While it’s as old as the Internet itself, email still continues to be a vital means of communication for businesses and nonprofit organizations of all sizes. It’s a mainstay of organizations, has been for decades, and likely won’t go away any time soon. Email has never been a stranger to security concerns, though. Who remembers those Nigerian royalty scams, claiming you inherited a fortune and all you have to do is provide your bank account details to become rich beyond your wildest dreams? It seems silly now, to us, looking back at how obvious it was. But this scam has evolved, has become much more complex and much more pervasive. It’s essential, now more than ever, to follow best practices for email security.
One of the best lines of defense in email security is validating the sender’s authenticity. Implementing Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) policies, along with Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), helps prevent spoofing and impersonation attacks. These measures ensure that the email sender’s domain is legitimate and that the email content remains unaltered during transmission.
Sender validation is like a bouncer at an exclusive party, checking the guest list and verifying the guests’ IDs before allowing them to enter. The bouncer (sender validation) makes sure that only legitimate guests (email senders) are allowed in, and any imposters (fraudulent email senders) are kept out. By checking the IDs (email domain and authentication methods) and comparing them to the guest list (DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records), the bouncer ensures that only authentic guests can join the party (email recipients’ inboxes). This process helps protect the party-goers (email users) from potential troublemakers (cybercriminals) who might try to sneak in and cause harm.
Email Threat Protection
All organizations should invest in email threat protection that scans incoming and outgoing emails for potential threats, such as malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks. These tools often include filters that analyze email content and attachments for suspicious patterns, quarantining any emails deemed risky. They often include sender validation checks themselves, making it easy to layer your approach to cybersecurity.
Many well-known and reputable companies provide these types of services. Reach out to a trusted technology partner or have your in-house IT people investigate the possibilities.
Phishing and Scam Awareness
Phishing attacks and Money Scams are common tactics used by cybercriminals to trick users into revealing sensitive information or clicking, malicious links, or handing over cash. To protect your organization, educate your employees on how to recognize these emails. Some common signs include:
- Unsolicited requests for sensitive information
- Poor grammar and spelling
- Suspicious email addresses or domain names (often impersonating or spoofing a legitimate contact)
- Urgent or threatening language
Encourage employees to report suspected phishing emails to your IT department or security team for further investigation.
Security Awareness Training
Human error is often the weakest link in email security. Regular security awareness training for employees is crucial to mitigate risks associated with email threats. These training sessions should cover topics such as:
- Password best practices
- Recognizing and reporting phishing attempts and other scam emails
- Secure file sharing and attachment handling
- Identifying and avoiding social engineering attacks
- Enable 2FA for all email accounts to add an extra layer of protection. With 2FA, users are required to enter a one-time code or tap a push notification in addition to their password when logging in. This process ensures that even if an attacker obtains a user’s password, they still cannot access the email account without the additional verification code.
Encrypt Sensitive Emails
When sending confidential information via email, use encryption tools to protect the data from unauthorized access. Encryption scrambles the message content so that only intended recipients with the decryption key can read it. Many email clients offer built-in encryption features, or you can use third-party tools to add encryption to your emails (which is advantageous for those with strict compliance requirements).
Email security is a crucial aspect of your organization’s overall cybersecurity posture. By following these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of email-related cyberattacks and safeguard your organization’s valuable information. Remember, email security is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process that requires vigilance and commitment from all members of your team. Reach out to trusted IT professionals and cybersecurity experts for help implementing and managing these solutions to mitigate your organization’s risk.