What Is Email Security?
- by Justice Levine
Email security services are a method of protection for company email accounts against unauthorized access and mishandling and are designed to secure employee emails from viruses and theft. Providers of email security utilize threat intelligence to monitor ransomware, phishing, spoofing, and other email-related cyber crimes globally. This information is collected by providers to create and maintain tools such as firewalls, while simultaneously educating employees on proper security methods. Through these combined elements, email security firms are able to minimize exposure to malicious messages and ensure the safe passage of outbound messages.
Email security services coincide with data and endpoint security, as well as other cybersecurity services that make organizations conscious of threats, safe from attacks, and prepared should an attack occur. To capitalize on protection efforts, businesses can deploy secure email gateways and other software in addition to email security services. This article will discuss what email security is, its importance, as well as email security best practices and tips for preventing attacks and compromise.
How Can Email Be Compromised?
Most professionals in the cybersecurity industry are aware of the common threats such as phishing, ransomware, business email compromise (BEC), etc. It’s crucial, however, that data protection and secured outbound traffic are also taken into consideration. Businesses should have security measures in place that prevent users from sending sensitive data via email to external parties. There are four elements of an email that can be compromised including:
- The body of the email
- Attachments within the email
- URLs contained within the email
- The sender's email address
Why Is Email Security Important?
Attackers target email due to the exploitable vulnerabilities brought on by human error, as well as the information that tends to be shared. Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) found that email and direct installs are two of the top attack vectors for malware infections.
Another report showed that 92% of malware is delivered via email, and 91% of successful data breaches result from spear-phishing campaigns, affecting 95% of all enterprise networks.
Every piece of communication to or from the company uses email as a medium. However, when employees work remotely they are more likely to use their official accounts for almost all communication. These messages are vulnerable, and employees run the risk of being attacked by cybercriminals. In today’s digital age we can no longer turn a blind eye, email security is necessary for every company’s cybersecurity infrastructure.
Attacks That Occur Via Email
Some of the common types of email attacks include:
- Fraud: email-based fraud attacks can be deployed in a number of ways, ranging from advance-fee scams that target everyday people to BEC attacks that are designed to trick employees into transferring money to fake accounts. The attacker often uses domain spoofing to make their account look like it is a legitimate source.
- Phishing: This attack aims to get the victim to share sensitive information, directing users to a fake website thatsteals credentials, or pressuring the victim to send information that is secretly under the attacker’s control. Domain spoofing is also commonly used in phishing attacks.
- Malware: Types of malware delivered via email include spyware, scareware, adware, and ransomware. Attackers can deliver malware via email in several different ways, but most commonly includes an email attachment with malicious code.
- Account Takeover: Attackers hack email inboxes for a series of reasons, such as monitoring messages, stealing information, or using legitimate email addresses to forward malware attacks and spam to the compromised account’s contacts.
- Email Interception: Attackers can intercept emails to steal information or carry out on-path attacks where they impersonate both sides of a conversation to each other.
6 Ways to Secure Your Email
Email is one of the most commonly used attack vectors by cybercriminals because it is easy and effective. Because of this, an organization and its employees should follow email security best practices, such as:
- Spam Filter: A spam filter can detect spam and keep it from reaching your inbox or mark it as spam.
- Email Encryption: This works to disguise corporate email by changing communications into an unreadable combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that someone who intercepts it will not be able to decrypt.
- Antivirus Protection: Antivirus protection screens emails and attachments for viruses, providing the user with warnings should something be detected.
- Secure Email Gateway (SEG): SEG filters out potentially dangerous emails based on an IT administrator’s settings.
- Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is a key data loss protection and anti-hacking tool because it requires a user to provide more than one authentication factor to prove they are the person trying to access the system.
- Employee Education: Employees can be educated to recognize the types of attacks that are typically executed using email.
Benefits of Email Security for Businesses
Businesses of all sizes, regardless of industry, rely heavily on email, and investing in your email security strategy has proven to be greatly beneficial. For example, prioritizing a robust solution can help prevent attacks and breaches. Email security software and best practices provide several other benefits for businesses of all sizes, next steps include:
- Availability: Email security can help to ensure email service availability so your business can continue to communicate with staff and customers.
- Authenticity: Email authenticity measures help build trust for an organization and its users that email coming from its domain is authentic.
- Fraud Prevention: The ability to identify potential email security risks can help an organization reduce the chances of fraud.
- Malware Prevention: A set of security capabilities in place can limit the risks of malware transmitted by email.
- Phishing Protection: Phishing attacks can trick employees to open links or download malicious attachments that lead to a data breach and credential theft.
Not only will investing in a security strategy mitigate the risk your company faces, but it could also play a role in your business’s success by improving your brand image, decreasing operational costs, optimizing productivity, and solidifying client loyalty.
The Bottom Line
A strong email security system can protect an organization and its employees while curating a safe work environment as the email system works in tandem with the workflow. Implementing an effective email security strategy may present challenges, but prioritizing the fundamentals is beneficial for any company. A lack of appropriate email security measures will create vulnerabilities to email-borne threats, regardless of other advanced technology in place.
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