Email is still the number one communication channel for most businesses. Whilst email is the perfect solution for asynchronous communication, it can also be an entry point for cybercriminals if it is not sufficiently secured. There are many ways that cybercriminals can exploit emails, including phishing, domain spoofing, sharing of ransomware and more.
We recently investigated the management and maintenance of an organised email inbox; having a clear inbox can make it easier to spot fraudulent emails and avoid falling victim to an attack.
In this article, we will discuss the importance of email security for SMBs and four ways your business can secure your email…
THE IMPORTANCE OF EMAIL SECURITY FOR SMBs
Email has remained the number one threat vector for many years, with 83% of all cyberattacks being reported as phishing attacks. Email is such an effective attack vector for cybercriminals as email is used by all businesses and the sheer volume of emails that are received daily makes it difficult for employees to not let a phishing email slip through. These phishing emails can have a variety of goals, including everything from stealing payment card information to launching a wide-scale ransomware attack.
However, regardless of how a cybercriminal uses email as an attack vector, it can have devastating consequences for SMBs. Typically, businesses are concerned about the direct financial impact a cyberattack can have, although the downtime and associated reputational damage can be significantly worse, which is why SMBs need to invest in keeping their email secure.
4 WAYS TO KEEP YOUR EMAIL SECURE
1) EMAIL SECURITY PROTOCOLS
In order to secure your business’s email, the first step is to ensure that all appropriate security protocols are implemented correctly. There are many options for email security protocols that each serve a specific purpose, whilst working together to achieve overall security. Some of the common security protocols include TLS for HTTPS, SMTPS, STARTTLS, SPF, DKIM, DMARC, S/MIME and OpenPGP. Whilst all of these protocols are essential, SPF, DKIM and DMARC are particularly important.
- SPF or Sender Policy Framework is a protocol that allows the owner of the domain to authorise which hosts can use the domain when sending emails and how this should be verified. This strongly decreases the chance of a business falling victim to a domain-spoofed phishing attack.
- DKIM or DomainKeys Identified Mail extends SPF to allow the individual that owns the signing domain to link a digital signature that authenticates the individual.
- DMARC or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance provides a method for notifications and actions if an email fails authentication from SPF and DKIM. The response actions or policies are either to quarantine the email or reject it outright.
These email security protocols are relatively simple to set up, but provide powerful protection, therefore all businesses should have them implemented, either in-house or with the assistance of a trusted third-party IT provider.
2) MAKE USE OF AN AI SOLUTION
In order to truly protect your business from cyberthreats using email as an attack vector, businesses should invest in a solution that has multiple layers of security, supported by next-generation AI. Often these solutions have features that protect against gaps in an email provider’s security, including offering a secure email gateway with targeted threat protection, and internal email protection.
For businesses that are looking to take their security to the next step, it is also possible to have an email security solution that includes web and URL protection, so even if a malicious email does get through the multiple layers of security, the end-user cannot download a malicious file or click a malicious link.
3) EMPLOYEE EDUCATION AND AWARENESS TRAINING
When considering all elements of security, businesses should aim for Defence in Depth, this is a concept whereby businesses have multiple layers of protection, so if a cybercriminal thwarts one layer, they are stopped by the next. Whilst email security protocols and a comprehensive email security solution that uses AI should stop the majority of attacks, it is essential that employees have sufficient security awareness training to detect a potential email attack and know what actions to take to not fall victim.
The training should be interactive, and specific to the business and industry, and employees should be given frequent ‘refresher’ courses to ensure the knowledge is retained. Typically, this will include examples of phishing emails, potentially some real-world examples that the email security solution has quarantined or rejected, as well as a clear policy of how to report a phishing email.
4) IMPLEMENT MULTIFACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Whilst low-effort phishing attacks can be easy to spot, it is far harder to a phishing attack launched from a compromised account, as the email is ‘from’ a colleague’s account. The accounts can be compromised in a variety of ways, however, typically they are cracked using credential stuffing. This is a form of cyberattack whereby the attacker collects stolen account credentials, typically usernames/emails and passwords, in order to gain access to other accounts. These credentials can be purchased on the dark web through previous data leaks.
One way that these forms of attacks can be avoided is through using a unique, complex password for each system, which all employees should be doing. However, multifactor authentication should also be implemented for every user’s email client, as this will stop 99.9% of account compromise attacks.
LOOKING TO SECURE YOUR SMB’s EMAIL?
It can be difficult for SMBs to prioritise cybersecurity in their IT budgets, however, it is essential to ensure the longevity of your business. As email is the number one attack vector, it should be high on the list of priorities, as secure email can prevent the majority of attacks.
With this being said, as mentioned previously, to truly reduce your business’s cyber risk, you should consider defence-in-depth as a method of providing multiple layers of protection. If you want to find out more about how to keep your business safe, contact us today.