Even with the increasing popularity of apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams, email still serves as the backbone of modern communication for small businesses, fostering collaboration and file sharing among team members while also providing a vital channel for communicating with the public; it’s simply the mainstay of business communication.
However, its vulnerability to cyber threats is undeniable, and in recent years, it has become a prime avenue for hackers and cybercriminals.
|“In the digital era, email remains the linchpin of business communication, but its susceptibility to cyber threats necessitates vigilant and sophisticated security measures.” ~Jeremy Wanamaker, CEO of Complete Network
A recent study by Verizon revealed that 61% of data breaches in 2022 were the result of phishing attacks, with 36% of these attacks specifically targeting SMBs. In the face of these growing hostilities, small businesses cannot afford to dismiss email security concerns under the false notion that they are too small or insignificant to be a target. The opposite is true, small businesses must prioritize email security to safeguard their organizations from potential catastrophic breaches.
Email security may seem complex, but at its core, it’s three essential components: robust authentication, employee education, and technological tools. Implementing strong authentication methods and encryption ensures that only authorized individuals access sensitive information.
Additionally, technological defenses, such as firewalls and secure email gateways, add an extra layer of protection against malicious activities. Apart from technical solutions, employee education is crucial to keep staff aware of the latest threats and best practices.
Here are the six best tips on email security for small businesses, according to the Complete Network team.
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Establishing a comprehensive email security policy is the foundation of a secure communication environment.
By clearly defining acceptable use, data handling, and communication protocols, organizations have a roadmap of best practices and steps to follow to ensure email security. This must also be enforced uniformly from the top down of the organization to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding security.
As threats evolve at a rapid pace, it can be hard for both technical and non-technical employees to stay informed about current and emerging email threats.
That’s why regularly educating your employees on the various types of email threats and how to identify them is important. Regular training sessions about the latest phishing techniques, social engineering tactics, and security best practices can help you strengthen the most vulnerable part of your organization—your workforce.
It’s vital to address the threat your employees may unknowingly introduce into your organization. A single employee clicking on a phishing link disguised as a seemingly legitimate email can have severe consequences.
By simulating real-world scenarios, organizations can better prepare their teams. These simulations serve as a valuable tool for identifying potential weaknesses in your system and providing an opportunity to reinforce training.
Robust password policies that mandate strong, unique passwords and changes at regular intervals can effectively stop most cybercriminals at the door by making it harder for them to break in. While robust password policies establish a baseline for security, MFA adds an additional layer of defense that fortifies your organization.
Even if malicious actors acquire passwords through breaches or other means, the need for a second form of verification makes it significantly harder for them to infiltrate systems.
This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information. In fact, research from Microsoft found that MFA alone can stop over 99% of password-based attacks, making it an incredibly effective tactic.
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Email encryption helps protect sensitive data on the move. In the event of unauthorized access during a security breach, encryption ensures that malicious actors cannot read or tamper with information. This minimizes the overall damage from security breaches. By making email content unreadable to cybercriminals, email encryption helps ensure that your data remains confidential and secure during transit.
Deploying data loss prevention (DLP) tools is essential for mitigating the risks of inadvertent or intentional information leaks by employees and preventing spillover. It helps monitor, detect, and manage the flow of confidential information as it moves through your digital environment. Combining sophisticated content inspection and contextual analysis helps organizations prevent any sensitive data from being transmitted without authorization.
To understand how to approach email security best, it’s also important that you understand the threats that your staff are likely to face in the course of their daily work.
Phishing attacks constitute most cyberattacks on businesses. Cybercriminals resort to phishing attacks because of their lower barrier to entry and higher potential for success, relying on deception and the exploitation of human vulnerabilities rather than technical weaknesses. By tricking employees into revealing sensitive information or granting access, these attacks pose a substantial risk to our organization. Therefore, it’s important to train employees to recognize phishing emails and implement filtering systems to detect and block suspicious emails before they reach inboxes.
Business email compromise (BEC) is an especially deceptive form of cyberattack due to its ability to camouflage within routine communication channels. Attackers could gain unauthorized access to a business email account, often through social engineering or phishing, and mimic authentic communications from senior management. This can catch victims off guard, manipulating them into making financial transactions, transferring sensitive data, or carrying out other harmful actions. According to recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, BEC attacks did $2.7 billion in damages last year, an increase of 12% from the year prior.
Ransomware is commonly distributed through email. Because of its potential for devastating damage, it’s important that you have a way to detect malicious attachments masked as legitimate messages. Just a few minor missteps from your team can give attackers the window of opportunity they need to strike—demanding a ransom to restore access and prevent them from leaking sensitive data. The emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) and so-called “triple extortion tactics” have only heightened this problem.
|Implementing strong authentication methods to ensure only authorized access.
|Regular training on the latest threats and best practices.
|Utilizing firewalls and secure email gateways for added protection.
|Comprehensive Email Security Policy
|Establishing clear guidelines for email usage and data handling.
|Conducting real-world scenarios to prepare teams and identify system weaknesses.
|MFA and Password Management
|Enforcing strong passwords and multi-factor authentication for enhanced security.
|Protecting sensitive data in transit from unauthorized access.
|Data Loss Prevention Tools
|Monitoring and managing the flow of confidential information.
Failure to properly configure email servers or services can create a host of security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can lead to miscommunications with clients and business partners or, worse, leave a backdoor open for criminals.
Therefore, it’s crucial to regularly review and update email system configurations to ensure they align with security best practices and rectify potential misconfigurations. If left unattended, cybercriminals can potentially exploit these gaps to hijack your organization’s domain and engage in other malicious activities.
Insider threats can be especially challenging to counter, as they emanate from inside the organization from trusted sources and employees.
For instance, if a disgruntled employee with access to sensitive company emails decides to leak confidential information to a competitor, conventional security systems may not flag their behavior as suspicious since they possess the required authorization. It’s even harder to detect when the employee uses his/her knowledge of security systems and familiarity with colleagues to conceal their actions.
In conclusion, safeguarding small businesses from evolving email security threats demands a multi-faceted approach.
The Complete Network team has been providing small and midsized businesses with total security solutions, including email security, for over 20 years.
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If you want a partner to help you take control of email security once and for all, contact our friendly team any time at (844) 426-7844 or [email protected]. We look forward to speaking with you!
In an ideal world, technology would be a consistent source of competitive advantage and benefit for small and midsized businesses. The reality is that many fail to realize that confidence.
Without the right resources and support, even a highly skilled technology team can become overwhelmed by the growing list of technology management duties. When important tasks get neglected, it creates ripple effects throughout an organization that damage productivity and efficiency.
The co-managed IT services model solves these problems by providing your existing IT team with all the support and resources they need to successfully plan, manage, and defend your network technology.
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