient, so overcoming those deficiencies is the theme of this section.
Respond promptly. Don't leave email unread for more than two days. Look at
it immediately and either respond to it immediately, or -- after reading it
-- move it to a "must respond" folder.
Repond promptly, part 2. Acceptable email response time for personal emails
is 24 hours. Acceptable professional response time varies by industry. Know
your expected response time and check your email accordingly.
Respond promptly, part 3. If someone sends you an excessively long email and
you do not have
time to respond to the entire email, respond with a brief email
acknowledging its receipt and your intent to reply in more detail.
I go to pieces. If you receive an email which must be responded to in its
entirety but requires a substantial investment in time to respond to,
respond to it in parts. Quote each original point that you are responding
to, so it is clear what you are referring to. Make it clear that you are
responding in parts, or else the recipient may wonder if you missed the
latter part of their message.
Exercise discipline. Check your email at regular intervals. Whether its
every 5 minutes or every 5 days, people need to be able to rely upon your
response time, so come up with a schedule that works for you and stick with
Organize by Urgency. Email clients and web-mail applications like Hotmail
and Gmail will allow you to sort your emails in the order with which you
need to respond to them. Consider making 'Urgent', 'Must Respond',
'Personal', 'Information' and 'Misc' folders. Then move inbox messages
accordingly. You can make this sorting process more automatic by applying
filters to email addresses, so that your email client will do the sorting
Be selective. Not every email you receive requires a response. 'FYI' and
group emails, for instance, should be read and filed. Non-work-related email
from strangers should be forwarded to your home email address for later
Be quick. Email you send at work should consist of questions if you need
information, or declarative sentences if you are supplying it. At work,
email is best used for the transfer of knowledge - chatty banter and essays
are best saved for other venues.
Know your limits. Don't subscribe to dozens of free "tips" sites if you
don't have time to read the items. If you feel must do this, for whatever
reason, use a freebie email address for this or consider an RSS feed
Cut to the chase. Sometimes a text chat is the best way to resolve a
communication quickly, instead of sending a dozen emails back and forth. By
keeping the bank and forth emails to a minimum, you keep your inbox under
control and prevent the need to declare email bankruptcy and starting all
Do what the Gurus do. There are a number of great writers who focus almost
exclusively on tips to keep you technologically organized. Some Gurus of
note: Merlin Mann of 43-Folders, mentioned elsewhere in this article, and
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done are good examples.
GTD - get things done. Don't move anything from your main inbox into a
folder if you haven't read it yet. It's likely to stay that way. Read it,
respond, and file it. That way, your main inbox holds only unread messages.
Or at worst, those you haven't responded to yet. This makes it easier to
"get things done" more efficiently, in terms of email-triggered tasks.
Be specific with email titles. An email's subject line is what enables its
recipient(s) to appropriately handle it. The famed 'Re:' standing alone on a
subject field is either spam, or a response to one of your less-informative
titles. Specificity not only facilitates easy filing, but makes locating a
given email in your sent box months after the fact (when you need to prove
something, or again find that bon mot) a heckuva lot less time-consuming.
Use freebie accounts. Always use freebie accounts for all those "free"
subscriptions you sign up for. No matter what they tell you, you will get
unsolicited mail as a result, at some point in the future. And it'll clutter
your inbox, making you less productive.
Blacklist Spam emails. Don't just delete the spam you get sent, blacklist
it. By blocking the sender of spam emails you can drastically cut down on
the total amount of spam you get. Surprisingly, a good amount of spam is
from repeat senders, so a few months of diligent blacklisting can keep
spammers at bay.
Enable spam filters. Most email clients, including freebie webmail types,
have spam filtering that can be turned on or off. They are not 100%
accurate, so you should make a habit of visually scanning your spam folder
to ensure you haven't missed anything important. But that inconvenience is
still worth leaving the filter on.
Ditch your spammed out email account. If you have a freebie account that is
loaded with incoming spam, save all your important contact info, backup
desired emails, then ditch the email address. Get another one and then
notify all your contacts. Don't forget to update any websites where your
address is published.
Prevent email overload. Kaitlin Duck Sherwood has a handy, quick guide to
preventing email overload. One that is simple but effective is to say "no
need to respond", or some such, if a response is not necessary.
The ability to attach documents has revolutionized the way in which we do
business. Despite its benefits, however, attachments are one of the least
standardized parts of emailing.
Keep attachments small. If you are sending a large attachement to someone,
whether they have
a free email or not, they probably have an inbox size limit. Stay in good
favor with them by only send attachments of no larger than, say, 30-40
Kilobytes, unless they've requested it of you. That means that many videos
and large pictures should be uploaded to the web instead of attached to an
Don't forward attachments. Except in a work environment where it might be
expected, check with your intended recipient before sending attachments. If
it is a large file, consider that sending it may block their account from
receiving additional email because they exceeded their disk space quota.
Attachments also take up company resources and eat up bandwidth
unnecessarily. For example, if you send a PDF file to a group of, say, 10
co-workers, the mail server sends 10 copies of the same file and uses up 10x
Include an excerpt. If it's sufficient/ appropriate, include an excerpt of
the document (instead of attaching it) in the body of your email.
Send a link instead. You are better off sending a link to something, if the
material is already online, or you can easily put it up on a secure site.
Share a file. If the file is not online, and if you have the right to put it
there (i.e., no copyright issues, not company-sensitive material), then use
a filesharing service such as AllPeers, which lets you define who is in your
buddy list. No one else can access the document. There are also several
online spreadsheet and word processor apps these days. See Google Docs and
Spreadsheets or Zoho. Both are compatible with "Office" applications like
Microsoft Office and Open Office, and let you share documents. Once you've
set a Google Doc or Zoho document to "share", you can send colleagues a
Share a file, part 2. If using file-sharing services or web-based office
apps to share a file is against company policy, try this. Most larger
companies will have an Intranet site, possibly with employee web pages. You
may be able to upload your file to your employee website. Just share the
link in email. If your computers are part of the same company network, you
probably already know this, but there is usually a common repository,
possibly organized by project. If you and your colleague both have the same
network permissions, upload your file to the project area and email them the
Share a file, part 3. One alternative that works nicely, provided it is not
against company policy, is to use the file-sharing feature of a VoIP (Voice
over Internet Protocol) or VoIM (Voice over Instant Messaging) client, such
as Skype or Windows Live/ MSN Messenger. If you are in a large company, you
might be using a more corporate solution such as Lotus Notes, which, if
memory serves, has its own Messenger.
Use Text/ RTF format instead of DOC files. Microsoft's Word files (.doc
format) are susceptible to some macro viruses. If you must send a document
and cannot use one of the options above, copy your document to RTF (Rich
Text Format) first, then email that as an attachment. Even if you don't have
a virus on your computer, your colleague may. If they receive an RTF file,
then there is less chance they will respond with a DOC file. (MS Word let's
you work with RTF files as you would a DOC file.) It is also okay to send
.txt (raw text), .pdf, and image files. Bad to send: any .EXE or other
executable file. Possibly bad: .doc or .xls (Microsoft Excel spreadsheet)
Consider using OpenOffice XML format. Open Office, a free open source
alternative to Microsoft Office, uses XML (PDF, 571 pgs, 1.5 Mb) text files,
so they are okay to send as well. (Text files cannot harbor viruses.) Open
office lets you create word processor documents, spreadsheets, presentations
(similar to MS Powerpoint), and drawings. It can read MS Office files, and
can also output its XML files to the appropriate MS Office format.
Defer opening attachments. Don't rush to open an attachment just because it
appears to have come from someone you know. If you receive an attachment
that you are not expecting, don't open it. At least, first read the email
and make sure that the attachment is most likely legitimate. If you're still
not sure, call/ VoIP/ email/ or IM the sender to be sure. If the sender's
computer has a virus, it may be attaching trojans to all outgoing emails
Know what not to open. Opening spam can direct floods of it to your inbox,
multiplying the time you're chained to email by an order of magnitude.
Beacons embedded in spam - typically clear, one-pixel .GIFs sent from a
machine controlled by the spammer - advertise that you opened the email...
and thus your address is both valid and responsive. Let someone else do the
work. Weeding out spam is unpleasant, time-consuming and not unlike
tip-toeing through a minefield. It's several million times worse for ISPs,
the more reputable of whom employ industrial-grade filters that prevent the
bulk of it from hitting their customers' inboxes. Doing some legwork to
determine which ISP filters the most before it hits you will ultimately save
you hours of grief.
Tricks, Hacks, Backup
The following tips are more about technical gadgetry and implementations
rather than etiquette or organization.
Use a custom email reader. Certain types of email servers (POP3, IMAP,
SMTP, etc.) allow you to access your email from other software interfaces.
This can come in handy for custom batch filtering, and even for
auto-separating emails into folders. You might consider this, in order to
create a custom mail reader for yourself. Obviously, this involves some
programming. Email Address Manager has a quick guide to the POP + IMAP +
SMTP settings in Hotmail and other web browser-based email clients.
Aggregate emails. If you are subscribing to various emails, you might wish
to collect them into a single document, print them out, and read them at a
later date. If you have a custom reader (see above step), then you can tweak
to produce a single RTF or PDF document from all emails in a single folder
or under a single label. This can also come in handy if you want to collect
a thread of conversation for an ebook or regular book, or even a lawsuit.
Learn to filter effectively. A student related the story that when he went
back to university to prepare for a Master's degree, the new email address
assigned to him already had 500+ spam emails waiting for him the first time
he signed into his mailbox. Because email addresses were produced using the
first and last name of a student, they were relatively easy to generate for
spammers. All students at the school were likely getting that much spam.
Filtering of the mail server was woefully inadequate, and didn't even have
an auto-spam folder. The simplest way to rid himself of the email in this
case was to create a folder of emails to keep, scan the inbox carefully for
such email, then move them for safekeeping. Then, since all remaining emails
on a given page in the inbox were spam, a single click near the top of the
page selected all of them, and they could be easily deleted en masse.
Alternately, all emails could be selected with the single click, then
desirable emails unchecked individually, before the deletion. While this
method is more prone to
deleting desired emails, sometimes that is your only option.
Speeding up Google's Gmail. Digital Inspiration has some tips on how to
increase Gmail speed, if you are having some problems. The tips are
browser-specific, but clearing cache will probably work for all browsers.
Gmail filtering. Digital Inspiration has numerous tips for more effective
Gmail use. One is that you can use Gmail email address aliases to help
filter messages into folders ('labels' in Gmail). So if you sign up for
email subscriptions at different sites, you can use a different alias for
each site and have your Gmail account's filters redirect email to the
appropriate folder. This doesn't stop spam, but what it does do is (1)
organize your incoming mail; and (2) let you determine how a spammer got
your email address. This feature is probably one of the most powerful
features for effective email use, and to date is only supported by Google's
Here are some tips for some of the various email readers, including Yahoo,
Hotmail, Google Gmail, and Outlook. (Some Gmail tips are covered in the
Get Google Gmail. Google Mail, aka Gmail, is a relatively new contender
in the email reader market, free or otherwise. The problem is, you either
have to be invited or use your mobile phone, with text messaging capability,
to sign up, if you live in a select country (Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia,
New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, United States). It's
a strange list of countries, and the ones not included are as much a
surprise. But if you can manage to get a Gmail account, it's worth it. It's
an incredibly effective webmail system.
Use Gmail formatting sparingly. Google Mail uses a very rich format for
text, even if you don't explicitly apply formatting. It's nice to look at,
but if you are using Gmail and sending to someone who is not, do not use any
Visually track your Gmail conversations. Gmail has a nice little feature
that makes it easier to track a conversation thread visually. Beside each
entry in your inbox, there is a little "star" that when clicked on turns
yellow. If you use your Gmail account for a variety of incoming sources, the
star can help you find a thread easily. When you are done responding, you
can turn off the star.
Archive your Gmail conversations. Gmail makes archiving email threads
extremely simple. Other email systems let you keep folders as well. Gmail
lets you attach "labels" instead of moving items to folders. You can attach
more than one label to each email thread, thereby making it easier to find
later. Labeled threads can stay in the main inbox, or be "archived" to what
amounts to a folder with the label name. If someone that is part of the
conversation thread responds after the email has been archived, it
resurfaces in the inbox with its label(s) intact, and can be re-archived if
desired. This nonlinear, "conversation object-oriented" treatment of the
entire mailbox in Gmail can be a more productive way to use email, if you
are prepared for the differences. It's a feature that is more common in
standalone email clients, but relatively new to web-based email readers.
Utilize free Gmail disk space. Gmail offers over 2 Gigabytes of disk space
for each email account. If you are using the Firefox web browser, there is a
neat little plugin called Gmail Space that turns your Gmail account into a
supplemental storage area for files of any type and size. The interface is
brilliant, easy to use, and looks a lot like an FTP client. Once you sign up
for a Gmail account, you to send out 15 invitations for new accounts. Each
invited account can invite 3 more people. While you don't want to abuse it,
you could probably use a few of those invites yourself. Just imagine: 2
accounts in your name gives over 5 gigabytes of free disk storage. This is
great for moving large files around between two computers that are not
networked. There's no limit to file size, but the Gmail Space notes say that
you should try to avoid transferring over 1 Gigabyte in the same day, else
Google may block your account. Also, it functions at present, but may not if
Gmail in anyway.
Gmail document conversion. Digital Inspiration has yet another Gmail tip,
this one for converting a variety of file formats into HTML automatically.
It's so simple, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Gmail MP3 player. This feature is pretty easy to discover, if someone sends
you an MP3 attachment, but Digital Inspiration explains how you can play MP3
files with the Gmail player without logging into Gmail.
Hotmail quirks. Hotmail has the quirk that if you click on a link inside of
an email, a new window pops up, regardless of the web browser you are using.
Sure it's one of the oldest webmail systems and sure there are millions of
people using it, but power email users should avoid it like the plague. With
Gmail or even the new Yahoo beta mail around, why bother with Hotmail?
Outlook upgrades: call contacts. Microsoft Outlook has of late been getting
"add ons". There are several add-ons that integrate with your contact list
to allow you to call phone numbers from Outlook. For example, assuming you
have Skype software (free) running on your computer, the SkypeContact Dialer
for Microsoft Outlook will initiate a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
call on Skype. Skype, if you don't already know, is just one of many free
software programs that let you actually make voice calls from your computer
to either another computer or even to landline phones. (You can read more
about VoIP at VoIPLowdown.com.)
Outlook upgrades: RSS reader. The newest version of Outlook lets you
subscribe to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) "news feeds/ headlines". These
are the same type of "headlines" you see in Gmail or at a site like myYahoo.
Yahoo mail beta: AJAXified. Yahoo! Mail has a new version that's just
released that uses AJAX and all kinds of web2.0-ish features that are
supposed to enhance it. If you do not like the workflow of Yahoo, try out
their new "beta mail". It has multi-tabs, to allow viewing of multiple
emails simultaneously, and drag-and-drop of highlighted emails into folders,
fast deletion of blocks of consecutive email items, RSS feed viewing, a
calendar to manage tasks, and other features. If you don't like it, you can
switch back. At least for now.
Last but not Least: Privacy and Security
Rule 1 of email privacy: there is no true privacy. Keep that in mind, and
write your emails accordingly. (See Exceptions below, under encryption.)
Follow email compliance. This one is more for businesses rather than
individuals. But because it potentially treads on employee privacy, it is
included here. Publicly-traded businesses in some countries, for example the
USA, must often follow email compliance and do automatic backups of all
employee communications. Here is a 5 step guide for email compliance from IT
Security. Email system backups are a matter of course for most large
organizations. But with more small companies going public, this is something
for employees to remember, which reiterates the previous point: there is no
real privacy in email.
Copy that. When discussing sensitive topics with someone at work, CC (carbon
copy) a supervisor or colleague involved in the same project. This will
cover your back should the other person claim they didn't receive your email
indicating their deadline for some work, etc. This method keeps the
conversation private for the most part, as it's expected that your boss or
supervisor has the discretion not to forward the email elsewhere unless
absolutely necessary, while simultaneously protecting you. All this should
be done independently of any regular system backups.
Don't hand out your real email account freely. This is especially important
for a company's employees. Company email addresses should only be known to
other employees and a few close
family members, in case of emergency. Some companies publish a few employee
on their website, but they really shouldn't as this invites spam as well as
Use a contact form. Your website (or your company's) should not display
employee emails online. Instead, use a coded contact form. When someone
submits a message, the web server's contact application can forward to the
appropriate parties, in multiple if necessary. When the receiving party
responds to the contact form message, they will at that point be revealing
their real email address. But hopefully they can distinguish between a real
query and a fake one.
Code your publicly-displayed emails. Spambots are web applications that
scour websites for recognizable email addresses. If you have a website or
display your email on anyone's webpage, "mangle" your email. It should still
be recognizable by a human. For example, if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org,
then try something like "bob-dot-loblaw #at# mycompany-dot-com", or
something similar. And be INCONSISTENT. Spambots are getting smarter, as
spammers refine them. Use a variety of punctuation marks, but still have it
Better yet, use a freebie webmail account. You still want to code your email
address when you display it publicly. Also, don't make it obvious what your
real email is. For example, if your real email address is email@example.com,
don't use something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Some spam bots use addresses
they harvest to generate other combinations, just in case they get lucky.
Don't unsubscribe blindly. If you start receiving "subscription" emails from
some source to which you didn't subscribe, don't use their "unsubscribe"
link. If you do, you might just find yourself getting even more emails.
You're better off just adding the email address (or the entire domain) on
your inbox blacklist.
Use a plain-text email client. If you use a plain-text email client, there's
less chance that you will fall for a phishing email, as either there'll be
no active hyperlinks, or the link will be obvious. In a similar vein, if you
sign up for any sort of subscription email service at a website, choose to
receive emails in text mode only, if possible.
Use a secure email client. See this IT Security article for some tips. IT
Security also has a brief discussion of email security, with a link to a
buyers guide that contains a list of email security vendors.
Encrypt emails. Never send important/ private information by email unless
you have encrypted
it. And even then, think twice before sending it. Also keep in mind that
certain forms of encryption may be illegal in your country. The difficulties
surrounding encryption mean that sensitive/ private information is still
best sent on paper or via phone. If you want to take the encryption route, 5
steps to make your email secure explains some of the options.
Encrypt, part 2: Use freenigma. Freenigma is a free Firefox web browser
plugin that performs email encryption for webmail-based email systems,
including Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail/ MSN. There will also soon be a
corporate professional version and a Microsoft Outlook plugin. But the basic
version is free. However, to use it, the person you are sending to must also
have the plugin. Since the application is currently in public beta and
first- come- first- served, your intended email recipients should sign up at
the same time as you. There is also an open API (Application Programmer
Interface) so that you can incorporate freenigma into your own applications.
Read/Write Web has more details.
Try steganography. Steganography is the act of hiding a message in some
other media, usually a digital photograph. If someone doesn't know the
message is there, they probably cannot find it, right? The only drawback is
that if someone tests for standard "data hiding" methods, they may discover
your hidden message. Try combining encryption and steganography. That is,
encrypt a message, then bury it in a digital image or another message.
Escape from Nigeria. Nigerian fraud - wherein a Nigerian government employee
with access to untold riches just needs a chunk of cash from you so he can
escape the country - was known in the 16th century as the Spanish Prisoner
Letter. In 500 years, no-one fool enough to send money ever received a cent
or centavo back from the criminals behind these scams.
Don't get hooked. Phishing email - messages purporting to be from PayPal,
Western Union, e-Gold and other financial companies - typically promises
account closure and balance forfeiture if the reader doesn't click on the
handy included links and 'verify' or 'confirm' account details. The links
look legitimate, but instead they direct the worried recipient to a
lookalike site set up to collect login and password information, credit card
and/or bank account details, et cetera. Never click links in email of this
variety; physically type the URL of the company's website into your browser
if you are concerned about your account. Honest companies will tell you
upfront that they never send this sort of email. That is, they will never
send an email where they tell you to click on an enclosed link to save your
account from shut down.
Don't get hooked, part 2. Similarly, do not click on the links of an email
purporting to be from some famous organizations, unless you have contacted
them and are expecting a reply. If you are using a web browser-based email
client, hovering your mouse cursor over a link should display, in the
browser status line at bottom, where the link is to. Look at that carefully.
One unsuspecting 76-year old retired professor with lots of computer
experience thought he was getting an email from a famous golf course in
California, where he had actually played before. Clicking on the link caused
a flood of browser windows filled with porn to appear, causing him to lose
much time trying to figure out how to get rid of the problem.
Don't get fooled again. PC Magazine offers a couple examples of how spammers
use clever subject line wording to get the unsuspecting to open an email.
One suddenly common way is to make you think that you sent an email which
I bring sad -- but sane -- tidings. Regardless of what that email said, you
did not win the Irish Sweepstakes. Neither did you win the Yahoo Lottery. In
fact, there *is* no Yahoo Lottery. Typically, one has to purchase a ticket
to win a lottery. Also, legitimate lotteries don't ask you to send $550 to
Teach your children well. If you have children, ensure they know what you
know of the points noted here and in other articles. Note, too, that
additional online dangers face them. Speak with them about predators; about
using avatars instead of photos of themselves online; about never sharing
address, phone or other personal information with anyone online; about
telling you when someone makes them feel uncomfortable or sends
inappropriate pictures. If you're uncertain how to proceed, the Kids' Rules
at SafeKids.com will prove useful.
Don't just delete -- destroy. When it's time to upgrade, back up, then
import your email and other important files to the new computer. Then comes
the important part. Stories of bountiful private data harvested from used
and 'recycled' computer hard drives whose data had simply been deleted from
the OS or the command line (or dealt with by DOS's FDisk) are rife. Many of
these originated with an exercise performed by Simson Garfinkle and Abhi
Shelat, who published what they'd found on 150 used hard drives they'd
purchased. If you don't trust erasure programs which overwrite sectors many,
many times, you might consider a metal chipper shredder (or, if on a budget,
sledge-hammering the platters.
Most Viewed Pages