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Securing Your Email Ecosystem

Stephanie Gray
July 24, 2019
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In the digital world in which we live and work, email is a primary communication tool. As such, it is also a popular route of entry for hackers. We are all aware of spam and have no doubt come across emails that aren’t legitimate. However, the types of attack are growing in number and sophistication. The potential damage to organisations is enormous, email giving cyber criminals the potential to steal credentials, sensitive data and more. It is crucial to ensure our emails are sent to who we intend them to be, saved where we need them to be, and resilient to fraud. Ensuring our email ecosystems are secure is vital if we are to enjoy the benefits the channel offers while mitigating the risks.

WHAT IS AN EMAIL ECOSYSTEM?

The email ecosystem encompasses every part of the journey of every email sent within an organisation. This includes who is sending the email, the intended recipient, and where and how it will be archived. Both companies and their employees need to have an understanding of the email ecosystem in order to protect the vital, and often sensitive, data that is shared and stored within it. Often, organisations focus on spending money on cyber security, believing this is enough to protect them from the risk of attack. However, it is more than this. It is crucial for firms to fully understand potential threats and how to deal with them. To protect the email ecosystem, businesses need to have an extensive security strategy in place. An email security strategy should aim to protect the whole email chain, focusing on proactive prevention and response.

THE RISK OF EMAIL-BASED CYBER ATTACKS

Email is a common route of attack for cyber criminals and has always been a point of weakness. However, with the growing sophistication of cyber-attacks, it is even more vulnerable than ever. Email threats are versatile, and legacy security systems often aren’t sophisticated enough to withstand them.

Prominent attacks include the likes of business email compromise, ransomware, and spear fishing. We are all potential victims to fraudulent emails, as cyber criminals become ever more adept at impersonating credible senders. The built-in security solutions of cloud-based email providers aren’t enough either. Once a hacker gets into our systems, the data breaches that result have significant financial implications. The only way to protect against the threat of cyber-attacks is to take a proactive approach to securing the whole email ecosystem.

HOW TO SECURE YOUR EMAIL ECOSYSTEM?

A collaborative group of tools and measures are required to secure a company’s email ecosystem. By considering all of the potential points of attack and knowing how and when to respond, our businesses are better placed to mitigate the risk of attack.

Security measures should include the following key areas, each of which has its own challenges to be met:

  • Secure Email Gateway – with the migration of many businesses from on-premise to cloud-based email systems, the email gateway has changed. Secure email gateways need to be both sophisticated and adaptable to stand a chance of blocking emerging threats.
  • Targeted Attacks – social engineering techniques used by today’s cyber criminals often bypass existing security controls. Being able to truly understand whether emails can be trusted, in spite of their appearance, is fundamental.
  • Archiving and e-Discovery – it is easy for any organisation to get involved in a dispute and locating emails can be a vital form of defence. While native archived mailboxes within cloud solutions can help, users are still able to delete messages. Employing a secure archiving system ensures emails are retained and risk is reduced.
  • Email Security Awareness – employees are the final filter for email-borne attacks. Ensuring they are cyber-aware is crucial. Security awareness means that employees will have a knowledge of the potential threats and email best practice, which can help avoid malicious attachments and links being opened.
  • Email Fraud Prevention – email attacks don’t just cause financial damage; they can impact a company’s reputation as well. If cybercriminals send fraudulent emails to a business’s customers, their brand is negatively impacted. Implementing a global email authentication framework is a crucial step towards eliminating brand abuse.
  • Email Deliverability – for a business to function properly, emails need to reach their intended recipients. Email providers will report messages as delivered, but they don’t say where to. Every business needs to compete with a huge volume of traffic to ensure inbox placement and protect sender reputation.

With the increased and ever-changing threats from cyber actors, it is vital that we protect our email ecosystems. We need to ensure; we are aware, our defences are up, and we know how to respond should an attack happen.

To learn more about best practices and how you can build a secure email ecosystem, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Securing Your Email Ecosystem.