Protect Your Business From Email Attacks

Updated: Feb 14






Nowadays, the security threats landscape has shifted to having emails as the primary sources of threats in organizations. Millions of emails are sent and received daily thus hackers have a considerable attack surface to exploit. This has forced the organizations to take steps to prevent the spread of malicious content and their related threats having access to email systems.


When we talk of email security we refer to the techniques and technologies used in securing sensitive information that is shared through emails. The scope of this include guarding against unauthorized access to email accounts and loss or compromise of the same.


ADVANTAGES OF EMAIL PROTECTION


  • Phishing protection: Email security solutions come with anti-phishing modules that have special techniques used in protecting organization from a range of phishing tactics that keep evolving with time.


  • Communication confidentiality: Email security keeps the confidentiality of message shared. This is achieved by employing an email encryption technique hence protecting confidential information such as bank account access credentials and other details.


  • Real time threat protection: Various email security solutions we have in the market today have techniques such as machine learning and sandboxing that offer real time threat protection with the intention to stop threats propagated through emails.


  • Identity theft avoidance: Mail security solutions are designed with the special feature to mitigate stealing of user credentials that lead to system takeover. e.g. If an attacker get holds of a user's (victim's) username and password, they can read through the confidential emails and worse still, be able to impersonate the victim. An insecure email address will make it all the easier for attackers to easily get their way in and take control of not only the victim's email, but any accounts that are associated with the victim's login credentials.


  • Device access control: Email security prevents inconveniences resulting from threats activities that deny the user right to conveniently use the device. e.g. Some email attachments contain malware that once downloaded to a device, it starts encrypting the victims files thus denying access to his/her data.



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Types of Email Attacks


  1. Phishing

By definition, phishing is an attempt to trick an individual to respond to an email, open a file or even disclose some sensitive information.




An attacker can use emails to get sensitive organization information from the users through a technique known as social engineering. This is where criminals send out authentic emails directing users to a phishing website. Once the user connects to the website, scammers use tricks to get the victims reveal their sensitive personal and confidential information. Some of these tricks include sending an alarming email message purported originating from the victim's bank. The victim is then cunningly directed to enter their private information.


When not carefully checked, the email sender or signatures may appear to be correct. However, a closer look at them reveal they were sent from other people(cyber criminals) with the intention to phish some details or infect the device. Mostly, they use or files e.g. word documents to spread their viruses. When the file attachment are downloaded, they execute and installed on the victim's device.



How to identify a phishing email.

  • Misspelling and grammar errors: Most reputable companies edit their emails before sending them out and one should be keen on checking the spellings and grammar that the attackers might have not been keen to address before sending.


  • Contains a link to a fake website: An email with a link that directs one to validate his/ her personal information. Most of the time, the attackers request their victims to update their personal information and other details which may assist them to steal their identity.


  • Emails with pop-ups ads: Some email messages urge their victim to act quickly before they have time to think clearly about the repercussions. It is good to note that reputable companies will not ask you to update your information through the pop-ups.


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How to avoid being a victim of Phishing emails





  1. Avoid using personal account for transmitting personal data.

  2. Be mean with your confidential information e.g. never send passwords or account data in response to any email.

  3. Log off(sign off) from any public device once done with access of corporate resources. The failure to log off makes it easy for the next person to have direct access to some sensitive company resources and other personal data.

  4. Do not follow any link or open any attachment unless you are 100% sure it is legitimate.

  5. Whenever you are in a doubt, find a phone number and investigate e.g. Banks and credit institutions will rarely ask you to validate information through an email.

  6. If you find yourself as a victim, change your passwords for any sites that has your sensitive information.

  7. If you suspect a phishing email, do not open it. Just ignore, mark it as spam and block the sender.

  8. Always check the recipients before sending email to avoid sending to a wrong person.



2. Spamming


This is sending of unsolicited emails. Spamming can be used as a method of sending both useful information e.g. advertising and harmful information e.g. phishing/malicious links/malware and other deceptive content.


Spams come from the infected devices in infected networks. They send bulk emails. Mostly, these devices may be infected by worms or a virus.


How to secure yourself from spamming

  • Never respond to spam emails.

  • Always use an updated web browser.

  • Make sure you have antivirus installed on your device or anti-spam filters.

  • Keep educating your employees on the emerging cybersecurity trends


3. Spoofing

This involves fooling the recipient into thinking that an email is coming from someone other than the real sender. In this attack, the attacker hides the fake sender identity, pretends to be a trusted individual, or pretends to be a reliable organization but is in the business of spreading malware hidden on attachments thus damaging the sender's(victim's) reputation.


4. Smishing

It is the use of text messaging on mobile phones to spread phishing links. Criminals impersonate a legitimate source in an attempt to gain the trust of the victim e.g. through sending of a website link. The sites contain malware and once accessed, it will be installed on the mobile phone.



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Email security practices


(a). Employee Education


Security awareness training is an essential aspect of an effective enterprise email security strategy e.g. Kaspersky Automated Security Awareness Platform (ASAP). Employees are the first line of defense, and thus it is important to provide regular and comprehensive security training. Once educated, they are able to recognize the many tactics employed by phishing and other types of attacks that are spread through emails. This significantly minimizes the risk of human error and strengthens defense.


(b). Antivirus Protection


As new viruses and threats emerge daily, protection from virus infections should be prioritized. This step shields the organization from email-borne attacks. Anti-virus have special modules that scan emails and attachments for viruses hence providing the user with warnings if anything suspicious is detected.


(c). Spam Filtering


A spam filter is module that has the ability to detect any spam messages sent before they hit the inbox. They have special metrics in which they rate emails in order to classify then as clean or junk. The spam filters scans incoming emails and block any form of malware e.g. malicious URLs and suspicious attachments.


(d). Use of secure mail gateways


Email gateways scan and process all incoming and outgoing emails. They make sure threats are not allowed to reach the mail boxes. A secured mail gateway is able to filter out potentially dangerous emails according to the settings of the administrator.


(e). Email encryption


Encrypting an email disguise corporate email by changing the communications thread into a garbled arrangement o