Email Security Best Practices
Evolving Email Threats
Email remains one of the biggest cybersecurity threats for businesses of all sizes. Attackers are constantly finding new ways to exploit email and people's failure to follow enterprise email security best practices to breach organizations’ defenses.
Email is commonly used as a route into corporate networks to spread malware, such as ransomware, spam, and viruses, as well as other attack vectors like phishing and scams. But by following email security best practices, organizations can reduce their attack surface and spot signs of an attack before it happens.
Email security best practices for employees can help stop email-borne threats, prevent the latest attack vectors, and reduce the strain from organizations’ already overstretched IT teams.
Why Do Modern Email Infrastructures Need Multilayered Security?
A multilayered email security defense is critical to protecting users and their devices. Almost every organization worldwide relies on email as a primary source of communication with customers, partners, and suppliers, as well as between colleagues. Failing to deploy email safety best practices around this vital communication method leaves organizations vulnerable to cyberattacks.
The need for email security is more vital than ever as cyber criminals devise more sophisticated techniques and advanced attack methods. Organizations now have more connections to their networks, with users accessing resources and systems from new devices and disparate locations. They also have more web-based applications, money stored in more online locations, social networking accounts, and new machines to secure like Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.
Best Practices To Strengthen Your Email Security
Best practices for email security keep users and their data secure and reduce the chances of cyber criminals breaching corporate networks.
Train Your Staff in Cybersecurity Awareness
Employees are organizations' first line of defense against email-borne cyberattacks. Cybersecurity awareness training helps employees know the threats they face, which reduces an organization’s cyber risk and increases the chances of keeping their data secure. Make sure employees understand how to spot the potential signs of an attack and the consequences of failing to follow email security best practices.
Companies need to train staff on what potential malicious emails look like and teach them the importance of not trusting emails from unknown or unrecognized senders. They also need to run workshops on phishing email simulation and email attachment security best practices.
Use Two-factor Authentication (2FA)
Relying on passwords alone is not enough in the modern cyber threat landscape. Instead, users must strengthen their email accounts using 2FA or multi-factor authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of security.
With 2FA or MFA, when users log in to their email account, they get a notification to complete another step in the verification process to signify they are who they say they are. This can be through various methods, such as entering a unique code sent to their smartphone, a one-time password (OTP) sent via text message, using an authentication application that displays a unique code, or using biometric verification like their fingerprint.
This process ensures hackers cannot access a user’s account even if they manage to steal their password.
Manage Your Passwords Better
In addition to protecting email accounts with 2FA or MFA, users also need to secure their passwords. Many people still recycle passwords across multiple online accounts, including email services, social networks, and popular news websites. This makes the hacker’s life easier—they only need to guess one password combination to get into multiple accounts. Cyber criminals also use phishing techniques to ask users to reset their passwords or spoofed websites to scrape users’ login credentials.
Therefore, organizations should ensure all employees use a unique password for every account and regularly change their passwords. Deploying password manager software also helps, as users no longer have to worry about remembering long, complex passwords to access their accounts.
- Are unique
- Use a combination of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers
- Contain uncommon words or a random string of letters
- Do not contain names or obvious information like birthdates
Be Aware of Phishing Emails
Phishing attacks are one of the biggest security threats facing businesses. Cyber criminals use techniques to trick users into thinking they are genuine senders in an attempt to give up their account details, initiate fraudulent payments, or lure them to malicious websites through email spoofing. Phishing emails are typically messages that claim to be from service providers, such as banks, that tell victims there is an important issue they need to resolve immediately.
Organizations can prevent these attacks by combining email safety best practices and employee training with technology. This includes firewalls, secure email gateways (SEGs), sandboxing, and Uniform Resource Locator (URL) threat defense technologies that scan for malicious links, content, and attachments.
Employee training also increases phishing awareness, as users learn to recognize what phishing emails look like and how to avoid them. Phishing emails will typically use language that suggests a sense of urgency and puts pressure on users to quickly complete an action, such as accessing their online bank accounts.
Encrypting emails ensures that emails are only received and read by the person they were intended for. It also gives email senders more control, including revoking access to messages sent to the wrong person and seeing when emails were opened and by whom.
Email encryption helps organizations prevent common threat vectors such as email-borne malware attacks and business email compromise (BEC). It also ensures that sensitive email data cannot be intercepted or read by potential attackers.
Improve Endpoint and Email Security Hygiene
To protect users’ endpoints, deploy antivirus software that scans files, networks, and websites for potentially malicious activity and stops malware from being delivered or downloaded to devices. Antivirus software can also prevent users from opening or downloading malicious links or attachments from emails and help them remove any malware discovered on their devices.
Endpoint protection solutions enable organizations to monitor every device that connects to their networks. They can run system scans that track access and usage across the network, which can issue alerts and block traffic when potentially malicious activity is detected. This is especially important when users are accessing corporate systems from remote locations and when working from home.
Prevent Data Leakage and Breaches
The primary objective of email security best practices is to prevent breaches and data leakage. All of the above practices—employee training, deploying email security solutions, and encouraging users to secure their passwords and use 2FA—can prevent attackers from targeting users and exploiting vulnerabilities.
Employees should also avoid additional security risks, such as using public or open Wi-Fi networks, and take advantage of tools like virtual private networks (VPNs) that encrypt their browsing sessions.
Implement Strong Email Defenses
All of these security best practices are underpinned by strong email defenses. This includes deploying firewalls and SEGs to protect employees from malware and phishing emails and secure organizations’ email networks from harmful or malicious content.