With email becoming an indispensable tool for communication on both personal and professional fronts, we’re set to witness a staggering 376.4 billion daily emails by 2025. But with this ubiquity comes vulnerability.
Emails have, unfortunately, become a favourite hunting ground for cybercriminals, making email security no longer optional but essential. A recent report revealed a record-breaking surge in phishing emails during the first quarter of 2023, underlining the urgency.
In this blog post, we’ll demystify email security, underscore its significance, and share actionable strategies to bolster your digital defences.
What is Email Security and Why It’s Important
Email security is the digital armor that protects your email accounts and communications from unauthorised access, data loss, or compromise. But why should we care about email security? Here are the key reasons:
Firstly, email security shields personal and professional information from unauthorised individuals. This could range from personal credit card details and banking information to corporate financial reports and strategic plans.
Cyber threats often arrive in your inbox disguised as innocent emails. Email security helps ward off malware, spam, and phishing attacks, preventing potential financial losses, data breaches, and damage to corporate reputation.
Lastly, a secure email service is a reliable one. Email security prevents service disruptions, ensuring uninterrupted access to your emails.
Types of Email Attacks
Cybercriminals employ a range of tactics to infiltrate email systems, some of which can inflict serious harm on an organisation’s data integrity or reputation.
Phishing: A cyber attack where fraudsters, pretending to be reputable sources via email, phone or text, trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as personal data, bank credentials, and passwords. Verizon’s 2023 DBIR found that 36% of all data breaches involved phishing.
Spear Phishing: Targeted, fraudulent email campaigns that are designed around the surveillance and intelligence gathering carried out on a target organisation. These emails usually focus on individuals with privileged access rights, such as System Administrators. A survey by Tessian found that 94% of organisations experienced a spear-phishing or impersonation attack in 2022.
Spam: Involves sending unwanted, unsolicited digital communications, often in bulk. While sometimes merely annoying, spam can also serve as a vehicle for more malicious activities, such as spreading malware or phishing attempts.
Spoofing: Fraudsters craft deceptive emails, often impersonating reputable companies or individuals, leveraging the trust associated with these identities to manipulate their targets. They exploit the credibility of established brands like Microsoft or high-profile roles such as a CEO, to persuade people into taking certain actions. For instance, a phishing email might mimic an Office 365 communication, complete with a link leading to a convincing imitation of the Office 365 login page. Unsuspecting users, fooled by the authentic appearance of the site, input their login details, falling prey to the cybercriminal’s trap and inadvertently handing over their credentials.
Email Security Best Practice
All organisations are vulnerable to phishing, no matter their size or sector, so it’s essential to understand how you might be targeted and what you can do to prevent a breach.
Use Strong Passwords: A great way to create longer and more complex passwords is to use passphrases. A passphrase is a sentence-like string of words that is memorable to you but difficult for anyone else to crack. The first letter of each word will form the basis of your password, and these letters can also be substituted with numbers and symbols to make it even more secure.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication: 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of verification in addition to your password.
Use a Spam Filter: A spam filter is capable of identifying and intercepting spam, preventing it from reaching your inbox or diverting it to the junk mail folder.
Regularly Update Your Systems: Ensure your email software, anti-virus, and operating systems are up to date. Updates often contain patches for security vulnerabilities.
Be Aware of Phishing Scams: Educate yourself about phishing attacks and how to identify them. Never click on suspicious links or download attachments from unknown sources.
Implement a Secure Email Gateway: A secure email gateway can filter out spam, viruses, and phishing attacks before they reach your inbox.
Use a VPN: A Virtual Private Network or VPN, is a software tool that encrypts any traffic that passes through the browser. This traffic could be personal or company data, emails, passwords, data for a financial transaction, and so on.
In conclusion, email security is a critical aspect of cyber security. By understanding its importance and implementing robust security measures, individuals and organisations can significantly reduce their risk of falling victim to email-related cyber attacks.