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Our Online Security article series delves into the important topics of cyber security which are seldom talked about but are increasingly important as we lead more and more digital lives. Part 1 will focus on the most basic component of our digital life, emails.
While everyone has at least one email address, few have put much thought into how to organize and manage emails to reduce cyber security risks. We hope that after reading this post, you’ll find ways to change how your emails are organized so that you can:
While nearly everyone has an email for home and a different one for work, there might be situations where having a few different accounts can dramatically help you reduce the amount of spam you get.
Before we get into how many to set up, it’s important to know the most useful email hack there is: You may not need to create separate email accounts to get different email addresses. A little-known feature of Gmail is that any address of the form: firstname.lastname@example.org will get automatically sent to email@example.com
Armed with this, there are a couple methods you can use:
Some go to the extreme of generating a new email for every service/website they sign up for, that way they can keep track of which companies have been leaking their personal information to third-party vendors. This is easy with the hack above, but it’s still likely necessary to have at least 2 accounts. I.e. firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com
That way you can sign up for any service with firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you use multiple service providers, some of which may not use Gmail, you can then forward all traffic to a Sink account that aggregates all your emails in a single place.
This is a simpler one, where you have email@example.com, this helps with filtering if you care to see only emails of a certain category, such as
With public emails created, you’ll need at least 2 private email accounts
Now that you have these accounts set up, how are we not violating our goal of keeping it simple? Easy. In case you have multiple email providers, you can set up forwarding of all traffic to the Sink account. An example of how to do this on Google can be found here.
So now you can view all emails from the Sink account, the last bit that needs to be configured is to be able to reply to emails using the original address instead of the Sink account. This works for those “+ hack” addresses as well as any address from a third party. Not only that, you can set that as the default behavior, so that you never have to toggle in between.
The only email that you would not automatically forward is the recovery email. This should be set up with a completely different email provider if possible, protonmail.com is a good privacy-focused choice for this. Do not use it to communicate, it should be solely used for receiving password recovery links from the other email accounts.
With this setup, you get the following benefits:
While a future post will go into more detail on how to keep credentials safe, the general guideline is to make sure to use a password manager to generate long random strings as passwords and use 2-Factor (2FA) or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for all accounts where available.
Recent security breaches from established firms have shown that companies are honeypots of personally identifiable information. There is a market for this information and bad actors exploit it in a variety of ways that span from benign annoyance (spam campaigns) to serious identity/financial fraud. With the precautions and setup above, we can dramatically reduce the consequences when a third-party service is breached, thereby reducing our risk of being a victim of fraud as we conduct more and more of our daily activities online. In the next part of the series, we will go through password management best practices.