Using Email

Email is a free form of communication, you can use it as an electronic alternative to letter writing, you can attach pictures or documents for others to see and read. You can use various fonts (fonts are the modern version of typesetting, that you might see in a book or newspaper. The characters can be different shapes and sizes, bold, regular or italic.

The applications that you can use to send and receive emails are generally known as email clients. These clients range in function from the basic client that comes with Android up to Microsoft’s Outlook. Outlook is also known as a PIM (personal information manager) because it incorporates a number of functions including email, calendar and contacts – Other clients that are available only include one or two of these functions.

It’s not possible to describe all the email clients that are available, due to the sheer number, so I will just describe the in-built ones – However once you master these other ones you move onto will be similar in operation and differences usually cosmetic.

We will start with email best practice and below that  are guides to the basic operation of these in-built clients.

E-mail is everywhere. The system which allows messages (along with attachments, such as photos or documents) to be sent to a person or multiple persons changed the way people and businesses communicate. For instance, a document that once had to be faxed, mailed through the postal service, or even scanned in and loaded on to a disk to be hand delivered could now be sent almost instantaneously.

The email system that most people know today grew out of the late 1980s, when Internet service providers such as Prodigy and AOL provided all-in-one products for the masses, with e-mail, instant messaging, games, news headlines, and eventually Internet access. More tech-savvy computer users had more advanced Internet service providers, which may have only provided access to e-mail that could be used with a dedicated program, such as Microsoft Outlook.

But with the beginning of email came the beginning of cybercrime looking to exploit the system to spread malware and scam an unsuspecting public. Whereas cybercriminals once had to rely on spreading viruses by hand via floppy discs or to only users who patched into dial-up local bulletin board systems, the dawn of email then gave them a chance to spread malware to the masses.

Although e-mails can be used to spread malware, there are security practices a computer user can employ to make themselves and their computers safe.

 Be wary of all attachments and links

When strictly speaking of e-mail, the most dangerous ways malware can be passed on is through attachments and harmful links. Computer viruses specifically need to be attached to a form of executable code in order for its trap to be sprung. Cybercriminals therefore will implant viruses on seemingly desirable files (such as a PowerPoint presentation with beautiful photography) and send it on to a few people, knowing it will continue to be passed on. Once the PowerPoint file is executed by a target, the virus will be executed as well, and begin to do its damage.

This brings up two points. First, any attachment – especially ones that have been forwarded on and on – can harbour dangerous malware. And even if the file itself isn’t dangerous, and malware implanted on a computer can act as a beacon to other cybercriminals for them to know this computer can easily be attacked again. Secondly, and more importantly, many computer experts will warn users to be wary of attachments from unfamiliar people. However, the fact that e-mails that come from friends – whether forwarded on purpose or because of a virus – can in fact contain malware.

Only open attachments that can be verified that was delivered directly from a reliable source. And never open or forward any chain emails. Delete them immediately.

Don’t be fooled

Oftentimes, cybercriminals don’t have to worry about whether a target computer is protected or not. They use social engineering techniques to trick people into giving up their private information without any malicious software.

Most commonly in e-mail form, this comes in phishing. Phishing is when a cybercriminal uses a reasonable facsimile of an e-mail that looks like it may have come from an honest business. These may be an online banking service, an online retailer (like eBay), or the target’s Internet service provider. However, these emails usually ask for information that a reputable business would never ask of their customers, such as login and password information or a Social Security number.

Other types of social engineering such as 419 Scams (419 scams are called this because they originated in Nigeria, and the article of law brought in to combat this type of scam was called 419).operate in much the same way, except they aren’t as polished as phishing. These scams send out farcical e-mails, such as a Nigerian prince needing to escape his war-torn nation, that implores the target to wire the sender some money, and they will be rewarded with riches beyond their dreams. Most people understand that this is a sham, but they only need one or two people to fall for it in the thousands of e-mails sent out in order to make thousands of dollars.

If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Learning about these kinds of scams can help protect users and make their e-mail more secure.

 Keep personal information private

The College of New Jersey made an interesting point when explaining e-mail safety. Many people think of emails as secure and private. This is just not so, especially with cybercriminals who are far more technically advanced than the average computer user. The college made this analogy: Think of writing an e-mail as writing a message on a postcard with a pencil. Any e-mail can be viewed and changed.

Avoid putting any personal information in any e-mail, even if the recipient is a reliable source.

Safety precautions

It also helps to keep a computer’s operating system software up to date. This will keep computers fixed with the latest patches that correct known vulnerabilities in the software. Some antivirus software features e-mail scans that can warn users if an attack is coming through messages.

Keep these suggestions in mind when sending e-mails to make sure to have a secure experience.