What is email security?
Email security threats are on the rise. Research conducted for Cyber Security Hubs Semi-annual market report 2022 discovered that 75 percent of cybersecurity professionals consider email attacks such as phishing and social engineering to be the ‘most dangerous’ cybersecurity threat to their organizations. Companies must protect this vulnerable asset without compromising its effectiveness in communication.
Email security is an integral part of protecting businesses from external threats, but it’s also critical to protecting a brand’s customers from external threats. Without adequate email security strategies, companies open themselves, their clients and customers to the consequences of cyber security incidents such as phishing, data breaches and business email compromise (BEC).
Email security threats also include cybersecurity issues in companies, such as employees lacking cybersecurity knowledge. Research from Stanford University found that 88 percent of all data breaches are the result of employee error, which means companies need to be very careful when training their employees. This training should take place in an easily accessible format so that employees can easily retain the information and avoid future mistakes.
This threat to a company’s internal operations can also lead to further damage to its brand if not dealt with quickly and effectively. Even longtime customers can lose trust in organizations if they feel they can’t trust their cybersecurity strategy, especially when their personal information is on the line.
In this article, Center for Cyber Security provides guidance on how to implement excellent email security and ensure your employees understand its importance.
Also read: Cybersecurity Challenges, Focus and Spending Report
Vulnerabilities caused by poor email security
Ignoring email as a security risk is a dangerous oversight for any organization. In 2020, professional services network Deloitte reported that 91 percent of all cyber attacks started with a phishing email.
There are a number of threats to weak email security, ranging from social engineering attacks, identity theft and account compromise to takeovers and data theft. Phishing attacks can target user passwords and accounts that could contain sensitive and valuable user data. Credential theft also poses a risk because employees can reuse passwords for multiple different platforms in their work and personal lives, weakening company security if any of these accounts are compromised or exposed during a data breach.
When it comes to email security, while the best software measure can be put in place, true email security also depends on employees’ abilities to understand why and how a company can be attacked via email and what to do in the event of a compromise.
The consequences of phishing campaigns can be devastating for businesses. 2014 Sony pictures‘ Employees, including systems engineering and network administrators, were targeted with fake emails that looked like legitimate communications from Apple, asking them to confirm their Apple ID credentials. By clicking on the provided link, employees were taken to a seemingly legitimate website that required them to enter their login information. Since these emails were targeted at those most likely to have access to Sony’s network, these details were then used to hack into Sony’s network. The phishing campaign resulted in multiple gigabytes of data being stolen, including business content, financial data, client-facing projects and digital copies of recently released movies. The hack cost Sony an estimated $15 million.
Also read: How to strengthen email security and protect against advanced ransomware attacks
Because employees inside a company will be used to being contacted by people outside the company, as well as talking to people they don’t know in a business capacity, this can make them less wary of potentially dangerous or fraudulent emails.
Ensuring email security within your business
Email-based attacks such as phishing and social engineering that directly target employees within a company can have devastating consequences for businesses, and three out of four cybersecurity experts surveyed Cyber Security Hubs The 2022 Semi-Annual Market Report states that these attacks are the ‘most dangerous’ cybersecurity threat. These attacks directly target employees within the enterprise, placing the responsibility of ensuring that the attack does not progress in their hands. In addition, these attacks often rely on psychological manipulation of employees. They can be very effective in persuading employees to act in ways they might not otherwise, even if they have received safety training. stating that these attacks are the ‘most dangerous’ threat to cyber security.
The effectiveness of a phishing attack can depend on how effectively employees can judge whether an email is secure. This can be a problem if employees don’t pay attention to cybersecurity training. Complacency in this task may be due to the misconception that email antivirus or antimalware software is sufficient to block all threats. Since antivirus software can only stop and prevent known threats, if a breach attempt involves a new, unknown file or URL, it may not be able to block the attack.
Ensuring good cyber security within an enterprise requires employees to be involved in their training so that they can better retain information and use it later when they encounter cyber security threats.
How to engage employees with email security
In the discussion between Cyber Security Hub Advisory Board, one member suggested that linking email security to the company’s universal goals is very useful. This includes conducting multiple identity theft tests throughout the year, with the result of said tests affecting the bottom line of the business. This is because phishing attacks indirectly affect a company’s bottom line. Cyber-attacks cost a lot of money, which means that if a cyber-attack occurs, companies will lose money in operating costs. In addition, cyberattacks can cause customers to lose confidence in a company and take their business elsewhere, leading to an overall decline in revenue. With bonuses directly linked to profits, financially motivated employees should be more diligent in avoiding clicking on potentially dangerous links, as their good behavior is reinforced and rewarded.
Companies could also better engage their employees by using short video content using real-life case studies as examples.
One such example is the actor’s statement posted on LinkedIn titled “My LinkedIn post cost my company a fortune.”
In the testimony, the actor explains that someone posing as a recruiter lured him to communicate with them first through comments on his LinkedIn posts and then through messages with a lucrative job offer. The fake recruiter built a relationship with him and eventually sent him a PDF that purported to contain a job offer. Instead, it contained only a cover letter and two blank pages. When the actor approached the alleged recruiter, they explained that it was a secure file and asked him to download and install a secure PDF reader. When that still didn’t work, the actor contacted the recruiter again, but the recruiter didn’t respond to any of his messages. He dismissed it, but weeks later there was a data breach at his company that cost the company millions of dollars. The breach is linked to it, as the PDF reader actually contained malware that was used to level the attack against the company.
The actor explains that recruitment fraud attacks are becoming more common as people are expected to communicate with strangers and download attachments sent to them.
By using easy-to-digest video formats for employee training, companies can help employees understand how much business email security relies on them, as well as provide them with a framework for what to do during a cybersecurity incident. It can also give them advice on what to look for in potentially malicious communications.
Ensuring the security of e-mail outside of employees
In terms of ensuring email security outside of training, a layered solution can be useful as it allows different controls to be used to respond to different threats. This can be combined with content protection such as structural remediation, which removes active content within email bodies and attachments and removes or rewrites URLs to pass through a different web browser. Identity protection is especially important because social engineering and identity theft attacks often rely on impersonating a person with authority within the company. By looking for good senders instead of preventing bad ones, this allows the software to identify and block bad actors after delivery, preventing spread.
How email security can protect your brand
Email security is not only important for internal data security, but also for the company’s external brand. Poor email security can affect customers in a number of ways, from exposing their personal information to making them perceive a brand as less secure or trustworthy.
While using DMARC authentication to detect and prevent email fraud techniques used in identity theft, business email compromise (BEC) and other email-based attacks seems easy in principle, it can be complicated – especially for large organizations.
Attacks on larger or more influential companies can lead to the disclosure of highly sensitive email, as attackers can leak highly confidential information to the public, which can affect trust in the company. If that trust is broken because customers believe companies are not adequately securing their data, concerned customers may switch to other brands, leading to a drop in revenue.
By ensuring that both employees are fully engaged and retain information from training, and that a robust email security solution is in place, companies can put themselves in a better position to identify and mitigate cyber security incidents.
Improving Email Security: A Summary
There are numerous email security threats that employees have to deal with. The most dangerous of these are social engineering and phishing attacks, as they directly target employees and can have potentially devastating consequences for their company.
Email security is based on employees being vigilant against possible inbound attacks. To ensure that all employees are in the best place to identify and avoid participating in malicious emails, companies must consider how they educate their employees about cybersecurity. Using more engaging techniques like shorter videos, relating content to themselves as employees, or using a reward-based system can help keep employees more engaged, which means they’re in a better position to ensure email security.
In addition, companies should ensure strong security, including the use of structural sensitivity and identity protection such as DMARC. By using these methods, companies can ensure that phishing attacks are less successful. This is because URLs can be considered safe before they are clicked, and malicious actors trying to impersonate senior people in a company during a social engineering attack will be less likely to succeed.
By doing this, companies can protect their employees and the business itself from cybercriminals and inbound threats, while protecting clients and customers from outbound threats. By communicating these efforts with clients and customers, they can build confidence in their cybersecurity and prevent a loss of trust if a cybersecurity incident occurs. This can prevent customers from feeling that their data is not adequately protected, leaving the company and taking their habits elsewhere.