Security is an issue we all take very seriously. Most of us, depending on the area we live in, have bars on our windows and gates on our doors. We fortify our fences with spikes and electricity, and install alarms in our houses as well as our cars. We leave nothing to chance, except when were online. We probably have anti-spam and anti-virus software for our computers, we may even have firewalls for that extra measure of protection, but do we actually consider our virtual worlds to be safe and secure? Do we even think about it? People are more communicative today than at any other point in the history of humankind. And they communicate largely via email. When it comes to online security, email is the proverbial chink in the chain. Cyber-fiends dont have to work too hard to create an opening wide enough to squeeze through and make life a virtual misery for the unsuspecting. Itsecurity.com recommends that when starting life online you begin by creating three email accounts. One should be for work, the second should be for your personal use, and the third should be the account you use to sign up to newsletters and enter competitions. Your third account should be completely expendable and should contain nothing of importance. Because you use it for subscriptions, its likely to attract a lot of spam. Once its all spammed out, after about 6 months, you should close it and forget all about it. People who are used to email at work or at home, or who open email accounts at internet cafes or libraries, may not be aware of the risks inherent in logging on and off at public terminals. When youve checked your email and you want to log out, its important to make sure that youve closed the browser window. For the sake of convenience some services display your user name once youve logged into your account. By closing the browser, you minimise the possibility of someone finding your name, guessing your password and using your account for nefarious purposes. As an extra precaution when using public terminals, you should also delete your search history and passwords from public terminals. Again, for the sake of convenience many services offer to remember passwords for you. Avoid the temptation to say yes: its far safer to remember your passwords and retype them when necessary. Learn how to clear the browser cache for instances when the computer doesnt ask the question, and simply remembers your passwords automatically. Be wary of forwarding messages. Forwarding emails is an easy way to pass on anything that you find interesting, funny, touching, relevant etc. Its also a great way for a hacker or spammer to access a bucket-load of email addresses. If you simply have to forward a message, delete all the addresses of those who received it already that way, and if your email does get hi-jacked, the amount of damage that can be caused is limited. Be aware of email scams and dont fall prey to them. Exercise the same caution that you would use with junk mail announcing that youve just one the lottery, or that someone wants to send you some unsolicited money, rather bin it. And above all else remember that if a bank really wanted your account details, they wouldnt ask you to send them along in an email. They have secure websites where you can correct or confirm account information, and never underestimate the importance of a face to face visit. It may be inconvenient, but it could preserve your life savings. Bottom line: if in doubt, phone them and find out exactly what they require. Online security is not foolproof; its always wise to use a little savvy when dealing with email to stack the odds in your favour and not in favour of the bad guys. If an email looks or feels dodgy, dont open it, and dont click anything on it. The delete button isnt your enemy, its your friend. Never be afraid to report something as spam or to blacklist it and block it from your account. Its your account after all; you have the right to keep it clean and tidy. For more invaluable tips on keeping your email safe read The 25 Most Common Mistakes in Email Security - IT Security.