Email Security: Complete Guide on Email Protection & Types of Email Threats
- by Brittany Day
As 2020 approaches, email attacks are more prevalent and sophisticated than ever before. Threat actors recognize that email is the preferred method for confidential business communications, as well as an essential asset that organizations cannot afford lose access to for even a day. It comes as no surprise that, according to Verizon, 90% of cyber attacks are initiated via email. In era of constant threats faced by organisations like you, a complete guide to email security will help you to make better informed decisions to preserve your data and brand, and protect your employees and client from getting defrauded.
What is Email Security?
Email security is about protecting sensitive information in email communication and accounts to secure against unauthorized access, loss or compromise. Email is often used to spread malware, spam and phishing attacks. Scammers fraudulently entice recipients to part with sensitive information, open attachments or click on hyperlinks that install malware on the victim’s device. Email is also a common entry point for attackers looking to gain a foothold in an enterprise network and obtain valuable company data.
Many businesses either believe that their email is adequately secured when in reality it is not or feel that they are “too small” to be targeted in a cyber attack. It is misconceptions like these that leave organizations vulnerable to attacks and the losses, decreased productivity and ruined reputations that often ensue.
Other organizations are aware that they are inadequately protected, but fail to recognize the fact that they cannot afford to be without effective email protection. According to Ponemon Institute, only 40% of SMBs report that the technologies currently used by their organization can detect and block most cyber attacks and only 14% rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks, vulnerabilities and attacks as highly effective.
This article will provide a brief overview of the dangerous attacks that currently threaten email users, offer advice on effectively securing business email accounts and outline email security best practices that will help mitigate your risk of suffering an attack.
Breaking Down the Modern Email Threat Landscape
The digital threat landscape is constantly evolving, and new attack variations are always emerging. However, certain threats persist due to their effectivity in deceiving users. In a cloud environment, email protection must prioritize anti-phishing, anti-malware, and anti-spam capabilities. With email integrated into applications and file sharing, business collaboration suites like Office 365 and G Suite presents hackers with multiple entry points and exploits once inside systems — which also means that email security must include mid-attack measures, like compromised account detection and access management tools. Some of the most dangerous and common attacks that currently threaten email users include:
Phishing is an attack variation in which threat actors send malicious emails designed to trick users into falling for a scam. The motive behind a phishing campaign is usually to get people to reveal financial information, credentials or other sensitive data.
Phishing is extremely prevalent because it is cheap, easy and effective. For these reasons, phishing is currently the most commonly used attack vector on organizations, leading to 53% of all cyber security breaches. Phishing campaigns are virtually free to carry out, but can be extremely costly to their victims, often resulting in data loss, identity theft or malware infections.
Spear phishing is a highly targeted variation of phishing in which attackers send fraudulent emails that appear to be from a known or trusted sender in order to obtain sensitive information. Spear phishing is becoming an increasingly popular method of attack because it is generally more successful than conventional phishing. As opposed to sending hundreds of thousands of relatively generic emails out at a time, spear phishing campaigns involve researching victims and utilizing advanced social engineering techniques and intelligence strategies to compose fewer, more convincing messages.
Whaling is another form of phishing designed to target high profile executives, or “whales”, and manipulate victims into authorizing high-value wire transfers to the attacker. Unlike traditional phishing campaigns, whaling doesn’t involve employees clicking on links or becoming infected with malware. Instead, the goal of a whaling attack is to trick an individual into disclosing sensitive information through the use of social engineering, email spoofing and website spoofing.
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
In a business email compromise (BEC) attack, a threat actor obtains access to a corporate email account and sends fraudulent emails under the identity of the account owner in order to steal money from the company or its employees, partners or customers. BEC is becoming increasingly common and costly. Between May 2018 and July 2019, there was an astounding 100% increase in identified global exposed losses due to BEC.
Malware encompasses all software designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. Malware can perform various detrimental functions including encrypting or deleting sensitive data, stealing, hijacking or altering central computing functions and monitoring users’ activity without their permission. Malware attacks can have serious consequences for businesses. According to Accenture, the average cost in lost productivity of a malware attack is 50 days, an amount of downtime that would have severe repercussions for any business. Although different types of malware have different methods of proliferating and infecting computers, 92% of malware is delivered via email.
Ransomware is a specific type of malware designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money in the form of untraceable Bitcoin is paid. It does this by encrypting a victim’s files until they have made the payment demanded by the attacker. Over the past year, ransomware attacks from phishing emails have increased by an alarming 109%. In 2018, one in three small to medium sized businesses worldwide were hit by ransomware and one in five were forced to shut down operations completely until the infection was removed. Data shows that the majority of small businesses are not able to recover from an attack, and 60% of SMBs go out of business within six months of getting hit with ransomware.
Unsolicited Spam Email
Spam email refers to unsolicited messages sent in bulk. According to Statista, spam accounted for an alarming 56% of email traffic in March 2019. Regardless of its purpose or origin, spam email should be recognized as a serious threat. Aside from the fact that it is extremely annoying, spam may contain malicious links or attachments and is often a vector for other dangerous attacks like phishing and malware.
A computer virus is a type of malware which replicates and spreads by modifying other computer programs and inserting its own code. Computer viruses are extremely prevalent and can compromise sensitive information, destroy data, harm hardware and waste copious amounts of time, resources and energy. Email viruses, which constitute the majority of computer viruses, can be activated when a user either clicks on a link, downloads an attachment or interacts in some other way with the body of an infected email.
A zero-day attack refers to a scenario in which threat actors exploit a vulnerability before developers have had the chance to release a fix for it. These attacks often occur without users’ knowledge and can carry hefty costs for businesses in the form of data theft, system downtime, lost productivity, damaged reputations and regulatory actions. According to Ponemon Institute, 37% of attacks that targeted businesses in 2018 were zero-day attacks -- a 48% increase from 2017.
What are End User Best Practices for Email Security?
While implementing a high-quality business cloud email security solution is the most effective way to mitigate your company’s risk of suffering the potentially devastating aftermath of an attack, there are some email security best practices that users should engage in to protect themselves, their information and the company that they are a part of. Email security is necessary for both individual and business email accounts, and there are multiple measures organizations should take to enhance email security. These measures include:
- Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses or names. Make sure that the sender’s email address matches the company name and format exactly.
- Refrain from clicking through links embedded in email messages.
- Avoid opening potentially dangerous attachments that are included in emails from unknown senders.
- Keep an eye out for phishing emails.
- Scan all attachments for malware.
- Keep your mail client, operating system and web browser updated and patched.
- Verify the source of any suspicious email that you receive.
- Always remember: Take time to stop and fully think things through. Act smart, not fast!
What Constitutes an Effective Email Security Strategy?
Effectively protecting against modern email threats requires a comprehensive, multi-layered approach to email security that goes beyond what traditional antivirus software or spam filtration frameworks alone can offer. Defense-in-depth is essential in combating today’s advanced email attacks, as no individual security feature is sufficient in identifying and taking down threat actors’ sophisticated campaigns. Working in unison within an advanced business cloud email security solution, these various layers of security are more effective at preventing successful email attacks than any single method of protection alone.
Security awareness training and employee education are also critical in preventing attacks; however, user behavior is ultimately unpredictable. Thus, implementing a centrally-hosted and fully-managed business cloud email security solution is the best way to create a safeguarded environment around users and reduce the risk of human error.
Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security provides complete, highly effective business email protection, conveniently providing you with the peace of mind to focus on aspects of business besides email security. Key features of EnGarde’s protection include:
- Modern multi-tiered architecture in which individual security features work harmoniously to detect and combat threats in real-time
- Scalable cloud-based system that simplifies deployment and increases availability
- Zero-hour outbreak control that protects against new, unknown threats
- Secure endpoint encryption using strong cryptography
- Multiple leading antivirus engines and spam filtration technologies
- 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
Want to learn more about email threats and how to effectively secure your business email?
Do you have any questions or concerns about email threats or email security that haven’t been addressed in this article? Are you interested in learning more about the benefits of securing your business email with Guardian Digital EnGarde Cloud Email Security? Please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to help!
- Effectively Securing Business Email Accounts: Are Employees the Weakest Link?
- Encryption: An Essential Yet Highly Controversial Component of Digital Security
- Business Email Security Redefined: Key Benefits of Securing Your Business Email with Guardian Digital
- 8 Business Email Security Best Practices
- Demystifying Email Encryption: Stop Sender Fraud
- Demystifying Phishing Attacks: How to Protect Yourself Now
- Demystifying Tax Fraud: How to Avoid Falling Victim to Deceptive, Costly Scams This Tax Season
- Coronavirus Phishing Scams are On the Rise - Is Your Business Email at Risk of Infection?
- Dave Wreski: Founder of Guardian Digital – Open Source Cloud Email Security
- New Ransomware Warnings: Is Your Business Safe from This Silent Threat?
- FBI: Existing Cloud Email Protection Inadequate Against Phishing, Ransomware
- Email Risk is Universal: Securing Business Email in Every Industry Sector
- How To Safely Navigate Office 365 While Working Remotely
- Tips and Advice for Staying Safe Online During COVID-19
- Why Your Business Needs Better Email Security
- Defending Against COVID Email Spoofing Attacks with DMARC
- You’ve Got Mail: How To Tell If It’s Fraud
- Open-Source Security Is Opening Eyes
- Think Like A Criminal: How To Write A Phishing Email
- The Four Biggest Email Threats Your Business Faces Today
- Everything On DocuSign Phishing Attacks in 3 Minutes
- Understanding Payload-Less Email Attacks in Under 3 Minutes
- Demystifying Fileless Malware in Less than 3 Minutes
- How to Protect Sensitive Data & Maintain Client Trust in Financial Services Industry
- Exchange Servers Are Vulnerable - Learn How To Secure Your Email Server Now
- Apache SpamAssassin Leads A Growing List of Open-Source Projects Taking Steps to Correct Instances of Racism and White Privilege
- Cyber Risk Is Greater than Ever in the Legal Industry
- Understanding Malicious URL Protection - And Why You Need It to Secure Your Email
- Email Security for SMBs Beyond COVID-19
- Email Risk Is BIG for SMBs - How To Protect Your Business Now
- Email Threats By The Numbers: How Big Is My Risk?
- The Modern Email Threat Landscape: Where Traditional Defenses Fall Short
- Why Email Security Is More Important Than Ever in This 'New Reality'
- The Threat of CEO Fraud Extends Beyond the C-Suite
- Top Email Security Trends Putting Your Business at Risk of Attack
- Think Like A Criminal: What You Need to Know About Social Engineering Attacks in 2020
- Managed Services: A Key Element of Effective Email Security that Even Modern Solutions Lack
- How To Secure Your Remote Workforce: Advice from Leading Security Experts
- FBI: The 2020 Presidential Election Is Under Attack by Email Scammers
- AT&T Security Researchers Identify a Correlation between Strong Cybersecurity and Business Success
- The Aftermath of a Cyberattack Pt. 1: Phishing Recovery Basics
- It Pays to be Prepared! Ransomware Preparedness & Recovery Basics
- Breaking Down Fileless Malware: Anatomy of an Attack
- Office 365 Email Is Vulnerable to Attack Without These Critical Supplementary Defenses in Place
- Your Current Approach to Email Security May Not Be Enough
- Ways to Prevent Email Account being compromised in a Breach
- Celebrating 20 Years of Revolutionizing Digital Security
- IBM Closes its $34 Billion Acquisition of Red Hat
- Interview with Security Expert and Author Ira Winkler
- What is Phishing Email? How to prevent Phishing email scams?
- Ways Our Business Email Exceed Your Expectations
- Spear Phishing Protection - Definition & How To Recognize Spear Phishing Email
- What is Whaling (Whaling Phishing)? & How to Prevent Whaling attacks?
- Ransomware Attack Explained - Best Practices For Ransomware Protection
- Business Email Compromise (BEC) - Definition & Prevention From BEC Attacks
- Wire Transfer Scams Involving Real Estate Transactions: How to Prevent Fraud with Effective Email Security
- Guardian Digital and Mautic: A Dynamic Open-Source Duo
- Email Malware - How to Recognize & Prevent Malware Email Attack
- An Open-Source Success Story: Apache SpamAssassin Celebrates 18 Years of Effectively Combating Spam Email
- What is Spam Email - Types & How to Prevent Spam Emails?
- Email Virus - Complete Guide to Email Viruses Plus Best Practices
- What Is A Zero-Day Attack & How To Prevent Zero Day Exploit?
- 2020: A New Decade of Digital Threats - Is Your Business Email Secure?
- Linux: An OS Capable of Effectively Meeting the US Government’s Security Needs Heading into 2020
- Email Security: Complete Guide on Email Protection & Types of Email Threats
- Guardian Digital Keeps its Customers Protected from Intel Design Flaw
- Security Spotlight: Open Source Email Security Solutions
- Top Six Advantages of Open Source Development/Products
- Python and Bash - Contenders for the most used scripting language
- Guardian Digital Outlines Top 4 Benefits of Choosing Cloud
- Unrivaled Protection Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Guard Your Email Accounts Against Today’s Most Dangerous Threats
- Security Highlights from Defcon 26
- Linux / Open Source FAQs: Common Myths / Misconceptions
- Email Security FAQs Answered by Guardian Digital
- Guardian Digital Mail Systems: Designed to be Secure Without Fail