E-mail is one of the most widely used channels by non-profits and social change agents, and so if there's one lesson that results from the recent scandal involving General David Petraeus and Gmail, it is that e-mail as a channel is not quite as secure as you might think.
And in fairness, I'm not beating up specifically on Gmail - any web-based e-mail provider provides the same kind of data that led to Petraeus' discovery. But in an age where cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly prominent issue, and with federal offices being granted further powers of discovery...many people need to think (or rethink) the way they use Gmail.
Thankfully, yes, there are the obvious articles focusing on lessons from the Petraeus matter, but ultimately, this is more about having a stronger awareness of keeping e-mail secure. It's more than just having a really effective password (although one author argues that isn't enough) - it's having a more thorough understanding of what to avoid.
So in that spirit, some suggestions about how to handle e-mail both professionally and personally:
- Try not to check personal e-mail at work: this may seem obvious, but for many of us, checking personal e-mail when we're "on the job" at an office can be problematic. Unless you can access e-mail from a smartphone, it may be best to leave it be until you're at home.
- Stop "phishers" before they start - If you receive an e-mail seeking your login information (which isn't caught by your spam filters), and you suspect it's "phishing" for information, don't click any links, but head to the main site and sign in. (So head to yourbank.com rather than click on a link from an e-mail that looks suspiciously like one from yourbank.com)
- Use your entire keyboard when creating a password - When creating an e-mail password, consider mixing up symbols, numbers, and letters. (For example, rather than "onecause", an equivalent password that is a little harder to break would be "10n3c@u$e".
- Google "e-mail security tips" and read plenty of articles - or simply click this link, and you'll get plenty of tips to read.
It would be easy to focus on the more prurient aspects of the Petraeus matter, but ultimately, current events are helping us - at the very least - understand some of the more casual security concerns inherent within our most currently used online channel.
Have any comments or questions - please leave them below. You are also more than welcome to contact me either via my Linked In profile or my web site contact form.
Thanks for reading, and have a great, happy Thanksgiving.