Email is not only the most popular form of communication for organizations, but it is also the most popular way for criminals to break into corporate networks and compromise confidential information about clients and employees. A multi-layered security strategy can reduce email security risks, but in the long term, a thorough awareness of these threats works much better.
Email is one of the top two distribution mechanisms for harmful payloads, with the average company receiving over 75% of its malware over email, according to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report. Even if just a small percentage of employees actively click on phishing emails, the overall numbers are still high enough to make this one of the most effective and lucrative entry points for attackers.
In this blog, I will go over some of the most frequent email security threats, and will also cover some of the actions you need to take to safeguard your business.
What are the seven most common Email Security Risks?
One of the most frequent email threats is phishing. It is a technique for sneaking into businesses. Big and small and stealing confidential company information through social engineering approaches. Because there is a certain amount of skill and sophistication involved in phishing emails. Employees can be manipulated and become victims of such attacks. These emails have legitimate-looking attachments and links, and these attacks are usually targeted at low-level executives. The attackers send harmful payloads to the victim’s systems once the employee clicks on these files or links.
One of the most significant risks to email security is spoofing, which is closely related to phishing. Spoofing is deceit that can be done using email, the phone, a fake website, or messaging apps. Attackers act as dependable sources for the victim. It might be a manager, an IT employee, or even a senior executive at the organization. The intention is to coerce the victim into disclosing private information or carrying out tasks like an electronic funds transfer. Spoofing attacks are frequently employed as intermediate steps in more significant attacks, such as to defraud businesses of their money.
3. Business Email Compromise (BEC)
One of the greatest threats to your email security is BEC attacks. A business email compromise is a very sophisticated attack. It starts with cyber criminals sneaking into a high-ranking company executive’s email account either by account take-over (ATO) or by leveraging compromised credentials. Since the defrauded emails are identical to emails you receive through legitimate channels, many people are duped by these attacks. BEC attacks are 97% effective, and they differ from all other email threats in that they appeal to the victim’s feeling of urgency. The impostor may even employ a fake domain that looks legitimate at first glance.
4. Malicious attachments
Infected attachments contain malicious code to attack and harm computers, data, or even entire networks. In 2022 alone, there are approximately 90 million registered malware programs. Trojans, viruses, spyware, worms, and botnets are a few of them. Malware assaults via email typically take the shape of spam attacks. Multiple emails containing the virus are sent during the attack to numerous network users.
Exploiting file formats, which has steadily grown to be a significant information security problem for many businesses, pose a comparable threat. Attackers meticulously craft malicious files that cause faults (such as buffer overflows) in various apps by taking advantage of these vulnerabilities.
Another type of malicious software that is used to encrypt a victim’s files is ransomware. The victim is forced to pay a ransom, usually in the form of bitcoin, before the data may be released. Ransomware is one of the most dangerous email security risks. When a victim clicks on malicious files or links that appear to be real, the virus swiftly spreads and locks you out. Attacks with ransomware are typically well-crafted and intended to disrupt large networks rather than a single terminal.
6. Configuration Errors
Failure to correctly configure your email server or email security service is a common email danger to cyber security. Your reputation as a sender may suffer greatly because of a configuration error. It may result in blacklisting and mistrust with clients and business associates. Without requiring any kind of authentication, you might leave many backdoors wide open for cybercriminals to enter your network. This may result in full domain hijacking and a significant number of scams using the name of your business.
7. Human error
Mistakes are the source of most data breaches related to email. “In the UK, where 60% of the nearly 5,000 data breaches reported in 2019 were the result of human error, nearly half of those came from improper disclosure of information. Mistakes like that (user-side error) lead to more data breaches than all malicious attacks combined. And it’s easy to understand; attachments get sent to the wrong recipients every day, and some departments are more susceptible than others,” highlights VIPRE on their website.
How can you tackle Email Security Risks?
Protecting your email (and your business) requires a holistic approach that begins with registering your company with DMARC, and includes tailored personnel training and deploying a web of protections, such as:
- End-to-end email encryption not only protect your messages but is also compliant with regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.
- Anti-phishing protection automatically monitors inbound and outbound traffic detects and blocks suspicious incoming emails, and prevents sensitive information from being disclosed to unauthorized recipients.
- Anti-spoofing protection with the use of protocols such as DMARC, DKIM, and SPF provides an additional layer of authentication and validation.
- Prevention of misdeliveries by prompting the sender to acknowledge the attachments and the recipients.
- Malware prevention to block infected attachments from messing up with your network.
An organization’s email is the most vulnerable channel because it contains the company’s most valuable information. As fraudsters continue to take advantage of email’s open nature and enhance their techniques of breaking into businesses, it’s important for companies to explore the best ways to defend their staff from the risks hidden in their inbox.