Email is one of the most widely used media for business communications, yet this also makes it a common target for cyberattacks. Every organization should have an email security strategy designed to help minimize the security risks of corporate email. Decreasing email security-related risks can have a dramatic impact on an organization’s exposure to cybersecurity threats. These email security best practices outline important first steps that an organization should take to secure corporate email communications.
Email is used as a delivery vector for malicious content in several types of cyberattacks: Phishing emails can carry malware or include content designed to trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information, and business email compromise (BEC) emails are designed to trick companies into sending money to an attacker. Email can also be used to exfiltrate an organization’s sensitive information as part of a data breach.
The numerous email-related threats make an email security solution a core part of an email security strategy. An effective email security solution includes the following features:
Email security should be based on a strategy of defense in depth. In addition to email security solutions, an organization should have an endpoint security solution protecting its employees’ devices. This type of solution can help to detect and remediate malware infections that slipped past network-level email defenses. For example, if an innocuous Microsoft Word document downloads and executes second-stage malware, this malware should be detected and removed from the user’s device.
In addition to the potential for malicious content entering the network, it is also important to protect against sensitive internal data leaving the network. Email is an ideal medium for data exfiltration because it is designed for transmitting information.
Every day, employees are likely sending out emails with valuable data, some which contain attachments to external parties. In many cases, this outward flow of data is legitimate as customers are invoiced, marketing material is sent to prospects, etc.
However, some of these data flows may not be legitimate, and organizations should have visibility into them. This requires implementing a data loss prevention (DLP) strategy and solution with the following features:
A user’s email account contains a vast amount of sensitive information. Even if obviously sensitive data like payroll or research and development data isn’t contained within emails – or stored in cloud-based accounts linked to these email addresses – the information about internal relationships that email contains can be invaluable for a social engineer planning a spear phishing campaign.
The information contained within email accounts makes them a common target for cybercriminals. In many cases, an employee’s password is the weak spot in an organization’s digital defenses. If this password is weak, reused, or compromised via a phishing or malware attack, an attacker may be able to discover it and use it to log into the user’s account.
Protecting against this type of attack requires a strong user authentication strategy. Implementing a robust password policy – designed to protect against weak and reused passwords – is important but insufficient for security. Organizations should also require the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) or Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on all business accounts to minimize the impact of a compromised password.
Technology and policies are important components of an email security strategy. However, at the end of the day, some malicious emails will make it through to the recipient’s inbox. At this point, whether an organization is the victim of a successful attack depends on the user.
For this reason, regular employee cybersecurity awareness training is a crucial component of an email security strategy. Regular training allows an organization to focus on the current leading types of attacks and provides the opportunity for reinforcement of good cybersecurity behaviors. This is critical to training employees to behave correctly under stress, the exact conditions that phishing emails and other attacks are designed to create.
An effective email security strategy is two-pronged. Training employees to recognize and appropriately respond to email-based attacks is important, but it’s not a perfect solution. An organization needs a comprehensive email security strategy that covers all potential attack vectors in order to minimize the cybersecurity risk of emails.
Check Point provides the tools that organizations need to help mitigate these risks. To learn about how Check Point Harmony Email & Office provides a strong defense against email-based threats, you’re welcome to request a demo.