Effectively Securing Business Email Accounts: Are Employees the Weakest Link?
- by Brittany Day
When assessing email risk and considering a business email security strategy, it is common for administrators and IT professionals to focus on the threat that outsiders pose to an organization. While this is a valid concern, the fatal mistake that is made far too frequently is failure to address the critical role that employees play in attacks and breaches.
Email is the primary attack vector that threat actors utilize to target organizations, making effective email security a vital part of companies’ overall security posture that is often neglected. According to Verizon, 90% of cyber attacks are initiated via email. When email accounts are inadequately secured, employees are vulnerable to a plethora of sophisticated email threats including spear phishing and malware. One employee clicking on a link in a phishing email or downloading ransomware has the potential to destroy a company, especially if that company is a small or medium-sized business. Email-borne attacks and breaches often result in significant downtime, decreased productivity, legal fees, recovery costs and ruined reputations. According to Cybercrime Magazine, 60% of small companies shut down within six months of falling victim to a data breach or a cyber attack.
The good news is there are numerous ways that organizations can mitigate the risk that employees pose to their digital security. While employee education and security awareness training are beneficial, user behavior is ultimately unpredictable. Thus, investing in a comprehensive business cloud email security solution that creates a safeguarded environment around employees is the most effective way for companies to prevent having to deal with the potentially devastating consequences of human error.
Best Practices for Safeguarding Business Email Against Employee Error
While employee behavior is ultimately unpredictable, there are certain measures that administrators, managers and IT professionals should take to help influence and motivate employees to make intelligent decisions regarding email security. These best practices for reducing the risk of employee error include:
- Invest in employee education and security awareness training about email threats and email security. In order for employees to make smart choices pertaining to email security, employers must equip them with adequate knowledge about email-borne threat ands steps that they can take to prevent successful attacks. Employees are a companies’ last line of defense when it comes to securing business email accounts, and must understand the importance of their actions and the serious repercussions of a mistake such as downloading a malicious attachment or clicking through a malicious link.
- Encourage employees to choose strong, unique passwords, and implement 2FA whenever possible. Utilizing strong passwords that are not reused across different accounts is imperative to mitigating email risk. Taking a strict approach to email passwords reduces the risk of dictionary attacks and website exploits, which can have devastating consequences for employees and organizations. Implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever it is available is also highly beneficial to an organization’s digital security posture and reduces the risk of email account takeovers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has recently updated its guidelines to challenge traditional password security best practices. NIST now suggests that organizations not require that employees frequently change their passwords, as employees often respond to this requirement by storing their passwords in an insecure manner. NIST instead proposes the use of long passwords, which should be changed only if compromised.
- Emphasize the importance of thinking before interacting with any email message and encourage employees to verify all suspicious emails that they receive. Clearly convey the message that it is better safe than sorry when it comes to email security, and if an email appears strange or suspicious in any way employees should not hesitate to report it to their manager or their company’s IT department.
- Invest in an advanced, comprehensive business cloud email security solution. Implement an cloud email security solution that provides complete end-to-end control of business email accounts, preventing malicious or phony emails from reaching employees’ inboxes. Look for a solution that accurately identifies existing and emerging threats in real time, with a low rate of false positives.
Insider Threats: More Common and Costly to Businesses than Ever Before
Unfortunately, although it does account for the majority of insider-related incidents, human error or negligence is not the only concern when it comes to employees and security. Insider threats of all types, which come from individuals within an organization such as employees, former employees, contractors or business associates who have inside information about sensitive data, computer systems and security practices, are more prevalent and dangerous than ever before. According to Verizon, the number of insider-related breaches rises every year, despite the fact that over 70% of insider attacks are not reported externally. And insider attacks often have severe implications for businesses. Ponemon Institute reports that the average number of incidents involving employee or contractor negligence has increased from 10.5 to 13.4 since 2016.
The majority of insider threats fall into three categories:
- Malicious Insider Threats: An individual within an organization intentionally seeks to steal information, leak data or harm the organization in any way.
- Careless Insider Threats: Employees or other insiders don’t understand an organization’s security policies or fail to follow security rules, putting the organization at risk of data leaks, malware infections and other cyber attacks.
- Compromised Insider Threats: An employee’s email account is taken over by a threat actor through credential phishing or malware in order to compromise sensitive data or make fraudulent financial transactions.
Almost all insider threats involve email, making effective email security crucial in protecting businesses against not only malicious outsiders, but insiders as well.
Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security: Convenient and Effective Defense Against Employees and Insiders
Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security offers comprehensive, fully-managed business email protection, effectively mitigating businesses’ risk of suffering an insider attack. Powered by advanced AI technologies, EnGarde accurately identifies and rapidly quarantines both new and known threats in real time, preventing them from reaching employees’ inboxes where they could cause severe harm. Benefits of securing your business email accounts against both outsiders and employees with EnGarde Cloud Email Security include:
- A highly effective defense-in-depth approach to email security, in which individual security features work harmoniously to detect and combat threats in real-time
- Zero-hour outbreak control that protects against new, unknown threats
- Neutralizes threats associated with malicious attachments and links
- Authenticates every email delivered using DMARC, DKIM and SPF
- State-of-the-art heuristic technologies recognize malicious code and accurately identify and block highly targeted phishing and impersonation attempts
- Dynamic reputation system classifies emails based on origin
- Real-time URL filtering and advanced URL analysis
- Scalable cloud-based system that simplifies deployment and increases availability
- Tighter security, adaptive implementation and eliminated risk of vendor lock-in through the use of a transparent, collaborative development approach
- Passionate, knowledgeable 24x7x365 support services
Start the new year off intelligently and safely! Fortify your business email accounts against outsiders and employees alike with Guardian Digital’s unparalleled email vigilance. Contact us today to learn more about how our protection could benefit your business.
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