Email Security Tips for Employees
According to the English Dictionary, an electronic mail also known as email is a message distributed by electronic means from one computer user to one or more recipients via a connected network. It is a message transmitted and received by digital computers through a network. This system allows computer users on a network to send text, graphics, sounds, and animated images to other users. Network users typically have an electronic mailbox that enables them to receive, store and manage their correspondence. Recipients can choose to display, print, save, edit, answer, forward, or otherwise react to communications. Many email systems have advanced features that alert users concerning incoming messages or permit them to employ special privacy features. Large corporations and institutions use email systems to communicate between employees and sometimes, other people allowed on their networks. Major public online and bulletin board systems also have emails avialable to them, many of which maintain free or low-cost global communication networks.
How Secure Is Email?
Typically, an email is not secure for a variety of different reasons. One of the reasons is that the connections to and from an email server were not made over an encrypted tunnel. The original implementation of email protocols, including Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, etc., did not mandate secure transport mechanisms such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). This has resulted in a sent message being read by anyone.
Adding to that, email messages are often stored in an unencrypted format on email servers. System administrators who have access to an unencrypted email server could easily gain access to read any email. Email account of a user can only be as secure as the server on which the email is stored.
Another issue is that access to user email accounts is commonly secured only by a username and password, which is often easy to crack with modern email threats. As the volume of data breaches grows every year, many email credentials have been leaked to public sites. Hackers and cybercriminals can sometimes simply find user credentials for email services from public data breaches. Password guessing and Brute-force attacks are also a risk of the username/password approach to email access.
Email insecurity also comes from the absence of guaranteed authenticity. It is common for attackers to spoof an email address and appear as though a fake email has come from a legitimate address. The absence of email authenticity is a common strategy used in phishing attempts and spam phishing attacks that cast a wider net to attract unsuspecting victims to click.
Ways Emails Can Be Abused.
The use of email has been misused and abused since its earliest days. Some of these abuses include:
· Malware delivery
· Phishing attempts
· Denial of service attacks
· Business email compromise
What is Email Security?
This is the process of ensuring the availability, integrity, and authenticity of communications via email by protecting it against the risk of email threats. Communication via email allows billions of connected people and organizations to communicate with one another to send messages. Email is at the foundation of the internet’s use, and it has been a target for attacks.
Email security attempts to prevent attacks and abuse of email communication systems. Currently, there are various email security protocols that technology standards organizations have proposed and recommended for implementation to help limit email risks. Protocols can be implemented by email clients and email servers, such as Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft 365, to help ensure the secure transit of email. Looking beyond just protocols, secured email gateways can help organizations and individuals protect email from various threats. The topic of email security also includes privacy concerns, as unauthorized parties can easily read emails that contain sensitive information.
Why is Email Security Important?
· An email is used for business communications and is often a foundational element of an organization’s IT operations and equally assists in easy communication between the company and its external environment. A risk to email, such as a lack of access due to a DoS attack, can potentially restrict the ability of a business to conduct business. Spam, another key email threat, can negatively impact a business, including filling up inboxes with useless information and potentially leading to phishing attacks.
· Email can also often include sensitive data intended only for the recipient of an email message. Without email security, sensitive information could be leaked to an unauthorized entity.
· Authenticity of corporate email also highlights the importance of email security. If an unauthorized individual can send an email that seemingly comes from a corporate email account, it could lead to fraud as part of a BEC attack.
Benefits of Email Security for Businesses
While most organizations constantly rely on email for business operations, email security technologies and best practices provide businesses with all sizes critical benefits including the following:
· Phishing protection. Phishing attacks can trick employees of a business into clicking on links or downloading things that could be harmful and lead to information disclosure and credential theft. Email security protects them from these attacks.
· Availability. At the most basic level, email security can help to ensure the continuous availability of email services so a business can continue to communicate with its employees and customers.
· Fraud prevention. Fraud prevention is concerned with the ability to identify potential email security risks, such as spoofing, that can potentially help an organization to reduce the opportunity for fraud.
· Authenticity. Having email authenticity measures in place can help build trust for an organization and its users that email coming from its domain is authentic.
· Malware prevention. An appropriate set of security capabilities on an email platform can limit the risks of malware transmitted by email.
Email Security Tips for Employees
Employees in an organization should adhere to the following tips in securing information gotten via emails:
· Enforce encrypted connections. All connections to and from an email platform must occur over an SSL/TLS connection that encrypts the data as it transits the public internet.
· Create strong passwords. Passwords must be complex and not easy to guess. It is recommended that users have passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
· Encrypt email. While perhaps not an ideal option for every user at every organization, encrypting email messages provides an additional layer of privacy that can help to protect against unauthorized information disclosure.
· Train on anti-phishing. Phishing is a common email threat. It’s important to train users to avoid risky behaviors and spot phishing attacks that get through to their inboxes.
· Implement 2FA or MFA. While strong passwords are helpful, they often aren’t enough. Implementing two-factor authentication (2FAT) or multifactor authentication (MFA) provides an additional layer of access control that can help to improve email security.
· Use domain authentication. The use of domain authentication protocols and techniques, including domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance, can help to reduce the risk of domain spoofing.
· Check the sender’s email address. Check the sender’s email when you receive an email asking you to click on a link. You need to check the authenticity of the message. These emails look very real until you spot the obvious. They may be asking for personal information, prompt you to log in and verify details, prompt you for a software update, etc.
· Check the URL link address. If you have clicked on the link and it prompts you to enter your credentials, check for the website URL. Look at the webpage and scan for wrong spellings of words. It is an excellent idea to use a password manager to help you manage your passwords and alert you of these scam websites. If you are not seeing your saved password from the password manager on that site, it should be suspicious. Finally, use two-factor authentication. Even if the bad actor managed to steal your credentials, they wouldn’t be able to log in to your account. Protect your online accounts and put a full stop to data loss.
· Check the link in the email. These Phishing emails are usually asking you to take action urgently. They use intimidation, scarcity, and authority to make you click on the link or give away your personal information.
Also read article on Cyber Security.