Data security is one of the biggest issues for businesses today. 

IBM says the number of cybercrimes and cyberattacks trebled during the pandemic. Threats from hackers are expanding in range and intensity. It’s not just the big corporates who are being hit. The smaller business is being eyed up as an easier target. 

If you are working for an organisation as a PA or EA, you’ll want to play your part in keeping things safe. If you work for yourself as a VA or other professional assistant, you’ll want to protect yourself – and your clients – from digital threats. 

Watch Your Inbox Like a Hawk 

One way to do that is to ensure your email system, routines and communications have safety and security in mind. 

You will probably have heard of phishing. 

This is a type of scam where a cyber attacker sends a message to try and trick you into revealing sensitive information – or parting with your money. Typically, the email invites you to click a link.  

Most email mailing software will have some inbuilt security and protection. A good system will usually filter out the bad messages as spam – and dump them in your junk folder. 

But don’t assume every rotten apple will get picked up. Be alert.  

If a message looks, sounds or feels wrong, it probably is a bit dodgy. Some of the emails can appear genuine (the tricksters may have even copied or faked branding, headers or logos) but think once, twice and a third time before opening or acting on the content. 

Some messages are designed to get you to click a link to gain access to your data. When you do, malicious software is installed on your computer and it can cause big problems. This is known as ransomware. The criminals may demand a payment to unlock access to your files or to prevent them from sharing your personal data. 

Take Care with Logins and Passwords 

With your email (and other software or applications) it is a good idea to have a strong password – and change it regularly. 

Many apps now include two-stage authentication for added security. It’s also known as two-factor authentication or two-step verification. This might involve firstly logging in as usual, then having a code sent by text or email to complete the access process. 

Even with your password, a hacker is stumped – unless they’ve managed to steal your mobile phone. 

You may also notice, when you access a service from a different computer or browser, that you receive a notification that ‘checks in’ with you, to make sure it’s you. 

These are all ways to make email communications and file sharing more secure against potential cybercrime.  

Employ Ways to Share Files Securely 

Talking of file sharing, there are many options for doing this safely. 

Having Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft 365 Business premium gives you an instant advantage. That’s because, together, they allow you to link up with the Azure information rights management system for encryption. 

This gives you the means to send and receive messages securely. If you’re not sure how to set this up and use encryption for messages in and out, check out my online Outlook training course. 

Encryption is one of the most secure ways to send mail. Because messages are jumbled up, nobody else can decipher them (unless you give them permission to view). 

If you need to send files, there are different options to avoid having to send attachments via email. 

You may already know or use one or more of the different solutions available. Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Apple’s iCloud are among the most well-known and used. You can point people to the relevant online folder or send them a private link to access the data. 

Another service is WeTransfer. It seems most popular for sending photos or videos. You upload the files you want to send and include the recipient’s email address. The recipient receives an email with a link to the files. Access is usually time-limited for added security. 

Be Sign Up Safe 

If you are a regular browser of social media, you’ll know just how many invitations there are to sign up for free courses, guides or memberships. 

Most of these will be legitimate offers but, as ever, the watchword is caution. 

Think carefully before you hand over your name, email address or any other information. Is the invitation from someone you know? Is it from an organisation you have heard of? Can you check their validity through checking for a website, LinkedIn profile or other means? 

If you have a second email address, you could use this for signing up to receive free resources or marketing mailings. You can manage that all through Outlook. Working with different email addresses – for yourself, colleagues or clients – is one of the things I cover in my ‘Take back control of your inbox’ online training course. 

If it’s an offer relevant to VAs, PAs or EAs, ask around your community to see if anyone else has heard of the ‘seller’, signed up and has experiences to share. 

Better to be safe than sorry. 

A Couple of Final Email Security Tips 

I mentioned earlier how WeTransfer includes an expiry date on the files it sends on your behalf. 

You can also do this with your own email messages using Outlook. You can set messages to expire up to about three months after the send date. This means old messages with potentially sensitive information are not left to fester forever in the recipient’s inbox. 

You can include a note to inform people that there is an expiry date. It may even encourage them to read and act on your message more promptly. 

That was the first tip. The second covers the forwarding of messages. 

Think before you send. Why are you forwarding the message? Where is it going to? Who will read it? Where will that email be stored? 

Make it part of your email and Outlook protocol to do a double check before you press send, hit reply or click a link. Help to educate others about being more safe and secure. Take providers to task if they’re not providing the level of security you want. 

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn.

It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney

Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.

Sarah Clements – Inuous

Absolutely superb course, easy to follow and to refer back whilst putting it all into practice! I was unaware of the extent you can customise a presentation and it’s just made me want to know more – what’s next Shelley?

Denise Williams

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Outlook until I did this course! In her videos, Shelley is clear and concise, and the language she uses is straightforward and jargon-free. Each module is broken down into manageable chunks, which helps keep your attention and means the course is easy to fit in around other commitments. I’ve created email templates and implemented rules that are already saving me time, and as all the other things I’ve learnt start to become second nature, the positive impact on my efficiency is fast becoming clear. This course has been incredibly beneficial and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to strengthen their skills and boost productivity.

Pip Doleman VA

I thought I knew Powerpoint really well, but I wanted to specifically learn how to use Powerpoint to create better infographics, easily and quickly. Shelley explains everything in a very logical and clear way, so I understood everything the first time I heard it. The most useful thing I learnt was that Powerpoint can do so much more than I thought it could. By also using the short cuts that Shelley showed me I am much quicker than I have ever been and I thought I was already quick!

Susan Marot

Shelley Fishel of Tomorrow’s VA has a wealth of experience in Microsoft Office. I met her in person 2 years ago at the PA Show in London. I also saw her in action in a fab workshop and knew she was the whizz that everyone had told me she was. I have since bought a lifetime access to her HUB and all the courses in there are a MUST if you are a VA on a mission. The courses will give you confidence in all the Office 365 components and will catapult you to dizzy heights

Alex Hughes