Medical experts stress that social distancing is essential to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, activities that bring people into close physical proximity have been suspended, businesses and schools have been closed, and millions of people are now working and learning from home. Online connections have replaced in-person connections, with social distancing leading to distant socializing.
Sadly, despicable people are exploiting the current crisis, playing on public anxiety in hopes of luring people into clicking on fraudulent emails and web links. Scams have been reported ranging from ransomware distributed by a fraudulent coronavirus tracking application, to malware disguised as medical advice, and more. Phone scams have started, too, promising reservations for a COVID-19 vaccine or selling medications hyped as a cure – all in return for a credit card and social security number, or even just a click.
One way to confront these threats is to practice social distancing in our digital lives, too, by implementing measures that create added layers of protection between our true identities and our online activities. Effective tactics include the use of substitute email addresses, anonymous search engines and browsers, and virtual private networks, among other things.
The use of substitute email identities, called aliases, is particularly effective. This practice creates an added layer of isolation for your primary email address and protects your privacy. For example, when subscribing to online learning resources for home-schooling the kids, signing-up for legitimate medical bulletins, or activating free trials, don’t disclose your personal email address, provide an alias address instead.
Using substitute email identities also provides added email security. For example, if a bad actor targets you with a phishing attack, perhaps posing as your doctor, but reaches out to you using an address that you disclosed to someone else, the message is clearly fraudulent. Using aliases routinely also reduces the scope of your vulnerability to credential re-use attacks, because your credentials will always be different from site to site. Using both a different email address and a different password is even better.
Importantly, aliases also provide greater control over your email inbox. Each alias can be controlled individually, and aliases have the added advantage of expendability — if an address starts to spread to unwanted senders, you can cancel it, which is an unthinkable option for anyone who always uses their personal email address.
Social distancing in email, particularly in impersonal online dealings, can help you avoid online risks. Take action now to help protect yourself and your family.
David G. Hughes
Co-Founder and CEO at ManyMe.com
David is the co-founder and CEO at ManyMe.com, a free email forwarding service that makes it easy for individuals to use substitute email addresses online, in person, or on paper for greater privacy, stronger security, and unmatched control of their email inbox.