Our experience from 25 years using the internet is, that there is no safe way of using the internet.
The internet was conceived by scientists as a free and open network for all with no need for privacy or confidentiality. Consequently, e-mails are like postcards, anyone handling an e-mail can also read it. Now that the internet has taken over our lives, we need to balance the risks and benefits. We need to consider how much we really need from the internet and what is superfluous.
Cloud computing, webmail and IMAP e-mail store heaps of our data off-site, sometimes thousands of kilometers away, even in a different country. Apart from the obvious risk of some stranger getting access to the data, what if there is no internet for an extended period of time?
Our recommendation for minimal safety is:
◆ Create and use a strong password that looks something like this: gbtrWZLg9wcrpPcCG9oJTmbfWs8pEG
◆ Use no webmail, use a computer/tablet/smartphone with an e-mail client
◆ Set the mail client to connect using TLS/SSL
◆ Free of charge or not, use no cloud services for important data
◆ Use antivirus software with integrated firewall and e-mail scanning, keep it up to date
◆ Back up your data daily to a local device
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has excellent add-ons for your web browser, Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere.
For added safety, you may want to consider using a VPN and GNU Privacy Guard.