Small Business Email Security Mistakes

Email risk has never been greater as cybercriminals continue to advance their attacks to evade security defenses and deceive victims. This is true for all businesses; however, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face a disproportionately high level of risk due to the shortage of cybersecurity resources and expertise that is common among these companies. Attackers recognize that SMBs are often unprepared to defend against modern email threats, and forty-three percent of cyberattack targets are now small businesses.

As an SMB, understanding the email threats you face and how to defend against them is crucial in fostering security, productivity, and long-term business success. In this article, we’ll help you: 

  • Discover how to implement robust email security for the long term
  • Learn about different strategies and techniques to fend off persistent cyberattacks
  • Understand what it takes to be effectively protected against modern digital threats
  • Learn more about the importance of outsourced email security for a strong IT security program
  • Make sure threat defense and risk management are top priorities

Email Risk Is Big for SMBs

Email is a powerful tool for small business attacks. By leveraging email, cybercriminals can use various methods to obtain sensitive information. One common threat is the exploitation of unencrypted email attachments. Due to a lack of cybersecurity resources and awareness, many SMBs use unencrypted email attachments to secure confidential data. However, this practice poses some dangers. If the email gets hacked, attackers can gain access to the attachments and thus penetrate the company's system. In addition, they can also distribute malware through these attachments to infect more computers and thus expand their network.

Another common method that cybercriminals use against SMBs is to try to contact the company's employees to get sensitive information. They often use phishing emails claiming to be from a known or trusted sender. Here, it’s important to be careful and not open any unsafe links or attachments.

Risks to SMEs from Email Use: What Can Happen in the Worst Case Scenario?

Small businesses, just like large enterprises, are exposed to significant risks when using email. Risks like this can lead to serious security issues for the entire company. Since emails are part of daily business operations where employees communicate withcyberattack each other, companies must take the right measures to ensure they don't fall victim to cybercrime.

Small businesses face some common risks when using email to communicate including phishing scams, data theft, and malware. Cyberattackers use phishing as a form of social engineering that attempts to steal confidential data such as usernames and passwords and often use fraudulent emails or websites to achieve their goals. Malware is also a common threat to small businesses. Malware is a malicious program or code downloaded to the user’s or company's system to steal personal data or spread viruses on the system.

There are many different ways a small business can improve its email security. These include using passwords with at least eight characters and numbers and keeping all software and operating systems current. Installing antivirus software on all devices and running regular firewall scans is known to help. In addition, it is strongly recommended that all employees are informed about security policies and regular training sessions should be held on handling email.

If these security measures are not applied, there’s a risk of severe damage to the entire company and along with its clientele. 

Data theft can:

  • Hurt the company's reputation.
  • Cause hefty financial losses.
  • Malware can cause system-wide problems and significantly increase productivity losses.
  • Phishing attacks can make businesses fall victim to fraud. 

It is necessary to be extra cautious when dealing with email as an SME and take appropriate security measures to protect the company against phishing and other threats.

The Importance of Effective Email Security for SMBs

Small businesses are often exposed to many dangers from online risks. A critical part of these risks is email security, an important communication platform for businesses. Without reliable email protection, your business could easily become a target for malicious hackers and other cybercriminals. 

Young women using computer, Cyber security concept.

You might ask, why is email security so important? Well, the answer is simple: it's all about protecting your data and your company’s. The loss of confidential information can have serious consequences because many organizations send sensitive material through their email accounts. If this data falls into the hands of cybercriminals or malicious actors, it can lead to financial losses along with more serious issues such as data breach and image loss. 

Unfortunately, many small businesses underestimate the importance of email security. Small organizations need more time or resources to take care of the technical aspects of security, especially if they want to protect their data. As a result, they often have no choice but to take the risk and forgo basic security measures.

On the bright side, there are many ways to make your email account more secure these days. These include services like real-time monitoring and filtering and more advanced methods like encryption and multi-factor authentication (MFA). There are also cloud-based email security solutions that can help you secure your network against threats. 

By using and engaging these technologies into your small business, you can protect your organization from more serious email security issues, including phishing attacks and malware. With the right protection, you can ensure that your business is safe and that all internal and external messages are processed securely. 

To improve the security of your email, you need to take the right steps:

  • Invest in powerful security solutions for your network.
  • Make sure employees are constantly aware of new threat situations.
  • Conduct regular testing.
  • Use multi-factor authentication for each user account.
  • Try to use virus scanners or firewall software as much as possible.

By doing these things, your organization can maintain a superior level of protection for its email - without significant additional investment or effort!

What Are Common Email Security Mistakes Among Small Businesses?

Failure to address the fundamentals first

Small businesses that aim to protect their email should take care of the basics first. These include setting up password protection for all accounts and avoiding insecure connections. These two steps will ensure your organization protects its email communications from intruders. 

Cyber security systems for business networkIt's also essential to actively familiarize yourself with the risks you face when communicating via email. Using encryption technologies is another important step in keeping your email secure. Businesses can also install spam filters and regularly update their software and systems to ensure data security. 

Another mistake small businesses can make regarding email security is ignoring the issue or not taking necessary action. Many companies underestimate the dangers of communicating via email and do need to realize the importance of taking preventative measures and complying with regulations.

There are also situations where a company recognizes signs of a potential attack on its email communications yet fails to act quickly. If your company has detected signs of a potential attack (like unexpected login attempts), it is needed to fix the problem immediately. In addition, you should always consult a professional IT service provider to ensure that your network is and remains fully protected and that no vulnerabilities remain. 

To provide effective security for your email, small businesses need to consider and understand the basics and take all the necessary steps to secure their network. In addition, companies should always keep their eyes open and respond appropriately if signs of potential threats appear or are suspected.

Relying on built-in Microsoft 365 email protection alone

Many small businesses rely on Microsoft 365's built-in email protection without considering what happens when a mistake occurs. Most small businesses don't have an option to fix the damage caused by such a mistake.

The problem is that many small businesses need a separate email security solution. Instead, they rely on Microsoft 365's integrated solution, which is not designed to handle complex security threats. When a failure occurs in this integrated solution, it is often challenging for small businesses to fix the damage.

Suppose your business relies on Microsoft 365's integrated email protection, and you want to ensure your email is secure. In that case, you should invest in a reputable third-party supplementary email security solution.

Watch: Microsoft 365 Email Security Limitations You Should Know

Viewing endpoint security alone as enough to defend against attacks

Small businesses are often under the mistaken impression that endpoint security alone is enough to protect against email attacks. While it's true that endpoint security solutions are an essential part of protecting against cyberattacks, further measures need to be taken. A complete email security strategy requires a combination of different technologies and processes.

These include monitoring mail server protocols and protecting network inputs and outputs to prevent malicious actors from stealing sensitive data from a network. Measures such as strong authentication and encryption are also essential. An organization can be effectively protected from email threats only with all these solutions.

Another mistake with email security in small businesses is that not all employees adhere to security policies. Policies need to be reviewed regularly and adjusted if necessary. Therefore, all employees must be aware of and follow the latest security rules

Every company should also conduct regular tests for its email security to find vulnerabilities and become familiar with potential threat scenarios. Conducting external penetration tests to determine whether external attackers could penetrate the network is also advisable. 

Regardless of the outcome of such tests, any company needs to make regular backups of all data stores and store them in a secure location. This way, in the event of a cyberattack, lost or stolen material can be easily recovered in many cases. There have been many cases where users and organizations lost most or all of their data due to an attack.

Watch: Shortcomings of Endpoint Security in Securing Business Email

Not investing in fully-managed email security services

Many small businesses must be more proactive regarding email protection and extend limited IT resources by investing in fully managed email security services. They rely on their routers' and firewall settings and trust that they are secure. This is a mistake because routers and firewalls have minimal security capabilities.

Some small businesses also rely on antivirus software for their workstations or laptops. However, this is not an effective way to protect their email security because antivirus software is usually installed only on Windows-based systems, leaving Mac OS X and Linux unprotected. The best way to protect email security in small businesses is to use fully managed email security services that support all types of email clients and automatically download updates for all systems in real time. These services offer the expert, ongoing system monitoring, maintenance, and support required to rapidly detect and eliminate potential threats.

Failure to require that staff engage in security awareness training

Another reason small companies need more security is that employees are not required to attend security awareness training. In larger companies, this aspect is often taken very seriously, and all employees are expected to be aware of the dangers of cybercrime. This makes them more sensitive to potential attacks and better detect and avoid them. In small businesses, on the other hand, it is often assumed that all employees are already aware of the dangers of cybercrime and, therefore, do not need separate training. As a result, many employees do not know what to look out for and what they should do should their company fall victim to such an attack.

Email Security Tips & Best Practices for SMBs

Cybersecurity is an essential issue for many businesses, but especially small and medium-sized businessesComputer security should be concerned about it. If you want to improve email security at your company, here are some tips that can help:

  • Create a list of all the email addresses in your company. This list should also include the contact information of the people to whom these addresses are sent. This way, you can ensure that each employee receives the correct information.
  • Regularly check the settings for all email programs in your company. Pay special attention to the program's password and security features. This will help you ensure that all employees can easily read and send their emails.
  • Sign contracts with third parties for data security. For example, this could be an IT company or a cloud specialist. These contracts ensure that all data in your company is protected and there is no data breach.
  • Regularly review and update existing threats and IT systems. Make sure your systems are up to date by conducting a thorough analysis.
  • Secure your data in the cloud. Creating daily backups in multiple secure locations, such as the cloud or a hybrid data center, is a good idea to ensure you have unhindered and constant access to the information you need, even in a cyberattack.
  • Train your employees on cybersecurity. Human recklessness is one of the top reasons for successful attacks. Consider implementing a training program to develop conscious judgment against sensitive company data.
  • Design a response plan for unauthorized access. Taking a defensive view can reduce the risk to your organization.

Keep Learning about SMB Email Security 

Many small and midsize businesses still need to take the necessary steps to protect their email security. This issue is of great importance to any business, especially smaller companies that often have a more limited budget and fewer resources to protect their IT systems. However, common mistakes in email security can lead to severe consequences, including data loss, financial losses, and a severely damaged reputation. It is vital to keep learning and understanding how to improve your email security:

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