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Five Important Reasons to Use Northwestern Email (Outlook)

 That personal free email account may be putting you at risk!
We all have at least one free personal email account – Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail and more. They are convenient, have great interfaces, offer many features, and have almost unlimited storage space. For many reasons, I advocate for using at least one personal email account for your personal use. (Read my advice on that topic here.) But, for many reasons, we have to strongly recommend the use of a separate professional business email and personal email.

As a start, let’s recall the Yahoo email breach of 2016, where over 1 billion accounts were breached. Using a personal email account, such as Gmail, for business purposes is inherently risky. (We’ll use Gmail as an example because it’s the most popular email client used around the world.) Forwarding your professional email to Gmail is not recommended by Weinberg College IT. There are security and privacy risks associated with forwarding, but there’s also a simple non-technical reason to not forward your professional email to a personal email account: It’s your professional, not private, work.

Emails are an extension of you.
Forwarding makes communications look unprofessional. Do you work at @Northwestern.edu or @gmail.com? Using your Northwestern email address helps the recipients of your emails know that your email is valid. Just as you check who is sending you emails to make sure you’re not getting phished, your email recipients do the same.

How about Security?
The potential risks for a hack on a personal email account are greater than your business account. When sensitive business emails leave their initial safe company environment they are at a higher risk of being compromised. If you forward your company’s email to a personal email account, you may be creating risk the loss of your data or data for which Northwestern University is responsible.

You may have no intention of sharing your data, but by forwarding your emails you’re weakening the security systems that Northwestern IT and Weinberg College IT have built for your email and data.

 Targeted Hacking
Once a user’s account has been compromised, the perpetrators can change the account’s password without the end user noticing. Once the “hackers” have studied your email habits, read your sent email, and know who to contact, they’ll start sending emails on your behalf. The worst of it is, you don’t find out until it’s already too late.

If your imposter starts sending emails requesting large monetary transfers to bank accounts across the world, the unsuspecting recipient of that email, if not savvy enough, will believe the email is a legitimate request. And just like that, you could have thousands, if not, millions of dollars lost because your free email account was compromised. Take this CEO’s experience for example.

Keeping your email on Northwestern servers is the best email practice. You may love aspects of your other email client, but sacrificing security and privacy for a familiar interface can have terrible consequences.

Incident Response
If your personal email account is compromised and sensitive information is stolen, trying to reach out the “Tech Support” line from your personal email provider is almost impossible. Most likely you’ll get a link to a FAQ site, with only instructions on how to change your password. And, if you didn’t already configure multi-factor authentication on your free account, it can be very difficult to find out when your email account has been compromised.

In contrast, using Northwestern approved email clients, like Outlook and Webmail, give you an additional layer of support and resources from Northwestern and Weinberg College IT.

Did you know that in the event of your emails being subpoenaed, your free email account provider is under no obligation to help you?
When it comes to litigation, Gmail and others are not on your side. They’ll just simply hand over your emails to the authorities. And, in such event, it makes it difficult for your company’s legal team to defend a case when emails are no longer on company servers.

In conclusion, the Five Advantages for Keeping Your Professional Email in Outlook are:

Contact Weinberg-IT@northwestern.edu if you'd like help transitioning to Outlook from another email client.

Note: while the focus of this article is on email, the use of other third-party consumer-oriented products, such as DropBox, have similar risks. For these reasons, we recommend the use of Northwestern Box for data storage. If you are unsure on if you should use a particular software, please contact us for assistance at Weinberg-IT@northwestern.edu.


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