Email Security Intelligence - Open Source: A Powerful, Yet Underutilized Weapon against Phishing & Zero-Day Attacks

Phishing scams and zero-day attacks dominate the modern email threat landscape, and these dangerous, costly threats are becoming increasingly problematic for businesses. Over 90% of modern cyberattacks begin with a phishing email, and zero-day malware - or malware that does not match any existing antivirus signature - accounted for half of all malware strains detected in 2019. 

Traditional email security defenses are ineffective in combating these rapidly-evolving threats, as attackers are now employing advanced techniques like social engineering and fileless malware to evade detection. Securing business email against phishing, zero-day attacks and other sophisticated modern threats requires proactive, multi-layered defenses - the type of innovative defenses that can be engineered using the collaborative, community-powered open-source development model. This article will explore the threat that phishing and zero-day attacks pose to all businesses, and will explain why open-source development is an effective vehicle for engineering the type of defenses required to protect against these threats.

A Prevalent, Evolving Threat

A month into 2021, email risk has never been greater. Cyber thieves are exploiting remote workers’ increased reliance on cloud email, inadequate built-in email security defenses in Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace and the inherent uniformity of these increasingly popular cloud platforms to launch sophisticated phishing and zero-day attacks -  or attacks exploiting a vulnerability before developers have had the opportunity to release a fix for it - designed to steal sensitive data, spread malware and evade the detection of traditional security defenses. Despite existing email protection, the FBI reports that 30% of phishing attempts are opened by target users.

With the recent growth in the remote workforce, phishing and zero-day attacks are becoming increasingly problematic for all businesses, carrying severe consequences including:

  • Data theft
  • Financial loss 
  • Significant, expensive downtime or permanent business closure
  • Serious reputation damage

Clearly, a better strategy is needed to safeguard companies’ users, data and brand image against phishing and zero-day attacks in this modern digital threat environment.

Combating Phishing & Zero-Day Attacks with Open-Source Email Security 

Since the beginning of the Internet, Open Source has played a critical role in the development of the technologies and protocols that secure communications, and continues to power the Internet to this day. Email is powered by open standard protocols like SPF, DMARC and DKIM, and 67% of all web servers worldwide run on the renowned open-source Linux OS. Despite the fact that Open Source is the very foundation of email itself, it is shockingly underutilized in the realm of email security - and holds great promise in the ongoing fight against phishing and zero-day attacks.  

Open Source embodies the core values of transparency, accessibility, collaboration and community. Developers, programmers, engineers and passionate community members worldwide work together for the greater good to create innovative, effective software, products and solutions. Contributors to these crowd-sourced projects are heavily invested in their work - knowing that both themselves and their fellow community members will rely on and reap the benefits of their efforts. Open-source software and technology is exceptionally secure by design, as it undergoes the ongoing scrutiny of the “many eyes'' of this vibrant, global community. As a result, security vulnerabilities are rapidly identified and eliminated.

In an open-source model applied to the development of email security solutions, emails gathered from millions of systems from around the world are used to identify patterns and perform large-scale tests on filters and frameworks such as Apache SpamAssassin that have been developed to block malicious email. Results are then distributed back to the community, where the insight gathered is incorporated into millions of systems, including some of the largest in the world. The Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) gathered in this process results in real-time updates, ensuring that new phishing campaigns and zero-day vulnerabilities discovered in one part of the world are addressed and contained quickly before they have a chance to spread. 

Unlike in a proprietary development model, open-source email security providers can freely tap into global resources, tools and intelligence shared within the community, allowing them to engineer high-quality, exceptionally secure solutions and offer them at lower costs. These open-source solutions are highly flexible and scalable, meaning that they can evolve and grow quickly and easily - always remaining ahead of the latest threats.

Key Takeaways 

Email risk is universal, and effective email security is more important than ever to businesses’ safety, success and longevity. Phishing and zero-day attacks are a serious concern for all businesses, as all companies rely heavily on email, collect valuable client data and must uphold a clean reputation.

Traditional email security defenses are no longer effective in combating today’s sophisticated, evasive phishing and zero-day attacks, and the open-source development model provides a superior vehicle for engineering adaptive, effective and exceptionally secure email defenses - exactly the type of defenses that are needed to protect against modern phishing campaigns and zero-day exploits.

How effective is your current strategy for preventing phishing and zero-day attacks? Could upgrading to an open-source email security solution improve your company’s cybersecurity posture? Find out in less than five minutes and get expert, personalized email security advice using our free Email Risk Assessment Tool.>

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