Lock It Up: How to Ace Email Security in 2016

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Make 2016 the year where you finally take email security seriously.

Security is obviously taken seriously by business leaders all over the world. A lot of emphasis has been placed on creating better protections for data, networks, infrastructure, and software defined storage. 

As important as these facets are, one area tends to be overlooked more than others, and it’s one of the most basic tools we use: email.

Considering how simple email is to use, the fact that email security is overshadowed by other areas should probably be no surprise.

Despite this simplicity and the ease with which we use it, email remains a vulnerable entry point for hackers, malware, and cyber attacks when not protected properly. While many may assume email security is mostly taken care of, overlooking it could lead to significant damage for you and your company.

Related Article:The Security Risks in Social Media: Interview with Joseph Steinberg

Don't Ignore Best Practices

Email breaches may not hit the news in the same way that data breaches at major businesses do, but they can be just as serious. Perhaps people overlook email security because they assume some basic practices are all that’s needed to ensure email protection, but you’d be surprised how often even these simple strategies aren’t employed.

Many attacks and malware can be delivered through malicious email attachments, and yet some people still try to open attachments when sent from suspicious or unknown email addresses. The same goes for clicking on suspicious links.

Especially worrying is the poor practice of choosing weak passwords to protect an email account. Passwords like “123456” or “password1” are still commonly used by intransigent or unwitting employees, often to the chagrin of business managers. Accessing business email on unsecured WiFi networks is also a major concern.

Everyone needs to be taught these basic practices as a way to secure emails, even in the year 2016. They also need to understand that the information they send in emails isn’t always safe either. Sending a bank account number or password through email is just asking for trouble.

And yet, even if all these strategies are followed in detail, that might not be enough to stop further cyber attacks. Hackers are a cunning group, and many of the old practices won’t stop the most determined ones. Luckily, other technologies have been developed with the intent of curtailing their efforts.

Related Article: Shark in the Water: Protecting Your Business From Phishing

Email Security Technology

If basic email security steps like better password protection are often overlooked, you can bet these new technologies are as well. Emails may not be a target as tempting as a data warehouse, but they still require better protection. Some of this can come in the form of email encryption.

Even when email encryption is used, it is often done wrong. Even so, email encryption acts much in the same way as data encryption, making the information contained within virtually unreadable to any unwanted eyes. It’s important to know that when email encryption is used that it is end-to-end encryption. Otherwise, emails sitting on a server or database would be left vulnerable. There are a wide variety of encryption tools available, many of which are open source and free to use.

Email security gateways are another important tool that too many businesses overlook. These gateways essentially work by monitoring all emails that are sent to your organization. If any unwanted content (spam, phishing, malware) is detected, then the message is blocked and kept from being delivered. Whether the email security gateway comes in the form of server-based, public cloud-based, hybrid cloud, or something else, you can usually find one that fits well with your company.

Different email security gateways perform differently, but all increase email security tremendously. By employing new techniques like sandboxing and threat intelligence, emails have never been safer. This is why businesses would be wise to look into email security gateways as the last ingredient needed to ensure safe email communication.

Related Article: 7 Apps to Make Email Usage Safer, Better and More Powerful

Considering how common emails are, it seems strange that email security is often left on the backburner, but it happens all the time. Other areas of security tend to take precedence, but in the process, emails are ignored and just assumed to be safe.

Taking the right steps now to protect email systems is necessary to ensure greater security for your organization as a whole. All it takes is for one weakness to be exploited and an entire system can become corrupted. Whether utilizing basic practices or the latest technologies, prioritizing email security should be on your to-do list.

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