Practices For E-mail Security: Learning, Implementing, Protecting
E-mails have become an increasingly rich application which is capable of carrying messages with hidden links to malicious attachments, web sites, and codes. Undoubtedly, the table stakes for e-mail security are high in today’s digital age.
In this article, we discuss the best enterprise e-mail security practices, both at the management as well as employee level.
Table of contents
An e-mail system comprises two primary components: mail clients and mail servers. Mail clients help users in reading, composing, and sending their e-mails. The mail server is the computer that helps in delivering, forwarding, and storing the e-mail messages.
In today’s world, e-mails are the primary source of exchanging information in a personal and professional environment. However, there are specific security threats with e-mail media, and caution is necessary while clicking links or downloading attachments in an e-mail. Thus, there is a need to protect all the components of e-mails – mail clients, servers, and the infrastructure that connects them.
The Security Risks Associated With E-mails
Usually, enterprises send e-mails over external networks which are outside their security net. The lack of security safeguards makes them vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals. There are many risks associated with e-mails, such as:
- Phishing and Spoofing, which are the primary and most deployed e-mail threats in which hackers disguise themselves as trusted identities and steal user information.
- Unsolicited commercial e-mails, in which sending unwanted commercial e-mail messages take place in bulk. Such messages can disrupt user productivity and utilize IT resources excessively. Spam messages also find use as a distribution mechanism for malware.
- Attackers taking advantage of e-mails to deliver a variety of malware, or “malicious software”, to organizations which include viruses, worms, spyware, and Trojan horses.
The Impending Need Of Undertaking Appropriate Security Measures
Threats to e-mail security are increasing by the day. Thus, operational, management, and technical measures are necessary to ensure the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of the mail system, its supporting environment, and the data handled.
The employees in any organization can act as a vital source who can make the employer introduce stringent e-mail security norms within the organization, although the onus downright lies with the employers. Simple remedies like up-gradation of outdated categories of e-mail servers and the client can prove to be beneficial to the organization’s e-mail security.
E-mail Protection Through DMARC
There is a plethora of content filtering and authentication software available in the market with more sophisticated e-mail security tools.
Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC):
The efficiency of this tool increases to a great extent because it acts in combination with other protocols like Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys, and Identified Mail. SPF and DKIM both need to fail for DMARC to act on a message.
There are many benefits of deploying DMARC for e-mail security:
- It blocks unauthenticated parties from sending mail from the organization’s domain.
- It increases visibility into the organization’s e-mail program.
- It helps the e-mail ecosystem become more secure and trustworthy by establishing a consistent policy for unauthenticated e-mails.
Practices For Robust E-Mail Security
For Enterprise Management
» Performing Periodic Security Testing
Periodic security testing is essential to ensure that the employees implement protective measures. For performing thorough security testing, enterprises can employ various techniques, including vulnerability testing. It is also helpful in ensuring that the mail system is operating as intended and producing the desired results.
» Backing Up Data Frequently
It is the responsibility of the organizations to maintain the integrity of the data on e-mail servers. It is essential because mail servers are the most vulnerable to phishing attacks. Thus, enterprises must back-up the mail server regularly. During the event of a mail service outage, it will reduce downtime. Additionally, enterprises must ensure compliance with regulations.
» Paying Heed To Awareness Programs Related To Phishing
Solution-driven or customized training must form an integral part of enterprise management so that employees are aware of the specific threats to e-mail security. Employees must also take out time from their busy schedules to attend these training sessions as they are of utmost importance. Through this training, the employees will have the know-how of the various security measures taken at the organizational level.
» Using Encrypted Passwords For Proper Verification
Using easily guessable passwords is one of the main reasons why cyber-attacker becomes successful in gaining unauthorized access to data. Thus, users must choose a password which cannot be decoded easily and must be altered from time to time. Using different passwords for different platforms is also a good idea to safeguard one’s data. Using the same password for multiple websites provides the cyber-attackers an added advantage for carrying out their malicious agenda. Attackers are technically sound people.
They know that if they can get access to any of the user’s accounts, decoding the passwords for other accounts will not be a tough job.At the organization level, encouraging employees to change their passwords often can be beneficial for optimum e-mail security.
» Using Multifactor Authentication Makes Verification Foolproof
The employer must introduce techniques such as two-factor authentications so that employees are safe from the fraudulent cases of impersonation. Employees who have already used this authentication method must inculcate the habit amongst colleagues and higher management so that it implements at their work centers without much hassle.
» Analyzing The Attachments In The Mail Before Clicking On Them
In most of the organizational networks, antimalware software is deployed to detect attachments containing malicious data. However, users fall prey to phishing attacks when these executable files get forwarded via trusted websites. Thus, extra care should be taken while opening any attachments mainly when it contains extension associated with an executable program.
» Being Cautious While Clicking On Any Link In An E-mail
E-mails containing fancy-looking websites links are prevalent techniques used to enforce a phishing attack. These links might look familiar, but it is always advisable to hover the mouse on the link to know the exact link details.
It is the inherent responsibility of the organization to give proper exposure to the employees to make the best e-mail security practices available to the employee. However, it ultimately depends on the user to make the right choice to safeguard their essential data from e-mail threats. Usage of well-encrypted passwords and awareness on security breaches are the building blocks for reducing impersonation and phishing attacks.