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Electronic Mail (E-Mail) first occurred in 1965 or 1971 depending on who you ask.
According to guardian.com, “The very first version of what would become known as email was invented in 1965 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of the university’s Compatible Time-Sharing System, which allowed users to share files and messages on a central disk, logging in from remote terminals.”
In 1971, Ray Tomlinson was the first to use the “@” symbol to send messages to people rather than just a computer. According to guardian.com, “American computer programmer Tomlinson arguably conceived the method of sending email between different computers across the forerunner to the internet, Arpanet, at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), introducing the “@” sign to allow messages to be targeted at certain users on certain machines.”
In 1978, we saw our first spam email sent to 600 recipients. As you may have expected, it was not well received.
Today, email is an attack vector and a major threat to our well-being for a multitude of reasons. Here are some interesting facts:
- According to Statista, spam accounted for almost 54% of email traffic, as of March 2020.
- In December 2020, the number of registered email users stood at 3.9 billion — about half the world’s population. At the same time, there are over 5.5 billion email accounts.
- On average, a business email receives and sends 98 emails every day. According to the same analysis, an average of 19 emails is sent per day from different personal and business accounts.
- It is estimated that the average professional spends up to 28% of work time attending to emails.
- 96% of phishing attacks arrive by email.
- 74% of organizations in the United States experienced a successful phishing attack.
Re-read those last two facts — that is a lot of attacks for something we do every single day. According to phishing.org, “Phishing is a cybercrime in which a target or targets are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data such as personally identifiable information, banking and credit card details, and passwords. The information is then used to access important accounts and can result in identity theft and financial loss.”
In order to prevent these attacks, proper cyber hygiene is a must. The best approaches are:
- Use a password manager and two-factor authentication wherever possible
- Don’t click suspicious links in email or texts
- Avoid public/free WiFi
- Encrypt all connections
- Send all secure information via a secure email/encryption platform
- Leverage enhanced spam filtering solutions and email threat protection
- If something seems odd or too good to be true, delete it and move on
Email is here to stay, but managing how you utilize it is essential to your system health and overall cybersecurity posture.