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The risks of using a generic Gmail or Yahoo email address

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June 7, 2013

Getting a free email address from Gmail or Yahoo that doesn't even require the registration of a domain name and its hosting account can be tempting at first. After all, they are quick to setup and they work.

Of course, unless you're in business that is, in which case and for marketing reasons you'd prefer to have something like you@companyname.com.

Case in point-- apart from the fact that Gmail's service is identified to Google instead of your business or company name, there's also something else that you need to know. Gmail has in its email system something that some people aren't even aware of, and it's called the invisible dot.

The issue is that it could cause other people's personal messages to land in your inbox. Gmail's current addressing methodology has one small flaw. Not only could some people with common names receive the personal messages of like-named strangers, but a Gmail alias of their account name could also be used to sign them up for a service they never asked for.

Here's how it works. If you get an email address say mike.smith@gmail.com, Gmail's current addressing method doesn't recognize the dot between mike and smith.

So if someone sends you an email to mike.smith@gmail.com, mikesmith@gmail.com will also get that email, since the system can't 'see' the dot in between the first and the last name in the email address.

The misdirected messages could potentially include some sensitive and personal information. And if you're in business, this could even cost you some lost opportunities, not to mention some PR snaffus.

Because Gmail doesn't recognize dots in its addresses, people often use an account name they believe is unique but is actually shared. Someone likely to get a confirmation email for a service ordered using mikesmith@gmail.com will also inadvertently send the same message to mike.smith@gmail.com since Gmail thinks it's the same person when in fact it's not.

Google insists that the solution to misaddressed messages such as this is public education to let people know dots and capitalization in address names are not recognized. But commercial e-mail systems do distinguish addresses with dots without any issue.

A Google representative suggests that the best way to prevent receiving other people's private mail is to avoid signing up for a generic Gmail account.

Gmail works, but its generic name system has rendered it a security risk and a major privacy issue at the same time. The Google Groups thread "Someone else is using my e-mail address" includes posts from Gmail users who regularly receive other people's messages.

In some instances, two people have the same name but slightly different Gmail addresses. In others, one person receives many other people's mail. Often a sender simply enters the wrong address.

Most of the people posting to a similar Google Groups thread from July 2012 claim that the issue is due to someone using the account name as their own by mistake rather than on purpose.

It's difficult to convince people that these are not cases of accounts being hacked. No one else has signed into or otherwise attempted to access the account. Someone has mistaken your Gmail address for theirs, and probably vice versa.

Here's the solution to all of this!
At Sure Mail™, you have two choices: if you decide to order an email address such as mike.smith@suremail.us, the dot does work and Sure Mail's system will differentiate an address such as mike.smith@suremail.us from mikesmith@suremail.us as being two different persons.

Your second choice, and if you own your own business, you will want to register your own domain for marketing reasons. You can register your domain directly through Sure Mail™ or through your own domain registrar if you prefer.

That way, you can have your own email address such as you@yourcompany.com. Sure Mail™ also offers different email packages with additional email options as you need them.

Sure Mail™ addresses are available in both the .us as well as the .ca extensions depending if you live in the U.S. or Canada. And there's another important feature. Sure Mail™ offers a fully redundant email service, since the service relies on multiple mail servers in several data centers located in the U.S. and Canada.

If ever one server fails, your emails are automatically routed through other mail servers. The service is completely transparent. SureMail™ is owned and managed by Sun Hosting, one of Canada's oldest and largest hosting company.

In other IT news

According to a recent survey, there appears to be a two to three-year old trend emerging and it's now getting worse: women are avoiding cyber security alltogether even more than they are avoiding the rest of the IT industry itself.

Of the more than 2,500 people who took cyber security training in the U.K. last year, just 6.2 percent were women. The overall number of women choosing to take up internet security courses also declined overall by a staggering 19.5 percent between 2011 and 2012.

However, during the same period, the number of men on the courses more than doubled, growing by 118 percent so there's definetely a disconnect.

Some training firms in the United Kingdom blame the shortfall on sexism and, to a lesser extent, to inferior lessons in school focused on teaching basic office skills rather than hard computer science. But not everyone agrees on that.

Women are generally rare in the IT and telecom industry, making up just 18 percent of the total workforce, but it appears they're even rarer in IT security.

Bill Walker, technical director and cybersecurity teacher at IT security firm QA in the U.K. says-- "It’s still unclear as to why women are so under-represented in such an important and fast-growing part of Britain’s IT economy. Various theories abound, from gender stereotyping to teaching the wrong kind of technology."

"Despite the steep rise in men taking internet security training over the past year, the United Kingdom is still falling short of the number of people needed. It has to be easier, more affordable and more appealing to women, in order for them to enter this vital segment of the IT economy," said Walker.

Furthermore, a National Audit Office report in February suggests that cyber crime costs Britain between £18 billion and £27 billion a year, and continues to increase. It also suggested that there is a severe lack of decent workers who can step it to help stop online attacks and warned that the skills gap was so severe it could take up to 20 years to close.

Source: Sure Mail™.

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