Don’t Be Hacked: Protect Your Email Address

Over 30,000 web sites (including blogs) are hacked daily; web crawlers and bots are the culprits. They target websites and blogs through email addresses to do harm regardless of the content or what the site represents.

It is a good idea to keep as much personal information private as you can. There are two options I am going to talk about in this article for encrypting or disguising your email address on your WordPress blog.

Contact Forms

The first option for hiding your email address is to set up a Contact Page with a contact form.

The Contact Form allows you to set various options such as the topics they are contacting you about, and even to direct content specific issues to different email addresses if you have more than one contributor or site manager. The email address is not public, and it makes it easy for the user to contact you.

A site can have multiple contact forms for a variety of purposes, from strictly contacting the site owner or author to registration for an event, all protecting your email and allowing easy access for the visitor.

Email Obfuscation

Email obfuscation is the process of hiding your email address from email harvesters while making the email address visible. There are two ways to do this, but we need to talk about the user experience of the process.

When an email is on a site and not set as a link, the visitor must copy the email address correctly and paste it into their email program in order to contact you. This involves extra steps and sometimes switching between programs.

When an email address is in a link, visible or hidden with HTML anchor text in the link, the HTML for the link uses the mailto tag. When someone clicks on a mailto link, the browser initiates the default email program on the computer. In the old days of a Microsoft Windows world, Outlook or Outlook Express was set as the default program for managing email. Few people use these any more, relying upon web-based email accessed through the browser. Since the browser is the “default program” for web pages, and not for email, the computer initiates the process of loading Outlook or Outlook Express on Windows (similar programs on Mac), which usually involves installing the program and setting up an email account – something no one needs any more.

The visitor now has to stop the process and quit the program…let’s just say that they are frustrated and not very happy with their contact experience.

Which method is better? A contact form will always be the best choice, but if you have to make the email address public, do not put it in a link. Leave it unlinked and let the user copy and paste it into their email program.

Obfuscate Email Addresses

If you have to display your email address, use an obfuscation method. Obfuscating is a process that encrypts, or disguises, your email address so people cannot see it while they can still contact you. You can obfuscate your email anywhere you have it listed publicly.

The process of obfuscation involves changing the characters of an email address into HTML Character Entities, code that represents each letter of the email address. Browsers display the email address properly, but this encoding, so to speak, hides it from email harvesters looking for the symbols that identify an email address.

For instance, the email address of fredsmith@gmail.com would convert to:

<a href="mailto:&amp;#102;&amp;#114;&amp;#101;&amp;#100;&amp;#115;&amp;#109;&amp;#105;&amp;#116;&amp;#104;&amp;#064;&amp;#103;&amp;#109;&amp;#097;&amp;#105;&amp;#108;&amp;#046;&amp;#099;&amp;#111;&amp;#109;" title="Email Fred">email</a>

There are email obfuscation tools listed below.

Email Obfuscation Online Tools

The following is a list of free, online obfuscation tools for email addresses to help you through the process. These are ideal for WordPress.com sites.

There are also WordPress Plugins that Obfuscate your email for self-hosted versions of WordPress:

Once you have your method of obfuscating your email, copy and paste it everywhere your email address is visible to the public.

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