Email is a critical component of organizational communication thus making it highly susceptible to cyber threats attacks. As a result of covid pandemic, security breach has risen due to phishing and spamming thus email became a primary vector.
Email security involves procedures for protecting email accounts and contents against unauthorized access, loss or compromise. Email threats can cause harm, damage reputation and financial losses in any organization. As the hackers advance their technology and techniques daily, companies are called to look for solutions to fight against the advanced threats.
Benefits of Email Security
Eliminates business risks - modern business which uses the Internet regularly are at so much stake due to multiple mail risks cause from unencrypted emails.
Secure sensitive information - one of the major benefits of adopting the email encryption method is to secure sensitive and delicate information.
Better cost saving - email security solutions protects users' data with exceptional security and yields economic benefits.
Identify suspicious user behavior.
Maintain communication confidentiality.
Protection against zero-day threats.
Stop ransomware attacks and other threats.
Phishing: phishing attacks have been increasing every day. 75% of organizations around the world experienced some kind of phishing attack in 2020. The attackers send messages and emails to the target by pretending to be trusted individuals or institutions and then use their relationship with the targets to steal sensitive data like account numbers, credit card details, or login information.
Social Engineering: hackers use manipulation to earn the victim’s trust to steal data, information and money. A lot of the company data have been shared unknowingly by staff through social engineering where the victims fall in hands of the hackers and end up sharing the information.
Business Email Compromise (BEC): in 2020, 65% of the companies faced BEC attacks. This is an attack that targets high-ranking employees in a certain organization. The attackers study the routine and the habits of the victims. Once the attackers get control of the email account, they send emails to all their contacts which may contain malicious links or downloads. This abuses the trust you enjoy with your colleagues and business associates.
Ransomware: a user may download a malicious attachment sent through a phishing email which contains ransomware. This may be through campaigns targeting a group of people. A ransomware attack encrypts all of the files on infected computers and demands a payment to recover the files. Ransomware has an overwhelming impact on all businesses.
Email Related Challenges
The human factor: Most of the breaches are done through humans where attacks succeed without the use of malware. Social engineering results to data leakage and financial losses.
Spams: most of the spam emails are malicious and carry viruses and malware which duplicates themselves in the devices slowing down performance by consuming bandwidth which disrupts employees from their work reducing productivity.
Uncontrolled data transmission: when data transmission in the company is not monitored, it can lead to data leakage, infections or create legal issues.
Lack of endpoint protection: endpoint protection offers a layer of protection to the environment. Devices without endpoint are more prone to attacks.
Unchecked alerts: some alerts are registered on the admin console, but the administrator fails to check and take the actions needed.
Spoofing: this occurs when users receive an impersonated email which appears to be associated with an authorized and trusted source. The messages can be sent through phishing campaign attachments or hidden fraudulent and malicious URLs.
How email threats move within the organization.
When a user visits a phishing website using unprotected device, malicious files are downloaded into the device and later spreads within the network. The malicious files steal the users’ data and credentials. Secured gateway blocks malicious files before they are accessed by the recipient.
How to fight Email Threats?
Anti-malware protection: they detect and block known and unknown threats by offering real time with on-demand scanning.
Anti-phishing and anti-BEC: it helps in fighting Business Email Compromise with specially designed algorithms by detecting non-malware scams.
Intelligent spam protection: it blocks spam waves by updating anti-spam signatures from cloud knowledge base.
Security management and reporting: a well-managed system notifies the system administrator on issues related to the system. This helps them to keep on monitoring the health status of the email security.
Data transmission controls: advanced content filtering helps to identify trusted or untrusted sender and recipient lists. This helps in removing the contacts which may be spamming within the organization. It also assists to create pre-defined mail categories.
Employee education: organizations must ensure that employees are trained in best practices for the safeguarding of sensitive data. The users might receive malicious emails and they need to understand what to look for.
Use password best practices: this involves use of different passwords on different accounts, use of strong password i.e. not easy to guess, multi-factor authentication (MFA) and never revealing your passwords to others.
How do we authenticate emails?
Sometimes we are faced with the cases where we need to authenticate for the validity of the email and block fraudulent emails where an email seems to come from somebody you know, but the content looks suspicious.
The commonly used email authentication technologies used include:
1. Sender Policy Framework (SPF): this is an email validation protocol designed to detect and block email spoofing by allowing mail exchanges to verify that incoming mail from a specific domain comes from an IP address authorized by the domain administrators. Spam and phishing often use forged addresses and domains. SPF authentication shows the receiving ISP that even though the domain may be yours, the sender or the sending server has not been authorized to send email from your domain.
2. Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM): it takes the responsibility for a message in transit by attaching a new domain name Identifier to a message and uses cryptographic techniques to validate authorization for its presence. It uses the TXT record, which is published in the DNS, and it's based between the sender and the receiver by proving the sender of the email on the DKIM domain or authorized by the owner of that domain through an encryption algorithm to create a pair of electronic keys.
3. Domain Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC): this is an added authentication method that uses both SPF and DKIM to verify whether or not an email was actually sent by the owner. It checks for DKIM pass or SPF pass before authorizing any email. Authentications passing indicates that the email is coming from an authorized server and that the header information has not been tampered with to falsely alignment. Alignment proves that the sender owns the DNS. Any message that does not align is treated as phishing or spoofed and it's subsequently not going to be delivered to the recipient ensuring you are fully protected, and your environment is kept clean.
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