Email safety and security


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Email safety and security

Computer screen shows a login page with a padlock on it

What's coming up

In this activity, we'll look at some ways to use email safely and securely. You'll read about security questions, spam messages and how to deal with them, and other unwanted email. We'll also look at which websites are secure and clicking on links to websites from your emails.

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Safe sign in

Now Salma has got to grips with how to send and receive emails, she needs to find out about how to keep safe when she's using her new email account. When Salma is signing into her account, there are a few ways to make sure that she's using email safely.

An idea for a password could be a pet plus a travel memory combined into one easy to remember password

Salma needs to make sure her password is safe and secure. This means that she'll need to choose something that is easy for her to remember, but isn't easy for other people to guess.

Salma may have the option to 'stay signed in'. It's best to untick this box on a shared computer - for example in a library - because if she stays signed in, the next person to use the computer could see her messages.

Shows a basic login screen with a checkbox next to the words 'Keep me signed in'
An example of a security question screen with the questions'What was the name of your firts pet?'

Email providers may ask you to create a 'security question'. If Salma forgets her password, she can get her emails by answering her security question. Like a password, it should be easy to remember but difficult to guess.

Spam messages

Spam messages are unwanted messages that are usually sent to a lot of people. They can sometimes have harmful links in them, so it's best to avoid opening them.

These links could damage the computer, or let someone else see your private information.

An example of a list of spam emails in a spam folder with a delete button above

Unknown senders

A spam message will usually be easy to spot. It'll be from an email address you don't recognise and might have a subject that doesn't make sense.

You can get spam messages from all sorts of people. Sometimes a spam message might say it's from your bank or building society, but that doesn't mean that it definitely is. If you're in doubt about who a message is from, it's best not to reply.

The Spam folder

Your email provider will recognise most spam messages and so they will automatically go into your ‘Spam' or ‘Junk' folder, but it's a good idea to delete spam messages if they appear in your inbox.

Shows an email inbox example with a folder on the left side labelled 'Spam'. It is bold and has the number 100 in brackets which indicates there are 100 unread emails in that folder
Shows a list of spam emails in the spam folder with checkboxes to the left of the subject lines. A selected email is highlighted as well as the delete button that has a bin icon on it

The Bin icon

You can select messages without opening them by ticking the box next to them. When you've done this, you'll need to click the bin icon to delete the message.

The Trash folder

When you've deleted a message, it'll go to a deleted messages folder, usually called ‘Trash' or ‘Bin'.

Your deleted message will usually stay in the bin for 30 days before it's automatically deleted. This is so that you can get the message back from this folder if you've deleted it by accident.

Shows an inbox example with a list of folders down the left side. There is a folder labelled 'Trash' and it has the bin icon next to it also. The folder is bold, indicating there are emails in there
Shows the trash folder without bold text as it is empty

Emptying the trash

You can clear all of your deleted messages out of your bin by ‘emptying' it.

With some email providers, you'll have to click on the folder first, but Salma is using Yahoo and is able to press the bin icon to delete her messages forever without going into the folder.

Identifying spam messages

After a few weeks, Salma has received several messages.

Below are three new messages in her inbox. There are two messages that could be spam.

Select the messages you think are spam.

From: Apple support Subject: Dear customer Your invoice is attached

Click to flip

Correct: this is spam

From: Top Money Tips Subject: Save $$$ with no effort

Click to flip

Correct: this is spam

From: Maryam Subject: Hello again

Click to flip

This is a real email from a friend

Unwanted messages

Sometimes you might receive emails that aren't spam, but are still annoying!

Salma has recently used her email address to do some online shopping, and is getting a lot of emails from the supermarket that she doesn't want.

An email icon with a red circle around it with a line through indication 'no email'

Leaving a mailing list

Salma can stop receiving emails from the supermarket by choosing to leave their mailing list.


Salma opens the message, scrolls down to the bottom and sees the option to ‘unsubscribe'. She'll have to click this to leave the supermarket's mailing list.

On some email providers, the ‘unsubscribe' option might be at the top of the message.

Shows a list of links found at the bottom of the email. One of them is the Unsubscribe link
Shows an example of an email with a link in the text of the email. The text is in blue, indicating that you can click on it

Links and attachments

Email attachments

Sometimes you might get messages that ask you to click on a link or open an attachment. An attachment is a file that has been sent with an email message.

Be careful. Some links might be harmful, so it's important to be able to recognise which ones to avoid.

'S' for 'secure'

A link will usually start with either ‘http' or ‘https'. The ‘s' stands for secure - any website address that starts with ‘https' is usually OK to visit.

A magnified example of the address bar shows a padlock, followed by the word 'Secure', followed by a URL that starts with https
Shows an example of an email with a link in the text of the email. The text is in blue, indicating that you can click on it

Links to websites

Sometimes a link might take you to a different website to the one it says it's going to.

If you're using a desktop or laptop you can check which website a link is really taking you to by hovering the cursor over the link without clicking it to see the website address.

People you know

If you're new to email, it's best not to open any emails from anyone you don't know, until you get used to how email works.

As long as you're sensible, and aware of ‘Spam' messages, email is a really safe and secure way to keep in touch.

Shows a few different characters representing different people
An example of an email sign up window with the details filled in


Well done, you have reached the end of this activity about safety and security.

You've seen how Salma can make sure she's using email safely and securely. Don't worry, email is very safe to use on the whole, but it's important to keep these things in mind so that you don't get caught out.