When tasked with answering the question of which online password should be the strongest and most secure, you might respond by saying your online banking account. The most important account you need to protect is one you may not have thought of; it’s your email account.

When you take a minute to think about it, you’ll realise that many, if not all, of your online accounts have access to, or are set up using your email account. If someone were to gain access to your email account, they could potentially have access to all your other accounts, especially if they use the same password. Moreover, they could easily access any of your other accounts that don’t use the same password as your email account. This is because most password recovery methods involve sending a password reset link to your email address. The loss of access to your email account could result in numerous disastrous events, such as the hacker sending out malware and phishing links to your email contacts or them possibly gaining access to your financial accounts.

The first step to ensuring maximum security for your email account is to make sure that your password is long, complex, and different to any of your other account passwords. Don’t forget to password-protect any device that is logged into your email account, or any other personal account for that matter. A strong password consists of more than 12 characters, containing a mixture of numbers, upper case letters, lower case letters, and special characters. Never include personal information in your passwords, and preferably use more than one word in your password, like a phrase, book or movie title, or an equation. Try and refrain from using words that are easily found in the dictionary or try to misspell them slightly.

For example:

“The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” would become something along the lines of “tL10nT#3w1tc#&tW@Rdr0b3”

If you’re ever worried about forgetting all these unique passwords, you can try utilising a password manager. This will allow you to use one “master password” to access a vault of all your account passwords. Remember to make your master password strong, otherwise all your accounts could be compromised. Many password managers also have the ability to generate strong passwords, which are then automatically saved to your vault. These are normally a random string of letters, numbers, and special characters; however, these random strings of characters are much harder to crack than a traditional password. LastPass is a freemium password manager, meaning it provides a paid service as well as a free version.  

In some instances, you can reset your email password by answering security questions. In this case, you will need to ensure that the answers to your security questions are not easily guessable. If the question is very simple, for instance, “What is your mother’s maiden name?”, you can set the answer to something completely random that nobody would guess. You just need to remember what you’ve written as the answer.

For example:

Q: What is your mother’s maiden name?

A: Brussel Sprout

Lastly, it should be noted that your account is only as secure as you are. Always be wary of emails coming from senders you don’t recognize, and never open links or attachments in these emails. You email account is essentially your digital lifeline, so take as many measures as you can to ensure its security.