Covve Security Series: Understanding Email Security

With 93% of marketers using email to distribute their content, email surely is a powerful tool for communication. In fact, 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email. However, with the unprecedented growth of emails arises the issue of email security. 

According to the Internet and Crime Complaint Center (IC3) of Canada’s cybercrime task force, over the past few years, the number of complaints regarding cyber-attacks and the financial loss incurred by the attacked business has increased drastically. In 2018, IC3 received a huge 350,000 cyber-attack complaints along with financial losses of a whopping $2.7 billion. 

That’s the reason email security has become imperative for every business. From exploiting email to gain control over an organization to accessing confidential information and disrupting IT access to resources, the breach of email security can enable attackers to do it all. 

Common threats for email security

Let’s take a look at the common threats that come along with email usage.

  • Malware

Attackers make use of malware or malicious software to deliver a variety of attacks to an organization. These attacks include viruses, Trojan horses, spyware, and worms. Such attacks after getting successful gain the malicious entity control over workstations and servers. It can further be exploited to transform privileges, acquire access to critical information, keep a track of user activities, and conduct other malicious actions. 

  • Spam and phishing

Spam usually refers to sending unwanted bulk commercial emails. Such emails don’t only disrupt user productivity but also utilizes IT resources excessively while being used as a distribution mechanism for malware. Phishing, which is related to spam, makes use of deceptive computer-based means. It tricks users to respond to such emails and disclose sensitive information. Simply put, compromised email systems are often leveraged to deliver spam messages while conducting phishing attacks with the help of an otherwise trusted email address.

  • Malicious intent entities

Malicious entities have the ability to gain unauthorized access to resources through a successful attack on the mail server. A compromised mail server can enable the attacker to get access to the user’s password. This, in turn, can allow the attacker to access other hosts on the organization’s network.

  • Social engineering 

Social engineering enables an attacker to gather critical information from a business’s users. It can even go a step ahead and manipulate users to perform an action that intensifies the attack. Email spoofing is a kind of social engineering attack in which a person or a program masks themselves as another by hiding the true origin and falsifying the sender reputation. 

  • Unintentional errors by authorized users 

At times, the security threats are unintentional too. Authorized users may accidentally send critical and sensitive information through email, thereby exposing the organization to severe embarrassment or strict legal action.


Email security policies

Now, since you are aware of the threats that can compromise the security of your email, you must know about the email security policies. 

Email is critical for the functioning of any business. That’s the reason businesses have come up with policies to seamlessly handle the flow of information through email. They do it by following a baseline policy and view the contents of email flowing through their email servers. Once they know what is inside the entire email, they can incorporate a variety of security policies on those emails. 

The email security policies remove all executable content from emails and facilitate in-depth actions. For instance, they can send suspicious email content to a sandboxing tool for thorough analysis. If the policies find any security breaches, the organizations need to work on actionable intelligence and understand the scope of the attack. This will help them get a clear idea about the intensity of damage done by the attack. 

All in all, if an organization can visualize the content of all the emails being sent, they can work on enforcing email encryption policies to safeguard sensitive data and information from hackers. 


The best practices regarding email security for the end-users

If you are an end-user, you can take into account the following steps to protect your email from unwanted access. 

1. Incorporate strong passwords

Analysis of a number of breached email accounts shows that millions of email users still choose weak passwords such as qwerty, their first name, 123456, and so on. It’s high time people understand the importance of having a strong password. After all, it is the bare minimum for maintaining email security. 

You can become a strong password specialist  by following these measures:

  • A long password is critical for email security. So, choose a password which is at least 15 characters or more.
  • You should mix uppercase and lowercase letters along with numbers and symbols to make your password robust. 
  • Instead of going for common substitution, opt for random placement of characters. 
  • As mentioned already, avoid using memorable keyboard paths such as qwerty. These can be guessed with ease.
  • You can even use password generation tools. 

2. Go for two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication comes with account login confirmation. It sends users a text or email asking if they are trying to log in into their account or not. Two-factor authentication is a part of multi-factor authentication and works as a baseline email security step.

3. Update yourself with anti-spam laws 

Anti-spam laws deal with unsolicited emails and protect users from receiving unwanted spam emails. It plays a significant role in securing the email from malicious accessibility. The CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are two of the critical laws that are creating new standards for data security and privacy. So, keep yourself updated with these laws and create a unique email experience for yourself. 


The best practices regarding email security for marketers

As a marketer, if you wish to make your email marketing campaign successful, you must work on your email security. Here’s a look at a few of the best practices that can help you do the needful. 

1. Implement a secure gateway

An email gateway analyzes, scans, and processes all the emails that come and go. It makes sure that no threats get past the email. Remember, cyber attacks nowadays have a lot of sophistication in it. Therefore, incorporating standard security measures like blocking known bad file attachments doesn’t have effectiveness anymore. This is where a secure getaway with a multi-layered approach comes in handy. 

2. Deploy an automated email encryption solution

An automated email encryption solution monitors all the outbound email traffic to understand and determine if the material attached is sensitive or not. If the content within the email is sensitive, the automated solution encrypts it before mailing it to the intended recipient. This, in turn, stops attackers from viewing the email even if they intercept it. 

3. Train employees on the appropriate email usage

You must train your employees and email developers on appropriate email usage. At times, malicious email templates slip through the secure email getaway too. Therefore, the employees should have an extensive understanding of the difference between a good and a bad email.  The most common type of cyber attack is phishing. However, it has telltale signs and can be recognized easily if one has thorough knowledge about it. 

From malicious web links and attachments to fraudulent data entry forms and ambiguous sender names, phishing has a variety of ways to attack. So, training your employees to find such emails and report it is critical. In short, educating your employees to look for signs when an email looks suspicious is a great way of reducing successful compromises. 


Wrap up 

Do you know an average cyber attack can cost a small company $200,000? It can effectively put them out of business. That’s why it is important to improve email security around your business. It wouldn’t only save you from losses but also take your email security and business to an altogether new level. 

The detailed email security analysis mentioned above can help you understand the nitty-gritty of email security. So, go ahead, leverage email security to the core and bid goodbye to cyber attacks.

Kevin George is Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest growing custom email design and coding companies that specializes in professional email template creation and PSD to HTML email conversion; they are certified Salesforce Marketing Cloud specialists. Kevin loves gadgets, bikes, jazz and eats and breathes email marketing. He enjoys sharing his insights and thoughts on email marketing best practices on his blog.


Written on 22 Oct 2020.

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