Email Security: What You Need to Know
Updated: Oct 27
"BEC," also known as Business email compromised or email account compromise (EAC), is one of the most financially damaging crimes. Studies have confirmed that 94% of malware is delivered by email and more than 80% of reported security incidents are a result of phishing attacks. Even though many organizations have moved email to the cloud — partly to take advantage of security solutions provided by cloud services — email is still the easiest way for hackers to get access to sensitive business information.
Email security is essential for protecting your business against the numerous email scams and attacks that currently exist. And to keep ahead of hackers who seem to be developing increasingly creative ways to get email recipients to share sensitive information, download malware, or click on malicious links.
Banks, hospitals, social media platforms, and pretty much all businesses communicate over email, which leads to overcrowded email inboxes that can overwhelm recipients. If a company is not protected and its workforce is not educated about phishing attacks, it becomes easy for hackers to slip into everyday communications unnoticed. Invoices sent as attachments and links to external sites are a part of everyday email communications. Sorting through the emails that are legitimate and the ones that are scams can be a challenge.
How Email Hackers Find Private Business Information
Email hackers are relentless and creative and are constantly developing new and different ways to slip through your business's defenses. However, the majority of hackers rely on four proven strategies: malicious attachments, malicious links, enticements, and social engineering. And they use a tried-and-true method of delivery: email.
Emails sent by hackers often contain malicious attachments that install ransomware and other malware when opened by the recipient. Keyloggers are one of the many types of malware delivered by email. Once the user has clicked on a malicious attachment or link, the malicious software captures everything they type and sends it to a third party. Malicious attachments delivered by email are by far the most successful malware attacks.
Links to Malicious Web Pages
Links are found in the body of the email or an attachment. Links take users to dangerous web pages and often prompt them to enter information such as a username and password. A quarter of email recipients are likely to click on a malicious link if they think the email they received is from a friend. The majority of those who click will enter information and download a file.
Requests to Perform Transactions
Cyber-criminals continue to research and use social engineering to prompt their victims to send sensitive information or make a financial transaction. This method does not need links or attachments in the message to work. Since they masquerade as trusted senders, the recipients may not realize that the email is not legit.
When using social engineering, cyber-criminals build trust before stealing confidential information or login credentials. They impersonate a trusted individual, such as human resources, IT support, or an outside contractor. The hacker convinces the email recipient to give them their ID, password, and other sensitive information or make a fraudulent transaction.
Malicious Email Threats to Look Out For
Cyber-criminals use malicious attachments, malicious links, and enticements to get the user to click on the attachments or links to try to infect the user's computer or personal device. It would be impossible to list them all.
A phishing attack uses an authentic-looking email address and a socially engineered message to dramatically increase the chances of a user clicking on a link or attachment. If the recipient believes the email is from a friend or colleague, they will click or download it as requested.
Spear phishing is a more aggressive type of phishing. It focuses on a specific person or business. Cyber-criminals do in-depth research to make their emails look authentic. They may pretend to be colleagues, company leaders such as the CEO, other departments, and business partners.
This type of email targets a business's biggest "fish" in a social engineering scam. The hacker sends an email to someone in the company who has the authority to make financial transactions. The email looks like it is from the CEO, CFO, or another individual who can authorize a transaction. The "sender" makes an urgent request for a financial transaction to a direct deposit, vendor transaction, or wire transfer.
Since email protocols don't have effective mechanisms for authenticating email addresses, hackers can mimic addresses and domains and send emails that look like they come from a known sender. They may misspell the email address by leaving it out or adding a letter.
Even though there are numerous ways to filter out unwanted emails, spam is still a significant problem for many businesses. Although "harmless" spam is merely annoying, malicious spam is set up to deliver malware. It is a standard delivery method for ransomware. This method is so successful because the spammers write excellent email subject lines. In some cases, the subject line is so intriguing that the recipient will get them out of their spam folder to open.
Cyber-criminals secretly insert themselves between a service, application, or website the victim uses. The attacker's behavior is often to pretend to be the victim and read or manipulate their emails, conduct transactions, and steal personal information.
Email Security Best Practices and Procedures
Email was designed to be as accessible as possible. It lets businesses and people communicate with each other. However, this openness and accessibility create opportunities for hackers to use email to disrupt businesses, often in an attempt to make money.
Business email security involves several types of software and technology. Spam filtering, multi-factor authentication, spyware protection, and end-to-end encryption are just some of the best practices of business IT support. However, combining these methods with employee education on email security best practices is essential as the last line of defense against email hackers.
Simple Email Security Best Practices for Employees
A straightforward email policy and employee education that outlines email security best practices can increase the security of your business's email accounts.
Create strong passwords and change them frequently, about every six months. This way, if the password is stolen, it won't be useful for very long. Don't share passwords, even with friends or co-workers.
Learn to Recognize Suspicious Email
Teach employees how to identify suspicious emails. Check the spelling for accuracy and look for grammatical and spelling errors within the email. Other warning signs include urgency. Is the sender asking for a money transfer of sensitive information to be sent right away? This can be a significant red flag.
Attachments and Links
Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links without checking them first. Also, check the sender using the tips above.
Sending Sensitive Information
Avoid sending sensitive information via email unless you are sending it to someone you know and only send it when required.
Avoid Public wifi
Don't access sensitive information or company email when on public wifi.
Stress the importance of installing these updates. They often have security patches to protect your business's sensitive information.
Email Best Practices Can Save a Business
When it comes to keeping your business's data safe, there are no shortcuts. By implementing best email practices, you can help keep your business accounts safe from malware, ransomware, and other threats. If hackers don't have the opportunity to get into your employee's email accounts, they won't be able to wreak havoc on your business.
Have more questions about email security for your business? Contact us or call 561-229-1601 today.