Your personal email is a liability to your online security.
Provided by Angel McCall CFP®
There isn’t a single online application or website that we use more frequently than our email. Email addresses have long since expired their role of exclusively sending and receiving instant messages. We use our email address to register for online services and subscriptions, to send and receive confidential information, and to set up social media accounts, financial apps, and much more. Because of the diverse use of our email addresses, and the countless subscriptions and personal accounts it is linked to, our personal email is putting us at an increased risk for online hacks and identity theft. Hackers don’t need much to access these private channels of your life. Just having your email address stolen poses a great threat.
Whenever we share our email address with a company or an app, we are trusting that these companies have the ability to protect our personal information. The recent Equifax security breach has taught us that this isn’t so. Even the most established brands can’t guarantee that your personal information will not be compromised in the event of a hack.
Many of the online services we rely upon use our email addresses to identify us when we login. In the event that we forget our passwords to login to sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, your bank’s website, etc., there is usually a reset process that allows you to regain access. This process may include answering the security questions that you setup when creating the account. Much of the time, a hacker can find the answer to these common questions simply by scanning your social network accounts for personal information, such as the name of the High School you went to, or your Mother’s maiden name, etc. You can also reset these passwords by clicking a link sent to the email address used to setup the account. If a hacker gains access to your email account, they can access these personal accounts, change the login information to lock you out, and send messages, make bank transfers, access personal, medical, and professional information, and much more.
In order to protect yourself from hackers accessing your confidential information by hacking your email, you should consider creating a secret email address to connect your critical accounts to. When creating this email address, leave out any personal identifying information, such as your name and birthday. This email address should be used exclusively for your most critical accounts - most importantly - your online banking. When possible, request that password recoveries for these sites are done by a phone text, and not through security questions or email alone. You should also opt for a two-step verification process when given the option. This makes it so anyone accessing your account from an unknown device is required to enter a code sent to your personal phone before logging in.
For more tips on how to decrease your likelihood of being hacked, you can read my article “Protecting Your Financial Apps From Being Hacked,” here.