How to secure email in 2021 and beyond

The cybercrime industry is booming heading into the new year, as 2020 has enabled cyber thieves to lay down a foundation for distributing sophisticated attacks exploiting the latest trends. Email is the favorite attack vector among cyber criminals, and is currently used in over 90% of all cyberattacks. 

In this time of uncertainty and heightened digital risk, one theme has become clearly apparent: the best way to deal with the devastation of a cyberattack or a breach is by preventing the attack in the first place, which can be accomplished by understanding the magnitude of email risk your business faces and implementing effective email security defenses to mitigate it. This article will take a look at just how much organizations have to lose in an attack, and will examine how to fortify business email and set your company up for security and success with layered supplementary email protection.

No Business Can Afford an Ineffective Email Security Strategy

It is no secret that 2020 has been a difficult year for the majority of businesses. As companies aim to get back on their feet in 2021, one thing is certain: now more than ever, no business can afford the aftermath of a cyberattack or a data breach due to an ineffective email security strategy. While organizations could once get away with a somewhat weak email security posture, those days have come to an end, as cyber threats continue to evolve - becoming more sophisticated, targeted and evasive by the day. In the context of this modern digital threat landscape, an ineffective email security strategy will cost companies immensely - both literally and figuratively. A successful cyberattack can have devastating consequences including data theft, extended downtime and serious reputation damage. Recovery from an attack or breach is complex, difficult, expensive - and often impossible. Sixty percent of SMBs that get hit with ransomware go out of business within six months of experiencing the attack as a result of one or more of the following repercussions:

  • Significant, costly downtime
  • Financial loss
  • Reputational harm
  • Loss of critical data and/or files

Taking preventative measures and ensuring that your business has implemented effective email security defenses is undoubtedly a more reasonable approach than dealing with the repercussions of a successful attack. In this sense, email security is an investment that continues to pay off in terms of safety, business success and brand image. 

Strategic thinking and careful planning are needed to safeguard business email against modern threats. Let’s take a look at the type of protection that is required to safeguard business email against today’s advanced threats and examine three additional ways you can proactively avoid email-borne attacks in 2021 and beyond.

Preventing Email-Borne Attacks Requires Layered Supplementary Security Defenses

Effective modern email security is highly dependent upon the principle of defense-in-depth. No single security feature is sufficient in detecting today’s advanced attacks, many of which employ stealthy fileless techniques specifically designed to evade traditional signature-based methods of detection. 

As many businesses have recently migrated to popular cloud platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace to accommodate remote workers, it has become increasingly apparent that built-in cloud email defenses alone are ineffective in combating sophisticated modern threats like spear phishing and fileless malware. Despite existing protection, 40% of Microsoft 365 users have experienced credential theft nevertheless. Safeguarding users and critical data in these vulnerable platforms requires layered supplementary security defenses designed to fill the gaps in existing cloud email protection.

An effective supplementary email security solution consists of multiple layers of purpose-driven standards and technologies designed to work harmoniously to detect persistent and emerging threats in real-time, preventing all malicious mail from reaching the inbox - where it could potentially cause great harm. These technologies should leverage advanced threat intelligence including Artificial Intelligence (AI),spear phishing stat Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Machine Learning (ML) to monitor and learn from the latest threats, and to update their protection to remain ahead of emerging attacks. Malicious URL protection and properly implemented email authentication protocols - namely, SPF, DKIM and DMARC - are features that organizations should prioritize when selecting supplementary email protection. These “layers” of security are crucial in protecting against phishing, email spoofing and sender fraud - all central components of the modern email threat landscape.

Managed services is another key characteristic of effective email protection that is often overlooked. Selecting a solution that is accompanied by expert, ongoing system monitoring, maintenance and supports simplifies administration, reduces costs and delivers invaluable peace-of-mind, knowing the security of your company’s critical assets is being overseen around-the-clock by a team of experts.

Additional Tips & Advice for Staying Safe Online

In addition to ensuring that you have implemented the caliber of supplementary email protection specified above, here are our other top tips for preventing attacks and staying safe online.

Stay Educated & Up-to-Date on the Latest Email Threats 

Awareness is essential in practicing smart online behavior, recognizing malicious email scams and avoiding attacks. Ensure that all members of your organization remain educated and up-to-date on the latest email threats and email security trends by requiring that employees take part in ongoing security awareness training. Subscribing  to our Behind the Shield newsletter is a great way to learn about the latest email security threats, trends and tips for avoiding attacks - conveniently delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis.

Ensure That Your OS & All Apps Stay Updated

Remember that your OS and applications are only as secure as their latest security patches, and vulnerabilities can provide malicious actors with easy access to your systems, networks and critical data. Enable automatic updates whenever possible and disable unnecessary applications and services. Choosing an open-source OS like Linux and selecting open-source applications often provides access to more rapid fixes and updates than proprietary alternatives offer due to the constant scrutiny that open-source code undergoes by members of the vibrant, global open-source community.

Avoid Sharing Personal Information Online

Refraining from sharing personal information online is extremely important, as these valuable details can be leveraged by cyber criminals to craft highly convincing and dangerous social engineering attacks that exploit trust relationships and human nature. Ninety-eight percent of modern cyberattacks rely on social engineering, or the use of deception to manipulate individuals into sharing confidential or personal information that can be used for fraudulent or malicious purposes. Social engineers rely heavily on social media for their research, but also scour the Internet for personal information published on other websites. Thus, it is imperative that users frequently check websites for personal data that may be publicly available, and request that it be removed. Websites like haveibeenpwned, which notify users when their information is discovered online, can be helpful in monitoring the availability of personal data on the Internet.

Key Takeaways

Email risk is universal - and greater than ever heading into the new year. New threats like fileless and payload-less attacks are emerging, and notorious threats such such as phishing, ransomware and CEO fraud persist and continue to evolve. 

Cyberattacks have devastating consequences and lasting repercussions for the businesses they target. Recovery from an attack or a data breach is difficult, complex, costly - and often impossible. Thus, when it comes to email security, it pays to take proactive measures and ensure that effective security defenses are in place to safeguard the inbox while, on the other hand, it costs to take a reactive approach. 

Set your business up for security, success and peace-of-mind in the new year with an effective email security strategy. Assess your company’s email risk and learn how to secure your email against modern cyberattacks with our free Email Risk Assessment Tool.

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