Learn how to determine the most effective ways for your employees to enhance the security of their email environment at work. What is email security, and why is it so crucial? To answer that, you must know that an overwhelming majority of company security breaches start with a phishing email.
Phishing emails are just what they sound like: virtual bait “dangled” in front of your staff by cybercriminals to “catch” something they want from your company. Specifically, hackers are trying to capture your most sensitive information. As we move further into the future and as technology advances, so do hackers’ skills. This is why email security is so imperative.
A cyberattack can lead to significant consequences for your business. It can cost a substantial amount of money in attempted recovery, as well as potential legal fees and other penalty charges. Not to mention company downtime, which can deplete resources. There can even be non-monetary consequences—not as expensive on paper, but equally costly. Your customers' trust in your brand could be tarnished, and as many companies have had to learn the hard way, trust can be nearly impossible to earn back.
When it comes to creating a well-rounded cybersecurity plan for your business, we know the best tips and tricks to get you started on your journey.
Our expert tips to improve email security
We have years of experience in this area, so we’ve seen it all. These are our best bits of advice that you’ll want to follow sooner rather than later. Because hackers’ abilities are improving every day, the quality and strength of your business cybersecurity should be too.
Expert email security tip #1: regular education
As cybercriminals continue to evolve, so does the knowledge it takes to protect your company. Make security training a regular occurrence so your team’s knowledge base on this subject is never outdated.
Ensure new team members also get caught up to speed if they are hired in between cybersecurity training sessions. By making cybersecurity a part of new employee onboarding, you lessen the chance that they unwittingly become a weakness in your system by not being appropriately trained in time. We have advice in another article on how to implement an effective cybersecurity training program for your team that we suggest reading as well.
Expert email security tip #2: password protection
Many people use obvious passwords to make logins easier on themselves. Unfortunately, this also makes logins easier for hackers who are trying to get into your accounts. If you tend to forget your passwords, you need to find a digital method for helping yourself to remember. Don’t write them down on a piece of paper where someone can easily find them. Office guests and, yes, even coworkers, can accidentally compromise your accounts—so don’t let your passwords be shared with anyone. But which digital tools can you trust?
Don’t just try saving your passwords in browsers. Utilize applications that offer the right protections. For example, you can safely store passwords digitally by taking advantage of apps like LastPass. That way you won’t have to worry about remembering so many different passwords for all the different websites you use on the daily. And when you create your passwords, make them strong. Come up with a truly unique combination of length, letters, numbers, special characters and other traits.
While it should be obvious not to, it’s surprising how many people still think they can use their name, “123456” or the actual word “password” as their password. These are not adequate options. We want to spell this out for you so that your staff doesn’t accidentally spell out danger for the whole network. If you can’t think of one on your own, try a random password generator such as Dashlane or even passwordsgenerator.net.
Expert email security tip #3: encrypt your emails
If you want to protect your emails, we urge you to consider encrypting them as an added layer of security. There are several types of encryption, but data-centric tends to be less risky than point -to -point.
If a hacker intercepts sensitive data that is encrypted, they won’t be able to read it. This significantly lowers the odds of successful attacks. Encryption keeps emails between a sender and the intended recipient private because the person trying to break in won’t have an approved email encryption key.
Expert email security tip #4: multi-factor authentication
Cyberattackers may find that it’s simply not worth their time trying to breach your email security when other businesses have emails that are less difficult to break into. Thus, you should know how to make use of multi-factor authentication. If they want your information, make them jump through hoops.
It’s not just about making more “hoops” for hackers either though—this is quickly becoming an extremely standardized security measure that also covers lost physical equipment. For instance, if a staff member leaves a work laptop on the subway and someone with ill intent steals it, no one can get into it if it has all the right security measures. And laptops are only one example. We all access work emails from our personal mobile devices and tablets as well, which means we need to cover all devices.
With this extra layer added for amplified security, you will be able to easily verify whether the person trying to log in was you or someone who is not authorized to have account access. This is done via a one-time password (OTP) that is automatically generated, typically a rotating six digit code. Through this avenue, a stranger who somehow manages to get their hands on your username or password will be faced with additional hurdles that shut them out.
Expert email security tip #5: delete any unused accounts
Your company might have old accounts that have gone inactive due to an employee having a name change, forgetting to consolidate emails or a departure from the company. These accounts should not sit around and collect virtual dust.
The accounts that go untouched for long periods because they are forgotten about, and thus are unmonitored, can pose a weak link in your cybersecurity chain. If you’re not paying attention to an account then you’re not being careful to keep identity thieves and financial fraudsters at bay. You cannot afford to leave holes in your business security plan, so get rid of them immediately—before the cost of making amends for a particularly nasty breach compromises your company.
And, speaking of things happening behind your back, make sure to get regular scans of the dark web so you’re not left “in the dark.” That is where your stolen login credentials—most often email logins, in particular—would be put up for sale.
Expert email security tip #6: keep your software up to date
It is crucial to keep everything up to date—not just your knowledge base and employee training sessions, but the technology itself as well.
Cybercriminals are growing their skills all the time. You need to ensure your tech is keeping up. Always update company software and hardware as soon as updates are announced by the developer, or when your advisors suggest. Old technology is a sure weakness into your private networks and precious data.
Expert email security tip #7: secure your network
Take a step back and look at the bigger picture when considering ways of bolstering your email security and your overall business cybersecurity strategy. Emails are just one part of a comprehensive security plan. Don’t forget your network as a whole.
Higher-level awareness can improve protection in other areas of your business’s internet security and email security. After all, no one is perfect—even with proper training. By casting a wider net, you improve your chances of catching the email blunders that employees may be making.
Network security is especially important with the rise of smartphones and other mobile devices. Logging into work systems from personal tech makes security an issue. Malware and keyloggers are always possible attack vectors when it comes to accessing credentials. Leaving more virtual doors open makes it even trickier to keep track and fend off unwanted “guests.”
Expert email security tip #8: sender policy framework
Cyberattackers sometimes strategically disguise the origin of their message in an attempt otherwise known as email spoofing. To prevent these fake emails from getting through to your inbox, anti-spam Sender Policy Framework (SPF) authenticates an email sender’s internet domain. However, be careful in setting this up, as incorrectly configured SPF records can cause your own domain to be easily spoofed.
Otherwise, it can be very useful because the SPF protocol will allow the owner of a domain to specify which mail servers they typically use when sending mail. A brand sending an email will publish SPF records in their Domain Name System, or DNS. These records list precisely which IP addresses are authorized to send messages on behalf of their domains, thereby signaling anything outside of it may be suspicious.
Expert email security tip #9: DomainKeys Identified Mail
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is another email authentication method designed to detect forged sender email addresses. This protects against spoofing—a technique often used in phishing and email spamming.
DKIM is mainly about the sender taking responsibility of signing their emails. This way, the receiver can know whether an email claiming it came from a particular domain was indeed authorized by the domain owner. Without features like DKIM, how can people really know who to trust? Making sure there is an authentic sign-off is a great way to stay safe in virtual spaces.
Expert email security tip #10: use business grade email providers
IMAP and POP are “legacy” within Office 365, but should be disabled if possible. You should also consider a third-party or layered anti-spam solution. If one computer at the office becomes compromised by getting hacked or gets affected by malware, it’s best if you can isolate the issue rather than let it spread.
If you can minimize the damage, you can of course expect an easier fix and assert more control over your devices and network. If a problem is left to infect everyone else’s system, you’re going to find yourself in a bit more of a mess. So stop it before it happens and always plan ahead when it comes to internet safety.
Expert email security tip #11: domain-based message authentication, reporting and conformance
Also known as DMARC, the advantage here is that email senders and receivers alike know how to cooperate to enhance the security of email communications. The receiver would be alerted about key policies in the mail flow and get feedback to the sender about the emails that are rejected. With a bit of code, DMARC will mainly function to help filter fraudulent mail that could otherwise overflow your inbox and become a trap at your company.
You will also have the opportunity to see what is going on at your business and get a real-time window into the inner workings. Thanks to helpful reporting, you’ll be among the first to know if something goes wrong—and fast. When you have all the right details and you review them carefully, you are less at risk of anything slipping past you.
This tactic will be another crucial part of any company’s holistic email security strategy. Be sure your staff is complying with any regulations or protocols set for the safety of the organization. Help them—and others not even working for your company, but who do business with it—understand why this is so important. Every connection, thus every email, poses a potential risk to those who don’t know better.
Expert email security tip #12: use a managed IT service
To ensure all of these measures are in place, implemented effectively, done regularly and always up to date, you may need some help. Company IT security is not a one-person job, but that of an experienced team. Experts with decades of real-world experience between them in the area of business cybersecurity will be most adept at making sure nothing is missed.
It can be easy to assume you have your bases covered with internet safety, especially if you keep up with reading cybersecurity resources. But there is a lot to keep track of and you shouldn’t have to go it alone. Email security is a niche area of expertise. Having specialists to work with you and oversee essential protection steps is the assurance you’ll need to not constantly worry about a devastating breach.
Most traps are easy to avoid with the right tools and professionals that a managed services provider (MSP) provides, but much harder to recover from. Take every preventative measure possible to protect your business from cybercriminals.