E-mail Security

Keep a “clean” e-mail address.

When mailing to unknown parties; posting to newsgroups, mailing lists, chat rooms and other public spaces on the Net; or publishing a Web page that mentions your e-mail address, it is best to do this from a “side” account, some pseudonymous or simply alternate address, and to use your main or preferred address only on small, members-only lists and with known, trusted individuals.

Addresses that are posted (even as part of message headers) in public spaces can be easily discovered by spammers (online junk mailers) and added to their list of targets. If your public “throw away” address gets spammed enough to become annoying, you can simply kill it off, and start a new one.

Your friends, boss, etc., will still know your “real” address. You can use a free (advertising-supported) e-mail service provider like Yahoo Mail or Hotmail for such “side” accounts. It is best to use a “real” Internet service provider for your main account, and to examine their privacy policies and terms of service, as some “free mail” services may have poor privacy track records.

You may find it works best to use an e-mail package that allows multiple user IDs and addresses (a.k.a. “personalities”, “aliases”) so that you do not have to switch between multiple programs to manage and use more than one e-mail address (though you may have to use a Web browser rather than an e-mail program to read your mail in your “throw away” accounts – many free mail providers do not allow POP or IMAP connections). If you are “required” to give an e-mail address to use a site (but will not be required to check your mail for some kind of access code they send you), you can use “someuser@somesite.com” (somesite.com is a non-existent site, set up by the Internet standards to be used as an example that will never accidentally coincide with anyone’s real e-mail address, which is always a danger if you just make up one off the top of your head.).

Realize you may be monitored at work, avoid sending highly personal e-mail to mailing lists, and keep sensitive files on your home computer.

In most US states and many if not most countries, employees have little if any AllAnonymity protection from monitoring by employers. When discussing sensitive matters in e-mail or other online media, be certain with whom you are communicating. If you replied to a mailing list post, check the headers – is your reply going to the person you think it is, or to the whole list? Also be aware that an increasing number of employers are monitoring and recording employee Web usage, as well as e-mail. This could compromise home banking passwords and other sensitive information. Keep private data and private Net usage private, at home.

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