Email security: Protecting your business from cyber threats

A person writes an email on their laptop with robust email security.

In today’s digital age, a lot of our communication at work happens over email. But with cyber threats evolving every day, email security is more important than ever.

Taking a proactive and preventative approach to email security is the best way to safeguard your business against cyber crime. We don’t want those pesky hackers to stand a chance!

Why should email security be a priority?

Email is an indispensable, every day tool for businesses. And email is also a favourite target for cyber criminals. Those two facts mean that many businesses are at risk of cyber attack just for using email!

Cyber criminals target emails for various reasons:

  • To gain access to sensitive data
  • To execute phishing attacks
  • To distribute malware
  • To launch ransomeware campaigns

A single security breach (yes, just one) can have a crippling impact on businesses. From financial losses and regulatory penalties, to irreparable damage to your business’s reputation.

10 best email security practices for businesses

1. Employee training and awareness

We know all that IT security e-Learning can be a bore! But it still remains a fact that most security breaches happen because of human error. To prevent this from happening to your business, invest time in educating your team. Employees need to both understand the importance of email security as well as practical tips, like…

  • How to recognise phishing attempts, which are malicious emails posing as legitimate. Such as emails from your bank or a delivery company.
  • How to recognise spear phishing attempts, which are precision attacks on specific individuals. Usually people who have access to sensitive data or payment authorisation.
  • How to recognise spoofed emails, which appear to be from someone you know (but are hackers)! These show up as things like impersonation emails from your company CEO.
  • The protocols for handling suspicious emails, like forwarding them to their IT department or deleting them. Replying to scam emails will just flag you as a warmer target to cyber criminals!
  • Thinking twice before opening attachments in emails. Malware is often included in email attachments.
  • Being careful about what you include in your emails. For example, sensitive information or data could be intercepted.
  • Checking links before clicking on them. You can do this by right-clicking on a link and selecting ‘copy hyperlink’ and pasting it into a word document. Does it seem legit?
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi as it’s easier for hackers to access your data on an open network like this.
  • Only access your business emails on approved business devices (that are protected!).

We recommend committing to regular training sessions and simulated phishing exercises! You could even commit to personalised training for high profile staff who are more likely to be targeted.

2. Strong password policies

We all know the drill when it comes to strong passwords. But many of us fail to make them a priority and opt for using the same old, weak password for multiple accounts.

Here are the basics for making sure your passwords are strong and healthy:

  • Include lowercase and uppercase letters.
  • Include numbers.
  • Include symbols.
  • Make sure you use a different password for all your accounts.
  • Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication (otherwise known as 2FA or MFA) where possible.
  • Do not share passwords with others.

Password management can be difficult to keep up with when you have different passwords for all your accounts. Especially when they are complicated passwords!

You can find free and paid-for password management tools online that will securely keep track of all your different logins for you. And you just have to remember one ‘master’ password and/or use biometrics (like your fingerprint)!

3. Email encryption

The simple action of encrypting emails can go a long way. If you use Outlook, you can easily find the encryption option when creating a new email (as long as you have the right license).

What does encryption really do for email security? Well, it scrambles the contents of an email. This makes it unreadable to anyone except the intended recipient. So if the email is intercepted by a cyber attackers, the data in your email remains secure.

4. Firewall and antivirus software

Make sure that you install and regularly update your firewall and antivirus software. It can really help to prevent unauthorised access to your email system by detecting and removing malware threats.

It’s important to make sure that all your business’ devices are equipped with up-to-date email security software. We don’t want to leave any gaps for cyber attackers to find! And these hackers have a knack for targeting systems with outdated security software.

Luckily, the major operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) have anti-virus software built in. So make sure you enable those automatic updates. And restart your computer when prompted, instead of clicking postpone 7 times!

5. Secure email gateway (SEG)

A secure email gateway (SEG) solution filters inbound and outbound emails for malicious content, spam, and phishing attempts. So it’s pretty useful for sifting out any dodgy dealings!

SEGs use advanced threat detection technologies, such as machine learning and behavioral analysis, to identify and block potential threats before they reach users’ inboxes.

So you can have peace of mind knowing that you are protected from most threats.

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6. Email security authentication protocols

‘Email authentication protocols.’ What a mouthful! What does it mean? It means software that helps to verify the authenticity of incoming emails, which can prevent spoofing and phishing attacks.

Examples of these types of tools include things like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance).

Again, it’s another way to stop threats from even reaching your teams.

7. Regular software updates

Okay, we know we already had a dig about clicking ‘postpone’ on software updates (hehe). But that’s our job as your friendly, neighbourhood IT company!

But we stand by our advice to always (ALWAYS) allow your computer to run updates. Everything from operating systems to email applications – all need updating to make sure they are equipped with the latest email security.

As we also mentioned previously: vulnerabilities in outdated software can be exploited by cyber attackers to gain access to your email system. Let’s not let them!

8. Data loss prevention (DLP)

Data loss prevention (DLP). So many acronyms! What does it mean? DLP solutions monitor and prevent any unauthorised transmission of sensitive data via email. It can detect, and block, the sharing of confidential information (like financial records or customer data) to outside your organisation.

Deploy DLP solutions to monitor and prevent the unauthorized transmission of sensitive data via email. DLP technologies can detect and block the sharing of confidential information, such as financial records or customer data, outside the organization.

9. Email backup and recovery

In the event that your emails or data is compromised, you need to have a backup plan to ensure that business operations can continue. The show must go on, right!?

By regularly backing up your email data, and storing it securely, you can ensure that it will be easily recoverable in the event of a security incident or data loss.

Our top tip is to securely store backup copies offsite, so you can also be protected against physical threats like fire or theft!

10. Security audits and assessments

It’s important to stay on top of email security, consistently. It’s not something you implement once. It needs constant love and attention!

Regular security audits and assessments of your email infrastructure help to identify vulnerabilities, compliance gaps, and areas for improvement.

Aaaand that’s where we can help…

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How to choose the right email security solutions

We’ve covered a lot today, haven’t we? There are so many email security solutions available in the market, selecting the right one for your business can be overwhelming.

Here are some things to consider when choosing email security solutions:

  • Scalability: Ensure that the email security solution can scale with your business’s growing needs and adapt to evolving threats.
  • Ease of deployment and management: Choose a solution that is easy to deploy, configure, and manage.
  • Comprehensive threat protection: Look for solutions that offer multi-layered protection against a wide range of email threats, including phishing, malware, ransomware, and spam.
  • Integration capabilities: Evaluate whether the solution integrates seamlessly with your existing email infrastructure, collaboration platforms, and security ecosystem.
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements: Ensure that the solution complies with industry regulations and data protection standards relevant to your business, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI DSS.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Consider the total cost of ownership, including licensing fees, maintenance costs, and potential productivity gains or losses.

Email security takeaways

For small business owners, safeguarding your email is really important. You’re accountable not only to yourself and your team, but also to your clients and suppliers. Given that your company likely holds sensitive data like financial records, contact lists, and customer details, ensuring its protection is crucial. Any breach by cybercriminals could spell serious trouble for your business.

Remember that email security is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, adaptation, and investment to stay ahead of cyber crime plots!

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