2021 studies show that over 50% of people today use email. Despite this, security measures are put in place quite rarely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this issue, with more and more people working from home, and employers and employees are emailing more than ever. With digital meetings becoming commonplace and important documents and conversations being sent through email, malicious actors are affixing their gaze on email.
Hackers have used email to get access to sensitive data or spread malware ever since the first computer viruses. Falling victim to an attack could cost your business massive amounts of money and private information. Because of this, it’s paramount to be protected against email attacks.
Today, we’ll be looking over the best business email security practices to ensure your business gets by unscathed.
1. Provide Your Employees with Professional Training
The IBM Cost of Data Breach Report 2020 states that breaches caused by human error cost their companies around $3.3 million on average. Social engineering is also one of the most consistent ways to hack into a well-protected organization.
Regardless of how robust your tools and protocols are, human error can throw your entire business in disarray. This means that if a malicious actor can trick one of your employees into giving away a critical piece of information, you might find yourself faced with an attack none of your tools can help with.
Setting this aside, every security system has its weak spots. Your tools can’t protect your systems from everything at all times. In case a hacker can circumvent your automated systems, your employees become the last line of defense for your data.
Because of this, educating and training your employees on cybersecurity is one of the most impactful things you can do to increase your business’ resistance to attacks. Enroll your employees in mandatory training programs to help update their knowledge of common threats and ways to avoid human errors.
On the other side of the spectrum, running routine simulations can help ensure that your employees are well-versed in what to do in case a breach does occur. It also ensures that they apply the information they learn in training.
2. Ensure Password Strength
Using common, easily guessable passwords is one of the most preventable email security flaws that still cause trouble for many companies to this day. Passwords like “Password” “QWERTY” or the like are easily guessable, and won’t take long for a hacker to crack.
Other commonly used passwords are ones including a birthday, name, or similar detail about an employee or their spouse. Unfortunately, in the age of social media, this is easily available information.
The 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report conducted by Verizon found that 80% of all breaches are connected to a mistake in password management.
So, what can you do to ensure the passwords within your company are ready to stand against attackers?
First of all, you’ll want to make it mandatory for your employees to change their passwords once every 6-8 months. Furthermore, you want to encourage the use of long(over 13 characters) passwords that feature a mix of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower-case letters. It’s also important to avoid repetition-your employees shouldn’t have the same email password anywhere else.
Now, another great idea is to use a tool designed to help you with managing passwords. Tools like DashLane or LastPass can store and generate random passwords. This lets your employees work while only remembering one password.
3. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Now, strong passwords, like all security measures, can fail. In case this happens, you want to ensure that two-factor authentication(2FA) is available for all of your users. This is especially important for users that are authorized to command funds or crucial business data. This ensures that each login was intended and done by someone from your company.
There are two main kinds of 2FA. The first involves sending a one-time password when a login attempt is made to a messaging device like the employee’s phone. The other one is simply answering a prompt on another device.
This makes it so that attackers will be unable to access your emails unless they’ve got a way to access a phone or similar device.
4. Teach Employees about the Kinds of Phishing
Phishing is one of the most common ways malicious actors trick employees into giving up their account credentials. Phishing, as a whole, is defined as: “the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers”. Usually, these attacks are performed en-masse and target thousands of employees at different companies.
The other kinds of phishing attacks are:
- Spear Phishing This type of phishing targets specific employees, and will often involve learning some personal facts about employees to target them.
- Vishing The same as regular phishing, but using phone calls (on personal devices or company telephones).
- Whaling Targeting C-suite executives that have access to important information. These are usually done by actors that know a lot about the specific executive.
- BEC BEC or Business Email Compromise is a type of phishing that is officially regarded by the FBI as one of the most damaging online crimes. It involves the malicious actor sending an email posing as a legitimate source, like a vendor you operate with, a colleague, or a manager. This might involve spoofed websites or emails with small variations.
The biggest signs of phishing are:
- Using Public Email Domains No legitimate business sends emails that end with “@gmail.com” or “@protonmail.com”. Make sure that the domain name matches the sender’s identity.
- Misspellings In The Domain Name If the domain name of the sender is a misspelling of a famous brand like “Googl.com” that’s a surefire sign of phishing.
- Grammatical Errors Serious businesses won’t have many (if any) grammatical errors in their emails.
- Contains Suspicious Links or Attachments If you aren’t expecting a link or attachment, it’s better not to click on it, as it might contain malware.
5. Teach Your Employees not to Open Suspicious Links And Attachments
With attachments and links being the most common way phishing leads you to install malware, your employees must ask themselves some crucial questions before opening a link or attachment. Some of these questions are:
- Did I expect to get this attachment?
- Is the sender my coworker or someone trustworthy?
- Is this the kind of format this attachment is usually sent in?
- Does the email I got mention the attachment?
If you’re not sure, it’s best to check with your manager and the sender if they intended to send an attachment. It’s also a good idea to use endpoint email security tools. These tools will scan emails for malicious content and alert you if they see a violation.
A sneaky tactic malicious actors have developed is using the “unsubscribe” button usually associated with spam emails to store malicious links. Because of this, you should instead use measures provided by your email provider to make sure that address can’t contact you again.
6. Update Security and Private Settings Regularly
With attacks constantly evolving, defenses need to grow in tow. New attack vectors are found every day, and existing attacks grow more advanced, because of this, it’s crucial to routinely keep track of and invest in your defenses.
Keeping yourself informed about the latest developments in cybersecurity, and new ways hackers are finding ways to exploit vulnerabilities lets you prepare your business in advance. This goes hand in hand with excess cc-ing, which provides a larger attack surface for hackers to target.
You should keep tabs on all of your policies and privacy settings within the business. Regularly checking for suspicious activity like unauthorized logins or alerts from email security tools can let you quell attacks before they even happen.
7. Don’t Allow Employees to Use the Same Email for Personal Matters
Employees will sometimes use their work emails for personal interactions, and while this may seem benign at first, it can be quite damaging for your business. Personal correspondences are marred with security flaws, and the usage of business emails for personal reasons leaves the door open for phishing attacks.
This is quite simple to alleviate-simply don’t allow your employees to use their work emails for personal reasons. If they need to send something personal, they can use a personal device for that (such as a phone).
8. Use a Spam Filter
While most email providers already come with spam filters, they can sometimes miss a couple of spots, so using a dedicated filter can help with this. In the end, the best way to avoid email attacks is to stop your employees from ever seeing suspicious content.
Statista analytics show that 43% of all email traffic is spam. Using a spam filter helps your employees stay focused on their inboxes and stops them from having to wade through dozens of spam emails to get to relevant messages.
9. Take Advantage of Various Tools And Protocols
Three main standards help with identifying and filtering out potentially malicious messages. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail,) the SPF (Sender Policy Framework), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance).
DKIM is a method of using asymmetric cryptography to stop email spoofs. An email requires a digital signature to be added to an email to ensure the message has stayed the same from the time it was sent. In case the signature given doesn’t match the public key in the domain, it doesn’t get delivered.
SPF makes sure that an email comes from its source and that source has the required authorization to send emails from that domain. If the email is found to be from an authorized source, it goes through, if not, it is stopped.
DMARC extends both of these and makes it so that domain owners can easily make public their DKIM and SPF requirements. This also lets them state where emails are sent to in case they don’t meet the requirements.
While these three protocols are great for ensuring your email’s integrity, specialized tools are a massive help in furthering your email security. They provide antimalware and antispam features, as well as security gateways and email filters. Using email monitoring systems can take this further, and ensure that you always have a complete outlook of what is going on within your business.
10. Use Email Encryption Internally
Email encryption makes sure that if you’re targeted by one of the various attacks, and your email communications are stolen or intercepted, the reader won’t be able to decipher the contents. Using encryption makes sure that all emails sent are only received and read by the people they were sent to.
This also gives the sender of an email more control, such as the ability to take away access to emails that were sent to the wrong individual, in addition to showing you who opened which emails and at what time.
All of these security measures will help you foster a safe and efficient email environment. They ensure that your employees are kept well educated and that you have a proper outlook on your environment.
With that being said, the most important aspect of email security is that you never get complacent. Making sure that your knowledge and business practices are constantly evolving on pace with attacks ensures that you’re never blindsided by an attack that doesn’t exist. While email attacks have been common ever since businesses started to rely on them, today, some of them have grown much more sophisticated.
In the end, using an email security tool proves to be the best way to keep your business safe from email attacks. These tools are specialized and are always growing and developing new ways to prevent hackers from getting access to your funds and information.
How does your business handle email security?
Let us know in the comments below!