Email woes gotcha worried? How to Fix Problems and Repel Attacks
Email is one of those tools that people say will one day die and be replaced by a better communication platform. And yet, because it’s nearly universal and works so well across platforms, it’s still around.
But working across platforms isn’t the same as working well for everyone all the time. I’ve seen a lot of concern about the increasing number of email attacks and lots of complaints from people with email issues in general – many blaming Outlook or another client for recent issues.
In fact, the underlying cause could be simpler: ISPs have adopted more modern authentication processes (to ward off attacks) and some email clients cannot handle the changes. Example: Microsoft, which is slowly but surely disabling basic authentication and upgrade to higher levels of protection. (If your email platform is still using basic authentication, attackers are almost certainly trying to crack your passwords with password spray and harvested credentials.)
Here’s what to do to troubleshoot basic email issues while ensuring you’re protected from hackers.
Troubleshoot Messaging 101
Generally speaking, if you’re having trouble accessing email using the same app you always have (and the same password), the first thing to do is double-check your password. An easy way to do this is to log into the web version of your messaging platform. If you can get in, you have the correct credentials. I’ve seen cases where an ISP changed their password complexity requirements and it wasn’t until I went online that I discovered that fact. (Now would also be a good time to consider adding two-factor authentication to your personal email account, especially those used to authenticate financial institutions.)
You may also find that you are actually using older versions of Outlook that do not support Modern Authentication. While Microsoft 365 may have removal of version support prior to 2013 Service Pack 1, other mail servers might have continued to support these older platforms. Your ISP may have changed email requirements and you missed the memo.
If you are still using Outlook, always check if delete your email account and configuring it again is enough for your client to initiate stronger authentication processes. If your account is already in iMAP format, you won’t lose any emails. If that doesn’t work, consider upgrading to a newer version of Outlook, a different email client, or an entirely different Office platform.
If you choose the latter option, beware of cheap versions of Office that don’t match what you see on Microsoft’s website; chances are it’s a scam. Even on reputable sites, I’ve seen Office offered for as little as $39.99. The buyer ends up with a product key not working and an offer to buy Microsoft 365. And you might not need the Office suite at all. Unless you’re deep into Word and Excel documents with macros, the alternative suites should work fine. free office can solve your document and spreadsheet needs, and there are plenty of third-party options for email. (While Outlook remains a key player in the business world, it is losing its grip on the consumer space.
Beyond Outlook, you have options
If you like Firefox, you can try thunderbird. It also has an email setup wizard that allows you to easily create your email account. Another option is EM, similar to Outlook. Both work on Windows and Mac, so if you’re switching from one to the other, any email migration should be fairly straightforward. Even better, you can usually test these types of alternative platforms for free before buying them.
If your email is still in a downloaded pst file, you can usually find tools to migrate from one platform to another. I used System Tools to easily migrate from Zoho to Microsoft 365 and Recovery tools export a Outlookpst Thunderbird format file, I recommend looking for a paid tool to make sure you can get help with any issues you are having.
The bottom line here is that when it comes to email, don’t be tied to an outdated version of Outlook. If you haven’t received updates for years, you are putting yourself at risk of attacks and threats. Especially for small businesses, business email compromise is a major risk exacerbated by older platforms.
If you are having email issues, make sure your credentials are up to date, check for ISP changes, and make sure Outlook (if this is your preferred client) has been updated . And if you don’t like Outlook, switch to an alternative that works for you.
This is the best way to prevent bad guys from entering your systems.
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