An Overview of Email Security Issues and Recommended Safeguards

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An Overview of Email Security Issues and Recommended Safeguards

An Overview of Email Security Issues and Recommended Safeguards

Email is one of the oldest and most valued methods of communication for individual users and organizations. As the threat landscape becomes more sophisticated, hackers are devising complex ways to breach emails. The frequency with which email breaches occurs rise every year, with 2019 recording one of the largest email security breaches in history. At least 2 billion unique email addresses and more than 21 million unique passwords were exposed in the breach. Poor security practices were the leading cause as Verification.io, the email marketing service involved in the breach, had stored vital customer data on insecure public databases. Companies require to understand the current cybersecurity threats facing email systems and the best preventive measures.

Most common email security threats

  1. Spam

Although most people perceive spam emails as not harmless or an actual threat, they pose severe risks to information and data security. For example, a misconfigured spambot left the spammer’s servers vulnerable to attacks. It resulted in a massive leak that exposed more than 700 million email addresses. The attack was not very damaging as most of the leaked emails were repeated or fake emails, but it illustrates the potential of spam-related attacks.

Email bombing, one of the most common types of email scams, is proving to be pernicious. It often treats spam emails like a type of Trojan horse. Hackers use email bombing to inundate the intended target with numerous emails scams, with most being confirmation emails. Cybercriminals can also use the victims’ email addresses to run malicious scripts and sign them into as many insecure sites as possible, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. The flooded inbox usually prevents victims who lack an interest in sorting their emails from noticing malicious behaviour or unusual activities. Hackers use the opportunity to access the victim’s accounts and operate them undetected.

  1. Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are some of the most pervasive email security threats today. According to a recent survey done by Help Net Security, the results showed that 83% of the participants experienced at least one phishing attack in 2018. Phishing is an attack method where attackers target specific individuals with email messages containing malicious links and attachments. The emails often have a sense of urgency to increase the rate of victims who click on the links. For instance, an email message may inform a user that an associated bank account has security problems and to click on the link for assistance. The link may redirect to a phony website, a replica of the actual bank website, through which hackers use to collect sensitive personal information.

Hackers use phishing methods to execute even larger and more damaging attacks. Suppose an employee in a company opens a malicious phishing email and clicks downloads the attached file. The file may be malware giving hackers to the company’s networks and information systems. It may even plant a fileless malware that transmits sensitive information to a remote server under the hacker’s control. In fact, 94% of successful attacks use phishing emails to deliver and install malware on the victims’ computers and networks. It is, therefore, crucial to understand how to protect against all forms of phishing attacks.

  1. Viruses

Viruses are malicious programs designed to intrude a network and cause damage to connected systems. Viruses usually accompany phishing and spam attacks and add a malicious code referred to as the payload. Hackers use viruses to gain access and take control of essential systems or corrupt data, which may disrupt critical daily operations. A virus may infect an email server leading to the unavailability of email systems and disrupt communication processes.

  1. Insider threats and poor password hygiene

Insider threats are employees (insiders) who pose a threat to an organization. They are the most severe threat since no one sees them coming. They use the knowledge they have about the company to commit various cybercrimes. On the other, poor password hygiene is the use of weak passwords to secure email accounts. For instance, some employees may use 1234567 as the password, which can be guessed easily. Rogue employees may take advantage of employees with weak passwords and access their email accounts for malicious reasons.

Email security best practices

  1. Deploy a secure email gateway

An email security gateway enables a company to protect email communications that violate the laid-out email policies, transfer classified information, and to block malware. Deploying a security email gateway within an organization filters outgoing and incoming email traffic as well as flag down email messages containing suspicious attachments or links. Once paired with an automated email encryptions service, an email security system ensures outgoing emails are encrypted to prevent hackers from accessing the content if they are intercepted.

  1. Training and awareness

Since scams and phishing are among the most pervasive email security threats, it is only right or companies to implement training and awareness programs. Training equips employees with vital skills for identifying, preventing, and reporting spam and phishing emails. Training assists employees to understand the best practices for spotting phishing emails and blocking them. It is an essential practice for enhancing email and organizational security.

  1. Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a method used for verifying users are who they claim to be. It requires a user to provide additional details only accessible to the real user as a means of authentication. Organizations must ensure their email systems give the option of multi-factor authentication to all employees. The practice prevents insider threats from using stolen passwords to access email accounts and using them for malicious activities.

Call to action

Email communication has proven to be one of the essential practices for businesses today. Email security is equally crucial since it allows enterprises to communicate securely, protect email addresses and passwords, and ascertain information security.

Cyber Security Agency is a reputable security company with relevant experience and expertise in strengthening email security. Qualified professionals have access to the latest and most advanced security procedures for securing /email communication among businesses.