Invoices, booking confirmations, plane tickets, advertising – chances are that dozens of e-mails will pop up in your mailbox every day. With this onslaught of information, it can be difficult to stay on top of everything.
Despite competition from messenger services, the number of email addresses is still increasing every year. According to estimates by e-mail service providers Web.de and GMX, 625.8 billion e-mails were sent in Germany alone over the past year.
However, some people are still failing to get to grips with e-mails. Here are seven tips for more clarity and enhanced security.
The purpose: E-mail is not always the best option for business communications. "E-mail is the top choice when it comes to binding and trackable correspondence," says the e-mail etiquette manual of German industry association Bitkom. Companies may need to archive and store business mail. Instant messaging and social media may therefore be a better choice for arranging a lunch meeting or a quick digital chat.
The kiss principle: Stands for "Keep it short and simple". If you're writing an e-mail, try to keep it brief and concise, recommends the Bitkom manual. For the sake of clarity, each mail should only contain one topic, which should also be included in the subject line.
Many people use the inbox as a task list. If you have reason to believe that the recipient won't give your e-mail a great deal of attention, keywords can also be marked in bold – but don't go overboard.
The signature: Users can create a signature in e-mail programs that will automatically appear below each mail. The same rule applies here: Keep everything to a minimum. In most cases, employers will provide a corporate signature. Private e-mails can also carry a signature – but these should only contain text and important information, plus an optional short greeting.
Security: E-mails are often used for spamming and spreading malicious software. Simple guidelines can help you protect yourself from this. "Don't open any e-mails from unknown senders. Don't open any attachments if you don't know where they come from – particularly packed archives such as .zip or .rar files," says Julian Graf of the North-Rhine Westphalia Consumer Protection Centre.
The password: Even more important is choosing a secure password, says Graf. "Your mailbox is at the centre of your digital life – every account is linked to it." If a hacker has access to your mailbox, it's usually not too difficult to crack other related accounts at Amazon, Paypal or Facebook.
According to the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), secure passwords should be eight to 12 characters long and contain upper and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters.
Make sure you stay clear of names of family members and other easy-to-guess combinations. Regular visits to the Identity Leak Checker of the Hasso Plattner Institute or the website "haveibeenpwned.com" will inform you whether your own access data may already have been cracked.
The encryption: "An e-mail is like a postcard", says the Bitkom manual. For criminals, it's relatively easy to access unencrypted mail, whereas only the sender and the recipient are able to read the content when end-to-end encryption (E2E) is used.
For this to work, however, they must also exchange their crypto keys. This is a bit complicated and keeps many from encrypting their mails.
The disposable account: Many services on the Internet require an e-mail address to create an account. If you're only planning on using the account once, you may want to opt for a disposable address. These are temporary mail accounts, writes the IT portal "teltarif.de".
Depending on the provider, you may only be able to read or reply to e-mails. Sites offering this service include "10minutemail.com," for instance. In some cases, the disposable mail providers are recognised when registering with a service – in this case, you can quickly look for an alternative. — dpa