Tags: Cyber Security | Emerging Threats | cyber | email

Yes, Email Can Ruin You

Yes, Email Can Ruin You

Tuesday, 25 April 2017 09:05 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Think your e-mail address is harmless to give to people? Think again.

If you’re like most people, you don’t consider your email address to be "sensitive personal information." But then again, if you are like most people, you’re probably tossing your personal information here and there like the grand marshal strewing flower petals in the Rose Bowl parade.

Your email address is the most public piece of personally identifiable information that you have besides your name — assuming you don’t go by a nickname. While your email address is not as useful to a criminal as your Social Security number, or even your date of birth, it is sufficient for some exploits.

Does that mean you should never give your email address to anyone? Of course not. That said, it does mean that you should be thinking about it as a serious part of your personal security in today’s digital world.

Control Fraud?

Strictly speaking, the definition of control fraud is when a person gets the top spot at a company or organization and then controls what people know in order to profit from criminal behavior: this could take the form of things like a pump-and-dump or cooking the books — think Enron and Bernie Madoff.

When it comes to email, the control fraud is literal, not metaphorical. If a criminal gets control of your email account, he or she can do all kinds of mischief. Passwords to financial accounts, social networking sites and many other secure targets become insecure the moment someone takes your e-mail address and decides to figure out your password then change it to lock you out.

Most sites now offer a password reset option, which will include having a code sent to your mobile device. That’s the way to go.


While phishing lures do get sent via SMS to your mobile device, the majority of phishing and spearphishing attacks are launched via email. Phishing is a general clicky email, and spearphishing involves the hacker doing some homework to write an email that looks like it’s coming from a colleague or vendor.

Think you’ll be able to tell the difference? These days, I’d wager that even the designers of the original pages and email templates being spoofed wouldn’t be able to tell the best phishing emails from the real thing.

Sure, you will still see emails with terrible grammar that look like a 5-year-old on a sugar high coded them, but this is not what you’re up against. Scammers still favor e-mail because people continue to fall for their tricks, whether it is a great deal on an everyday item or terrifying notes about security breaches— the one that could happen when you open it. There are as many triggers as there are fears in the world.

If you do click through from an e-mail, look at the URL. Scams and spoof sites will have very similar addresses, but they will be different. And never simply click through and start filling out forms. Best case scenario, look up the phone number of the company or organization that emailed you, and speak to a representative there. Another option, use a search engine to find the same page on the site.

Does Your Email Address Include Your Name?

While it’s getting better out there, a lot of websites still prompt you to use your email address as your login when you register. At this point, it’s simply unthinkable. Of course, if you change your user name to your name as many sites suggest, you’ve got the same problem.

Using your name or your email address keeps things simple, both for you and for criminals. Instead of giving scammers 50 percent of the information they need to access your email account, shut you out, and take over all your existing accounts, consider changing your login name to something hard to guess — where permitted. Better yet, treat it like a password.

Good "cyber hygiene" is integral to the effective management of an individual’s identity portfolio. Would you drive a car wrapped with your Social Security number, home address, or personal email address? In the absence of proper security protocols, you may be doing the same thing every time you hit "send" on an email.

Adam K. Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years of experience and is a nationally recognized expert on security, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. A former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Levin is chairman and founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. Levin is the author of Amazon Best Seller "Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves." Read more of his reports — Go Here Now.

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Good "cyber hygiene" is integral to effective management of one's identity portfolio. Would you drive a car wrapped with your Social Security number, home address, or personal email address? In the absence of proper security protocols, you may be doing the same every time you hit "send."
cyber, email
Tuesday, 25 April 2017 09:05 AM
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