Is Free Email Really Free? Is Email Safe?
So you thought the free email account you use is free and that free and paid email was safe to use? Think again. This article will uncover the myths associated with using email.
Since the late ’90s email has become the staple of communication around the world. Sure, in recent years, instant messaging has taken up some of the slack, but in general email, communication is still king.
Email is where you send your personal message and attachments, photos, receive your passwords, send out sensitive data like passwords, store your banking details and much more.
However, there are a couple of myths that need to be debunked because there are some serious consequences if they are ignored.
MYTH 1 – EMAIL IS SAFE
This is probably one of the worst misinformation about email. Email is definitely not safe or rather, it’s safe to an extent. Did you know that when you send an email across the internet, if you are not using a secure connection, it does not matter how strong your password is, the data in your request is sent over plain text?
This means anyone with a modicum of experience in snooping online traffic can capture your username and password as you check or send an email. They can then use those details to log in to your email.
During the Sochi Olympics in 2014, it was [wrongly] reported that as passengers were disembarking from their planes at the airport and turning on their devices, they were getting immediately hacked. It turns out that this was a fabrication but, what was a fact was that hackers were indeed setting up fake wifi hotspots offering so-called “free wifi”, with the hook that its users would need to create a new account and define a password.
Guess what? Most people use the same password for everything, so when creating their new free wifi account, they would use the same password they use for everything else making it easy for hackers to gain access to their email account. People store a lot of personal information in their email, for example, copies of passports, mortgage documents, bank statements, utility bills, all of which can be used for fraudulent purposes.
How to keep email usage safe
1. Only use email providers that allow you to use encrypted connections.
2. Use a provider who allows you to use 2FA on your webmail.
3. Never store sensitive documents in your email.
4. Don’t use the same password twice and make sure you have a complex password.
5. Avoid connecting to free wifi hotspots.
6. Never send password information or credit card data via email. Ever.
MYTH 2 – FREE EMAIL IS FREE
This is another big one and really applies to those that use a free email service like some of the very big well-known ones. Very often I hear people, even close friends and family make the statement “email is free”. In fact, just the other day I read an article on dailymail.co.uk about the rapper, Dr Dre, his soon to be ex-wife wanting alimony payments of $2 million dollars a month to cover her expenses. One of the items on that list was $20,000 a month for “Telephone, cell phone and email use”.
Later during the week a radio presenter on Capital Radio in London mentioned the article and made the statement along the lines of “How can she ask that for email, email is free”.
I think my friends and family, and most other people like this radio presenter has never heard the phrase below or perhaps heard it but forgotten.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Here is another popular phrase.
You are not buying a product, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT.
Let’s look at that for a moment. “You are the product”. How does that apply to email? This applies to the plethora of free email services you can have access to giving you the impression that they are allowing you to use their email for free.
The fact is email requires massive amounts of storage which involves huge arrays of servers which cost a lot of money to buy/lease. There is not only the physical cost of the servers, there is manpower to manage and support them, software licenses, electricity and other overheads. Bottom line is that any large email service requires serious infrastructure and investment.
The companies that provide these free email services are businesses, not charitable foundations, and as such have to make a profitable return on their investment and costs.
How do they monetize on this free email service they are providing you?
Put simply, they sell your data. No, we are not talking about your literal data like the contents of your emails or photos and documents, but your data in the sense of your interests, demographics, connections, what your finances look like. This profile data might seem patchy on the surface but once it collated and organized, it can be extremely valuable and powerful data for advertisers as they can then target ads to you based on your data profile.
How to minimise data exposure
1. Don’t use free email services and expect total privacy.
2. Avoid using free email services for your business.
So there you have it. Email is not really a safe method of communication if you are not taking precautions. Free email services are not really free, you end up being the product. So what options do you have? There are many paid providers of email offering reliability, security and privacy when it comes to your email, so there is no need to compromise your data.
JUCRA Digital is one such provider of ad-free, secure email with accounts starting at €2.50 a month for 25GB of Space up to €9.50 a month for MS Exchange with 100GB of storage.
Post Written by Craig Edmonds
Craig is one of the owners of JUCRA Digital and reigns from a hospitality and finance background, however, fell into web design and development in 2000 after leaving the world of finance to go on a sabbatical in Marbella, Spain where he has been ever since. Craig really loves the challenge of the internet, digs WordPress and loves Cpanel.