Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Safe Computing I - EMail

I am going to assume that you do not have any third-party virus proctection software installed (like McAffee or Norton) - if you do then get rid of it and then come back to this point. I will probably come back to how to do this later...

EMail is one of those things that is abused, misused, misunderstood, underestimated, overestimated and overlooked. It can be a very useful tool and and a very big pain the neck at the same time. However, over the years (I wrote an "email application" back in the early 90's using tools that were not much more than "rocks and sticks", but it worked) I have come up with a way to effectively use email without worrying about spam and other junk.

General Email Guidelines:

  • NEVER send junk mail to your friends. I know that the term "junk mail" is very ambiguous, but think twice before sending that funny or sappy story to 50 of your friends. There are small percentage of people in this world that really want that stuff.

  • When someone gives you their email address accept it with responsibility - you wouldn't mail out 100 postcards to everyone you knew with the your new friend's name and address unless you had thier permission....would you?

  • CHECK YOUR EMAIL. If you give out your email address then there is an implication that if the person you give it to sends something to that address you will look it. It's very frustrating to say for the 100th time at a meeting for a group (at Church or something) "I sent an email about it!" (after hearing the immortal words..."I didn't know about that!"). So, check your email once a day (just like your "snail mail") or not at all - don't even give it out...

  • If you don't check your email then DON'T GIVE IT OUT. If you owned a barn in the country 3 states away that had an address you wouldn't give that address to anyone that you actually wanted to correspond with. An email account that is never (or very irregularly) checked is no more useful than a mailbox stuffed with letters that no one ever empties.

  • NEVER open attachments UNLESS a) you are expecting it AND b) you already know what it is. Almost all emails (in and of themselves) are harmless, but the attachments can be devastating. The only exception to this rule is if you REALLY KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING - in that case you probably don't need this article in the first place.

At any given time I have at least 4 different email accounts that I use. For some, that may seem like a lot (I actually have more like 6), but it's really not. There are lots of free email sites to help you get three.

My MAIN e-mail account: This is the one I guard with my life. I only give it out to people that I trust. This is usually the one that I am paying for (in some way). If I have given you this email address consider yourself a close, trusted friend.

  • CHECK this account every day that you would check your "snail mail" in your mailbox (or P.O. Box) at home.

  • NEVER use it for registration purposes - EVER.

  • NEVER forward messages sent to groups of people. If you want to forward a message sent to a large group of people to one or two people then click FORWARD, but then delete all of the addresses from the address line and then add the ones you want.

  • NEVER send spoofs, chain mail or junk mail to friends, family or others from this account.

  • SET every email you receive in this account that you don't want to get there as SPAM. Just about every email program has a "Mark as SPAM" option. Be diligent about this and over time your SPAM will decrease.

  • DELETE the Junk Folder about once a week at least - taking a quick check to make sure that nothing important was sent there by mistake.

  • Don't be afraid to "Mark As SPAM" any friend that only sends you mail.

MY "DIRTY" ACCOUNT: By "dirty" I mean the same way that you get dirty while you do dirty work (like cleaning or yard work). This can be a purchased account or a free one - a purchased one works better. The idea here is to reduce the amount of spam you get as much as possible, but to use it for things that you MIGHT want from time to time.

For example, I might use this account to register at a website that I trust or that I use a lot. I also, use this for email for my bank account and entities that I make payments to.

  • CHECK this account about every other day or about 2-3 times a week, or when you are expecting something in it.

  • MARK as many SPAM emails as you can, but don't kill yourself just delete the ones you don't want.

  • DELETE (AND/OR) READ the emails you get directly from places you registered but don't make them as SPAM.

MY SPAM ACCOUNT: When I get mail from the mailbox at home that is OBVIOUSLY junk I just throw it right in the garbage - I don't even open it. I give it the respect it deserves... This is how you should look at this account. Just about anything that comes here is junk. It's a big electronic trash can.

Why even have one? How many times have you went to a website that wouldn't give you the time of day without registering and they have to have an email address? Another thing I've seen many times is this same situation, but they want you to VERIFY your email address by opening the email they send you and doing something with it. Use this account for that.

I actually have two of these - both of them are free.

  • About ONCE A MONTH just go in and delete everything.

  • DON'T spend one extra moment of time managing this account.

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"...Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18