Top Email Security Flaws Leaving Businesses Vulnerable to Attack

In this digital risk environment, email threats are evolving faster than ever. Cybercriminals are employing new, increasingly sophisticated methods, tactics, and techniques like social engineering and fileless malware to deceive users, evade security defenses, and ultimately, get paid. Too many businesses are struggling to adapt and adjust to the heightened digital threat landscape brought on by the pandemic, or have failed to make email security the priority that it needs to be, leaving them at risk of suffering a devastating cyberattack or data breach.


Traditional methods of securing business email such as endpoint security solutions, antivirus software, spam filters, and built-in Microsoft 365 email protection are no longer effective in securing business email against advanced and emerging attacks. This article will explain the key areas where typical email security defenses fall short in protecting users, sensitive data, and key business assets against modern threats.

Securing Business Email in 2022 & Beyond Brings New & Heightened Challenges

With the challenges brought on by the pandemic, many businesses have failed to devote adequate time and resources to securing their email in recent years. This is a critical mistake - email security is not a commodity, rather, it is more essential to cybersecurity and business success than ever before. Email is the preferred attack vector among cyber thieves and is used to initiate over 90% of modern cyberattacks and breaches.

While email-borne cyber attacks were once simplistic, “cookie-cutter” phishing scams exploiting unaware users, those days have come to an end. Modern email threats have become so sophisticated and deceptive, employing advanced techniques such as social engineering, fileless malware, zero-day ransomware, and polymorphic viruses, that it is now much harder to blame the user for falling for a scam. Let’s examine some key email security issues leaving businesses vulnerable to attack in 2022.

Top Issues in Typical Emails Security Defenses

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

Despite built-in email protection in Microsoft 365, 85% of users have experienced an email data breach over the past year. Native Microsoft 365 email security is a good start but leaves critical security gaps that cyber thieves will readily exploit to trick users into sharing sensitive credentials 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 being 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.

Failing to View Endpoint Security as the Last Line of Defense 

The tide is turning away from relying on endpoint security alone, as businesses are quickly recognizing that protection that works at the client level on devices such as laptops, desktops, and mobile devices is limited in its ability 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 the 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.

Endpoint security solutions have their place in a defense-in-depth email security strategy, but must be seen as the last line of defense against malicious hackers.

Failure to Invest in Fully-Managed Email Security Services

Managed services is a key area where even the most innovative, modern email security solutions consistently fall short. An effective email security solution cannot simply be selected and purchased, leaving the responsibility of configuration and management in the hands of the administrator. Small businesses often lack a full-time IT department or mail administrator, and even with these positions filled, organizations cannot rely on IT professionals, who are often not trained email security experts, to secure corporate email accounts.

Rather, 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.

The Bottom Line

Securing business email against modern threats requires defense-in-depth protection, advanced technology and expert, ongoing system monitoring, maintenance, and support. With an awareness of common shortcomings of typical email security defenses, organizations are equipped with knowledge that can be used to select and implement an effective third-party email security solution to protect their users, key business assets, and brand image in this heightened digital threat environment.

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