As digital threats continue to evolve to become more sophisticated and harder to detect, traditional methods of securing email like built-in cloud email protection and endpoint security alone are no longer effective in safeguarding against damaging cyberattacks and breaches. Phishing attacks have risen 600% since the start of the pandemic, and users are now three times more likely to absentmindedly open a malicious link within a phishing email than they were pre-pandemic. Organizations continue to invest money, time, and resources into the sanctity of their online accounts, but these malicious campaigns are still winning the battles. Frankly, the software of old just doesn’t cut it anymore and is not equipped to defend against modern email threats. This article will explore the challenges businesses face in securing email against modern cyber threats, the importance of implementing effective email security defenses, and the characteristics you should prioritize when choosing an email security provider. 

Modern CyberSecurity Challenges We Face

Built-In Microsoft 365 Email Protection Alone Fails to Make Email Safe for Business

85% of users have experienced an email data breach over the past year despite built-in email protection in Microsoft 365. Native Microsoft 365 email security leaves critical security gaps that cyber thieves exploit to trick users into sharing sensitive data or installing dangerous malware on their devices. These gaps include: 

  • Protection is static, single-layered, and unable to anticipate emerging attacks. Microsoft EOP fails to consider human error, as well as is ineffective in foreseeing incoming zero-day attacks, malicious URLs, and attachments that are not mentioned in static lists.
  • EOP lacks customizable options to meet individual businesses’ varying security needs. Businesses become vulnerable to account takeovers and spear-phishing attacks that can lead to credential theft.
  • Homogeneous architecture makes it easier for attackers to bypass security defenses. Because of the uniformity of the security system in Microsoft 365, cyber thieves are able to access any account, run tests on their methods until they can bypass default filters, then reuse their techniques to attack, targeting thousands of different accounts.

Be Wary of Critical Microsoft 365 Email Security Gaps 

Watch for critical email security gaps in Microsoft 365 that can lead to phishing and ransomware attacks. To protect against the most sophisticated attacks, email security must provide more than basic signature detection and blocklists provided by Microsoft.

Endpoint Security Should Be the Last Line of Defense 

Businesses are quickly recognizing that endpoint security alone is not enough to safeguard users and key assets against today’s advanced threats. Despite the widespread use of endpoint protection, email-borne cyberattacks and breaches are occurring at an unprecedented rate, with one in five businesses getting hacked daily. Shortcomings of endpoint security include: 

  • Critical security gaps leave corporate networks, cloud-based services, and sensitive data susceptible to attack. Corporate networks include the cloud, network data, and log data, which must be secured to prevent compromise. Endpoint protection is limited to the client layer, and cannot intercept traffic between an attacker and a target. 
  • There are no preventative safeguards against human error. Endpoint protection leaves the responsibility of identifying and responding to threats in the hands of the end-user. Endpoint security providers get involved once a user has already received a malicious email - and has possibly already disclosed sensitive credentials or downloaded ransomware.
  • The system is complex to configure and manage securely. Many SMBs lack IT expertise, and Microsoft doesn’t provide assistance with setup and the ongoing system monitoring, maintenance, and support required to prevent misconfiguration vulnerabilities and keep Microsoft 365 customers secure. Organizations with hybrid environments face the challenge of incomplete support for hybrid architectures and need to implement and manage a separate set of security services for non-Microsoft 365 workloads and data. 
  • Organizations have limited visibility into their email security. Endpoint protection does not equip organizations with the real-time insights and the security of their email required to make informed decisions. Organizations that rely on endpoint protection alone frequently struggle with visibility gaps across their IT environment, organizational silos and broken workflows that leave them exposed.

Be Cautious of Endpoint Security Limitations

Endpoint protection alone, which works at the client level on devices such as laptops, desktops and mobile devices, is limited in its ability to safeguard against cyberattacks and breaches, and should be viewed as the last line of defense.

Email Security is a Necessity

At a time companies could potentially get away with a relatively weak email security posture, but now more than ever, businesses cannot afford to cut corners on email security. Attackers are now positioning themselves to exploit the latest trends with the help of advanced, stealthy mechanisms like fileless malware and zero-day attacks, which leave traditional security technology defenseless. Because of this, small and large businesses alike would strongly benefit from implementing a proactive, multi-layered email security system, capable of fending off both visible threats and the ones we can’t see.

Email Security works to prevent cyber threats like social engineering attacks that target organizations via email. For example, phishing emails might trick users into giving up sensitive information, approving fake bills, or downloading malware that can go on to infect your corporate network. Small businesses in particular face an increased risk of being targeted by cyberattacks. Criminals often set their sights on SMBs as they typically cannot afford an IT team or security solution. A successful phishing attack can result in lasting consequences for businesses of all sizes. Without a proper security strategy in place, businesses run the risk of significant downtime, severe, lasting reputation damage, and financial loss. 

The Cost of Stolen Business

90% of cyberattacks on companies of all sizes can be traced back to a phishing campaign, and the damage can have lasting consequences including:

  • Data theft
  • Financial loss
  • Harm to your reputation
  • Recovery costs
  • Loss in employee morale
  • Permanent closure

The ongoing pandemic saw damage to many businesses, and email security suffered multiple hits along with them. Down to 44% from 71%, Ponemon Institute reported that companies feel they are prepared in case of a cyber attack. In the age of phishing and ransomware, the best offense is a strong defense to prevent the damages that can come from an attack.

Choosing an Email Security Provider

When choosing the right email security provider there are a few characteristics you will definitely want to prioritize:

  • The system should have multiple layers of real-time protection against modern and expert digital attacks such as spear phishing, ransomware, zero-day exploits, and APTs. 
  • The vendor should support rapid and frequent updates to offer superior protection.
  • Choosing a fully-managed email security services provider can improve security, maximize productivity, simplify deployment and ease the load on your IT department by assisting with setup and providing the ongoing system monitoring and maintenance required to keep you safe.

Managed services is a key area where email security solutions typically fall short. An effective email security solution should not leave the responsibility of configuration and management to the administrator. Small businesses often lack a full-time IT department or mail administrator, and even with these positions filled, IT professionals are often not trained email security experts, and fail to secure corporate email accounts.

Securing business email is an ongoing process that requires around-the-clock monitoring and maintenance by a team of experts, dedicated to understanding the evolving risks and applying the specific real-time guidance necessary to each individual business. Failure to implement a business email security solution accompanied by ongoing, expert management, system monitoring, and support services often leaves businesses vulnerable to attack - even with supplementary email security defenses in place.

Final Thoughts on the Importance of Email Security & How To Choose a Provider

In this modern era of heightened digital risk, CEOs and CFOs hold more responsibility than in the past, as they are required to protect users and their private data by maintaining a strong email security strategy capable of anticipating and blocking advanced and emerging threats. Cybersecurity is an ongoing process, not a product or any single solution, but layers and multiple technologies managed by people with the experience and knowledge to do it properly. The code for success can be achieved with a combination of values, chief among them: expert and continued system monitoring, maintenance, and support that ensures that users and key business assets remain secure, as well as prioritizing risk management, and lastly providing employees with knowledge of the potential threats they will face.

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