Cyber Security For Email Communication: Why You Need It and Its Best Practices
Table of Contents
Email is a universal means of electronic communication used by millions of people. The organization uses them to communicate with the co-employees, suppliers, partners, and customers. It also acts as a suitable medium for cybercrimes to initiate an attack that causes severe damage to the organization. It is estimated that 90% of cyber-attacks emerge from emails. Effective cyber security practices will help the organization prevent attacks and protect the organization. The entire organization should take the responsibility to fight against email attacks. Should implement Email security practices and educate the employees to identify the threats. In this article, the best email security practices and benefits are discussed.
What Is Email?
Email, known as electronic mail, means transmitting and receiving messages over the computer network from one person to another. It is the cheapest medium of communication. It can send messages to one or several individuals at a time. It requires an internet connection for the entire process. An email includes simple text messages and attachments such as media files, spreadsheets, documents, etc. Individuals, professionals, business people, and organizations rely on email communication. Email is normally given as a free service by its providers. The user can send and receive mail from any computer at any time that is connected to the internet.
There is no guarantee that email can be viewed only by the sender and the receiver. It can be made as a medium of transmitting viruses, spam, and phishing emails.
What are Email Attacks?
Email Attacks are the type of cyber-attacks that causes severe damage to the organization. As email is the fundamental source of communication, the attacker uses it to introduce threats and exploit the functions of the organizations. Depending upon the attack’s motive, the attacker uses social engineering strategies, hacking the email account or creating a fraudulent email to initiate an attack.
Social Engineering Strategies are used to trick the employees into gaining control over the company’s system. It is used to leak sensitive information, spread malware, and interrupt system functions. Hacking is the process of intruding on the system using the weaknesses present in the organization’s network. It includes stealing the login credentials and installing malware to gain sensitive information.
Email is made to be a gateway for cyber-attacks by cybercriminals. Effective email security practices will ensure better safety and protection against attacks and threats.
Types of Email Attacks
Email attacks are classified into the following types.
- Email Spoofing
- Spear-phishing email
- Malware attack
- Phishing attack
- Business email compromise.
Email Spoofing is a technique to create an email address with slight variations with the original email address. It is an act of sending an email from a forged email address that tricks the recipient into following the intended instructions.
For example, the legitimate address of the organization is email@example.com, and the attacker may recreate the mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The employee who receives the mail from the attacker’s address may not notice and proceed with the email. The attacker pretends to be a trusted source of the company to transact the money or share the company’s sensitive data. So, the email header must be double-checked and should not compromise due to the similarities.
Spear phishing is a common type of cyber-attacks where the attacker focuses on a specific individual or a company. This email scam is designed to appear like a familiar organization’s page to grab the individual’s trust. The attacker uses social engineering approaches to make the individual believe that the email is from a trusted source. The attention grabbed from the mail is then used to steal confidential data from the company.
Some emails may contain malware that infects the entire company’s function and causes severe damage to the business. The traditional security processes cannot identify these threats solely on the employee. Employees should be aware of spam emails to protect themselves and the organization from prey to this threat.
Malware is a specifically designed software used to disrupt or damage the company system. It is also used to gain unauthorized access to the company’s network without the knowledge of the company personnel. The malware attack is imposed on the company system to make the hackers capture the area of interest in the company’s network.
The targeted area is the financial information, to transfer a huge sum of money or a company’s sensitive data to sell on the black market. As the attackers gain access to the company’s finance section, the mail regarding the upcoming transactions is identified. The organization should employ proper security tools to avoid malware attacks.
Phishing is a social engineering attack that tricks the employee into opening a malicious email to access the organizational resources. It refers to a bulk email attack that targets a large group of employees in an organization.
It allows the employee to click on the malicious link or open an infected attachment. It is used to steal the login credentials, other sensitive information or install malware on the employee system to gain entire access to the organization.
Business Email Compromise
Business email compromise targets the personnel responsible for finance or critical data to share their company’s resources with unauthorized personnel.
The attackers compromise the victim employee with an email identical to their office’s mail ID instructing them to transfer funds. The amount gets transferred to the cyber-criminal’s account, and they become unidentified before suspecting the attack.
The attacker uses minimal technology to get a shield from all the security tools and services. It goes along with the normal business activities and affects the entire organization. It is entirely money-centric, where data are gathered to choose the right target to transfer a large amount.
Hence, the Business email compromise is called the Man-in-the-email-attack.
Business email compromise comes in various forms that pose the name of the CEO, legal advisers, supplier, partner, etc. The major motive of the attacker is to gain money from all possible resources.
What is Email Security?
Email Security is defined as the process of securing all the data relating to the email against unauthorized access or compromise. The email data includes email account details, content, and sensitive attachments. It also prohibits incoming mails that contain spam and malicious content.
Email is an open-source that can be a medium of attack for cyber-criminals. They trick the employee into spreading malware to gain access to the organization’s network. This unauthorized access helps the attackers to steal sensitive data and disrupt the entire functionality of the organization.
Effective email security practices will ensure a safe working environment for the organization. The email security tools, encrypting the content of the sensitive emails, authentication of the resources will ensure better safety. This will provide secure communication through inbound and outbound emails.
Email service providers use certain strategies to safeguard their users from cyber threats. Google’s mail servers scan the email to filter out spam and malware and provide convenient service to its users.
Working of Email Security
The working of the email security is as follows.
- Visualize the email
- Verify the identity
- Neglect the unknowns
- Filter out the spams
- Encrypt the email data
- Backup the electronic data and update the security
- Secure the email gateway.
Visualize the Email
The organization has software to monitor the email entering and leaving its network. This email visualization can provide insight into the nature of the email to protect the employee from falling prey to scams.
The effective visualization technique enhances email security to prevent malicious and spam emails from entering the organization.
Verify the Identity
The sender information is verified with the organization’s details to ensure the mail is from a trusted resource. The connected network and the IP addresses are verified to ensure safety.
The unknown sender information is collected and sent to the check for authenticity. It lays an initial step to prevent spoofing and scam emails.
Neglect the Unknown
The unknown email is examined for authenticity, and the verified email request is processed. The other mails are rejected from the organizational network.
The spam or malicious link detected in the email is deleted from the organization network, ensuring a secure work process.
Filter Out the Spam
Cyber-criminals may use intelligent technology or critical social engineering hacks to escape the initial examination.
The employee viewing the email may filter out the spam to find the signs of the email attack or verify the details with the authorized person before proceeding with the request.
Encrypt the Email Data
The sensitive information shared through the emails is encrypted to prevent the attacker from viewing the data. The sensitive information remains encrypted while allowing the sender and receiver to view the information.
Can use effective encryption tools like PAC Enterprise certificate to safeguard sensitive organizational information to increase the customer’s trust.
Backup the Electronic Data and Update the Security
Should store the electronic data transmitted through the email in a safe and centralized source to use in time of emergency. Email data Backup prevents data loss and faster recovery at the time of data breach.
It helps retain the lost email and keeps the email messages longer. The security tools are updated to protect the system from malware attacks.
Secure the Email Gateway
A secure email gateway is a framework or infrastructure that protects against email threats. It acts as a firewall and scans both inbound and outbound emails for any threat or malicious content.
It offers security features in blocking viruses and malware, filters spam, archiving the email, and verifying the contents of the email.
It provides effective protection against malicious messages, links, and attachments. These effective solutions help the organization reduce the number of attacks against its organization.
Need for Email Security
Email is a source that is open to vulnerabilities. Experts state that one in 239 emails are malicious that produce a severe threat to the organization.
The built-in security is not sufficient to identify the threat from the emails. It is declared as the primary attack vector to exploit the organizational functions. The need to enhance email security is as follows.
Email is Primary Attack Medium
Emails provide a medium of communication between employees and the organization. The sensitive resources are shared in the email to increase the organization’s functioning. The attackers impersonate themselves as the authorized personnel to steal the organization’s funds.
They trick the employee into opening the malicious link to install malware to its network and interrupt its functions. They also steal the organization’s sensitive information and sell it on the dark web.
The Weakest Link is the Strongest Tool for the Attacker
Cyber-criminals target the employee to expose sensitive information to them. The unaware employee may proceed to the spam and malicious email that causes severe damage to the organization.
Though the IT professional is an expert in identifying and blocking such hazardous mails, they must share their knowledge with other employees. Should educate each employee to identify phishing scams and other threats. It will be helpful for all levels of the employee to safeguard them from social engineering attacks.
Insufficient Built-in Security
The built-in security tools and practices effectively identify cyber threats that arise from malware, viruses, system failure. It becomes inadequate in handling the technology-less attacks that damage the organizational reputation.
The social engineering attacks like business email compromise tricks the employee to provide financial details or expose sensitive information. Human error may direct the organization to fall prey to cyber-attacks which are unidentified by the built-in security.
Email Attacks Cause Severe Damage to the Organization
Email attacks interrupt the normal work function of the organization. The attacker may access the network without authorized access, resulting in the following effects of attacks.
- Data Breach
Data Breach is the disclosure of sensitive information and data leaks where the data is copied, transmitted, or viewed by an unauthorized individual.It results in data loss where the critical data is damaged or deleted from the organizational network. All level of the organization suffers from data breaches. The attackers use a phishing email to proceed with the attack successfully.
It refers to when the system goes unavailable as the attacker takes over the organizational network. The system can no longer function until the attacker’s demands are satisfied.It occurs mostly due to the opening of fraudulent emails. Better email security would filter out such mails and protect the organization against unknown malware attacks.
- Company’s Reputation
The leakage of critical customer information would result in a lack of customer trust. It results in the loss of the company’s reputation that impacts the organization’s growth.
- Company’s Finances
The disclosure of the customer’s sensitive information results in paying huge penalties by the organization.Will demand the organization to pay ransom to the attacker to retain the organization’s work. Some attacks result in a change of the organization’s entire infrastructure, resulting in money, time, and resources.
- Interrupt Work Function
Email attacks are aimed to interrupt the organization’s function to exploit its growth. The organization takes time to retain from severe attacks and proceed with the normal functions.
Effective email security solutions will provide better safety and protect the organization from email attacks.
Email Security Best Practices
Prevention is better than cure is always the best remedy for a business organization. The email attacks may be difficult to identify and causes severe damage to the organization. The organization should follow efficient cyber security strategies to restrict such attacks.
The IT department should control all emails entering and leaving the organization. It ensures increased defence against such attacks and improves the organization’s security. Some of the preventive measures to be followed are
Creating Employee Awareness
Security is the responsibility of everyone in the firm to deliver a secure work function. Email Attack takes different forms to impersonate the CEO, vendors, lawyers, and payroll departments to achieve the motives.
It may trick the employee into following the request of the email to gain access to the organizational network. Must train the employees to identify the red flags that help find the types of fraud.
The red flags to be noted by the employees include
- Sender’s email address, domain impersonation is the common tactic used to trick the employee into working as demanded. The deviation in the email header should be avoided and reported to prevent the threat.
- The subject line that is appealing the sense of urgency needs to be verified before proceeding. It is the universal social engineering concept that panicked people make poor decisions.
- Must verify the new account details of the CEO for accountability as the new account details can be the attackers.
The employees should avoid sharing their email addresses in a public forum and share their passwords. They should not share their personal information through email, making the attacker target the employee.
The business email compromise is a type of email attack that is difficult to identify even by the experts. Should note the signs and warnings to avoid such attacks.
Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) is outsourced monitoring and management of security devices and systems. It includes the following services as
It protects and shields the systems from malicious or unnecessary network traffic. It also prevents threat content from accessing the computer or the organizational network via the internet.
- Intrusion Detection
It is the process of detecting the vulnerability present in the system.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN)
It acts as a private medium for sharing critical data in the public network.
- Vulnerability Scanning
It is a computer program designed to determine the weakness of the company’s network. It helps improve network security.
- Anti-virus Services
It is used to prevent, scan, detect and delete viruses from the system or network.
It provides 24/7 services to maintain the secure functioning of the systems and services. It helps the organization to manage and maintain a secure workplace.
End Point Email Security
Endpoint email security helps the employee to stop compromising with the spam mail. It filters out the phishing emails, malicious URLs entering the organization.
It verifies the email and reports the spam content to the security teams. Data loss prevention is an important security tool for sensitive data. It also blocks the user from uploading sensitive information to a public cloud.
Email encryption is the process of encrypting the content of the email to protect the sensitive document transferred in the email to view only the intended personnel.
The sharing of confidential information like passwords, login credentials, bank account details are susceptible to leakage. Email encryption protects the data from data breaches.
The public key infrastructure is used to encrypt and decrypt the emails. The user is assigned public and private keys in digital form.
The public key is accessible to anyone stored in the key server, along with the person’s name and email address. It is used to encrypt sensitive information to protect the data from unauthorized users. The private key decrypts the emails saved in the intended recipient system.
The encryption work process’s effectiveness is achieved by implementing it in the normal work function. It ensures privacy and protects sensitive information. It prevents data theft and helps to share the resources through email securely. It also protects the data in the lost mail or devices.
Email Server Protection
Email Server is a mail transfer agent that receives incoming messages and forwards the outgoing messages for delivery. It ensures a smooth flow of electronic messages from one system to another.
The hacker may target the email server to disrupt the normal transfer and functioning. The email server can be compromised to send malicious content to other users to damage the company’s reputation.
Effective solutions are followed to ensure the safety of the email server and secure its functioning. The email parameter listed in the server is processed, and others are neglected. The incoming messages are verified for trusted resources and processed.
The non-trusted messages are rejected from the network. The content filtering tools filter out the spams that are entering the servers. The number of connections accessing the server is limited to ensure better protection. These effective steps ensure better protection to the email servers.
Practising Best Cyber-Security Solutions
The company should maintain the best cyber-security solutions to perform systematic secure functions. These solutions help the organization identify malware and threats to secure the entire system.
Email attacks may use little technology and more emotions to trick the employee. Can take the following measures to resolve such attacks.
- The corporate email accounts and devices should be secured with multi-factor authentication to prevent attackers from accessing the accounts.
- Must recommend the employees to maintain a strong password and change the passwords at regular intervals
- Should use different passwords for different accounts to avoid data theft.
- The user should verify the email before opening the attachment and neglect emails from the unknown sender.
- The links provided in the mail are checked manually to inspect the presence of malware.
- Anti-virus software is installed in the system and regularly updated for secure processing.
- Should follow an efficient email security solution.
Adopting the best cyber-security framework can help the company work systematically and protectively.
Intelligent Email Security
Email attacks use social engineering techniques that may evade traditional security systems. The solutions like Secure Email Gateways, spam filters, Microsoft and Google native tools depend on domain authentication and payload inspection.
It verifies the authenticity of the email address and detects malware in the attachments.
An intelligent email security tool uses machine learning, anomaly detection, behavioural analysis, and natural language processing to detect various signals to identify business email compromise.
Some of the features of intelligent email security include
- It analyses the email data of all employees and maps their trusted email relationship that is available both inside and outside the organization.
- It inspects the email content for any BEC fraud. It verifies the IP addresses, geophysical locations, and keywords signify the BEC attacks.
- If it identifies the threat, it alerts the employees explaining the threat.
This method will be very useful for identifying the threat and avoiding the damage causing the organization.
Benefits of Email Security Practices
Effective email security practices protect the organization from threats entering through the emails. It allows the security teams to manage their policies and customize their response depending upon the intensity of the threats. It improves the productivity of the workforce as well as cyber security professionals.
The latest email security practices use advanced strategies and intelligence to identify the risk quickly, track the attack’s activity, and block phishing attempts. It automatically updates the system’s features to provide better security against incoming threats.
The trades and agreements can be transferred through emails securely, which increases the organization’s growth. The sensitive contents are encrypted, facilitating the safe transfer of the information and ensuring privacy.
Effective email practices will prevent spam and threat emails from entering the network. It provides better safety and prevents the organization from paying penalties for cyber-attacks.
Avoids Human Error
It is estimated that 90% of the breaches occurred through human errors. Effective email security practices will filter out the threats and deliver the email to the end-user.
Email is a key functional tool for all organizations. It plays a significant role in the work-life of the employee. Effective email security practices will improve the safe transfer of critical data in the network. As email is vulnerable to attacks, securing the network and encrypting the content will add safety to the email. The email security practices will add credit to the cyber security practices to maintain a secure work environment.