What Is Email Security? Best Practices Guide 2022

What is email security?

In today’s digital climate, everyone has one if not multiple email accounts. From personal, old accounts with embarrassing names to business accounts that contain crucial information, we carry them around in our pockets on our phones without hardly thinking about them.

But within your inbox, you could have phishing attempts featuring deceptive messages looking to steal sensitive information, viruses just waiting for one wrong click, or a hacker has already logged on. This is less than ideal for anyone looking to keep their data safe, which we know you do.

Want to learn how you can protect your accounts and private information? Learn all about email security best practices, why they’re so important, and how you can start implementing them.

What Is Email Security — The Basics

Email security is made up of all the tactics you may implement to keep an email account secure. Because after all, how secure is email? Only as secure as you make it.

These are done to block email-based cyber attacks, which are unfortunately a real threat to individuals and businesses alike. These attacks could result in serious consequences from lost access for the user to personal information being made public.

How It Works

Rather than functioning as a reaction to a successful attack, this form of cyber security is all about preventing any successful data breaches before things go south. Email security safeguards access to electronic messaging accounts.

It also may identify a potentially harmful email message and flag it as dangerous before a user ever opens it and falls victim to its intended attack.

Some measure of security is typically included with any email service provider. However, there are additional safeguards that an individual or business can put in place.

e-mail security statistics

The Importance of Email Security Solutions

Better security is always a plus. But you may not be completely convinced about why you should add “enhance email security” to the top of your list. After all, you’ve probably been using these accounts for years with little to no problems.

But email threats are more serious than you may know. And with such severe consequences for one wrong click on a link, things could go very wrong and very quickly.

Here are just a few reasons you should put some time and perhaps money toward beefing up security for your inbox.

Sensitive Data Is Passed Through Email

Messaging accounts seem to be the backbone of any individual or business’s affairs. From negotiating the terms of a contract to filing your taxes, so much happens over these electronic messages.

You may not be trading secrets of state, but do you really want a hacker combing through all your communications? Of course not. But the only way to stop them is to ensure they never gain access in the first place.

Email Is Commonly Targeted for Phishing Attacks

With so much sensitive data stored in our inboxes, it’s no wonder that this form of communication is such a common target for attackers and phishing campaigns. After all, a phishing attack just needs to get a user’s credentials, and soon they have a close look into their life and business.

Malicious email attachments with malicious code are sent out every day to users worldwide. Your inbox is no exception, and your spam folder may get more additions than you even realize. While the number of spam emails is going down, they still account for over 40% of email traffic.

With accounts being such a common target, security is crucial to keep successful attacks at zero. There’s truly never been a better time to protect email accounts — well, except for yesterday.

Some proactive email security measures

Breaches Can Be Disastrous

Hackers who gain access to your accounts are suddenly privy to endless information about you or your business. But it’s not just the information. The accounts themselves are valuable as well. If you’re blocked from your account, the hacker can then use it for nefarious activities that would damage your reputation.

And once there’s a breach, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to recover. Save yourself the trouble by protecting your accounts before the attackers can strike.

Standard Protections Are Often Lacking

You may be familiar with the standard security measures that email service providers offer. You may even have the more advanced options like Microsoft Exchange Online Protection. However, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol that providers use and their protections often aren’t enough to guard against more advanced threats.

You can’t count on your email server to protect you the way you’d protect your own accounts. A basic spam filter can only do so much, and that’s when it’s time to step up and implement more advanced security policies.

Cyber Criminals’ Tactics Are Only Improving

The email-borne threats of old are now child’s play. Cybercriminals are only growing in sophistication and they are ready to pounce at the smallest crack in your security system. You may think you or your employees can spot malicious URLs, but you’d be surprised at how deceptive and cunning hackers are.

Between the improved methods and their growing numbers, the statistical likelihood of you dodging their attacks by sheer luck is shrinking. Don’t rely on luck — use stronger email security measures.

Benefits of email security

The Benefits of Proper Email Security

So we’ve convinced you it’s time to start beefing up security around your email services. But for all this time and money spent on further protections, you’re probably wondering what precisely you’ll get.

Here are just some things your system will offer:

Protect Potentially Sensitive Information

From corresponding with your therapist to sharing your business client’s information with your colleagues, your email account contains information that should remain private. Multiple studies show that clients are likely to defect from a business or avoid doing business with a company that they don’t trust to protect their data.

Proper security is the only wait to protect your reputation for being someone others trust and keep your own information away from curious eyes.

Identify Suspicious Activity

With basic service provider protections, you may just get a spam filter and log-in security. From there, it’s up to the user to discern if the email communications they receive are suspicious or determine if their email account has been hacked.

But with proper security, suspicious activity will be identified and stopped before it goes any further. This might include identifying when outbound email traffic is abnormal, like spotting suspicious links or bulk messages. It may also spot suspicious login sessions and prevent a hacker from accessing the account.

Make Access Easier for Permitted Users

A common tactic for securing personal and business email accounts is to limit access to particular devices. This is doubly beneficial because you hurt the cybercriminals while helping yourself.

If only your authorized devices can access your email account, that severely limits a hacker. However, this makes access easier for you when you’re on authorized devices.

Strengthen Protections Against Phishing, Spam, and Zero Day Threats

With so many types of random and targeted attacks out there, you want to be sure your security system can protect against them all.

Thankfully, email security can protect against many of them, including:

  • Phishing emails
  • URLs and attachments with malicious software
  • Ransomware
  • Spam
  • Business email compromise (BEC)

And even if there’s a novel threat your system hasn’t witnessed, it can identify suspicious activity and provide more protection.

Have Security That’s Always Ready

You’re not always thinking about protecting email accounts, but hackers can strike and steal sensitive data at any moment. But have no fear, for email security works around the clock to protect your confidential information and accounts.

What Are the Different Types of Email Security?

Now you know the basics of email security, but you’re probably wondering, “How do I use email security?”

Here are some types of email security tools to be on the lookout for:

Spam Filters for Potential Email Threats

Spam filtering analyzes inbound traffic for email attacks. If it spots malicious links, attachments, or suspicious activity, the email will be sent to a spam folder rather than your primary inbox. This limits the potential for human error.

Anti-Virus Protection

Even when equipped with a spam filter, hackers may still be able to deliver malware to a user’s inbox or a user may stumble on their message by mistake. When that happens, you need virus protection to block their delivery completely.

Anti-virus protections offer secure email gateway scans. When you have a secure email gateway, the software keeps each malicious email from ever reaching your eyes for a potential click on email messages filled with phishing attacks.

Multi-Factor Authentication

If corporate email account credentials are stolen, multi-factor authentication can avoid successful unauthorized access. Hackers often use credentials in a phishing attack. But with multi-factor authorization, additional obstacles are put in place so that a password alone isn’t enough for access. This could mean location parameters, biometric data requests, or having physical authorization.

Sender Authentication

With domain spoofing, hackers may pretend to be domain owners to communicate with you and trick you into sending sensitive data. However, with protections like Domain-Based Message Authentication and a Sender Policy Framework, your system will ensure that a sender is truly who they claim to be.

Encrypt Messages

In any security system, there have to be measures that account for human error. Outbound messages can be misdirected, either through an attack or a simple mistake on the end of your employee.

Not to worry — an automated email encryption solution is there to ensure only intended recipients will actually be able to access a message’s sensitive information. With email encryption, the data itself is secure by restricting access.

As an automated tool, the email encryption software analyzes the contents of a message to determine if it’s sensitive. If there’s sensitive information, it’s encrypted so it’s unreadable without granted access.

Training

When we discuss “what is email security?” it’s important to note that solutions don’t stop with technology. Phishing attacks thrive on human mistakes to open the door to sensitive information. If email security measures don’t include training for users on how to spot cyber attacks from dedicated cyber criminals, it will fail as an email security solution.

Take a course on spotting phishing attacks and strengthening your passwords or provide one to employees.

Prepare for the Worst — Backup Your Files

Ideally, all these solutions would work as a foolproof plan to protect your accounts. However, in cybersecurity, there’s no such thing as an absolutely foolproof system. Good email security recognizes this and prepares in the event of a successful attack.

When one malicious attachment could be the difference between a business running normally and a reputation and profits disaster, backups are critical. In the event of a ransomware attack, your files could be held hostage for weeks, disrupting your normal business activities.

However, if you’ve backed up critical files rather than keeping them in email accounts or accounts tied to your email, the threat is greatly minimized. This way, you can still access the files you need, even in the case of a ransomware attack.

Of course, backup files aren’t immune in the case of a sophisticated ransomware attack.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while setting up your backup protocols:

  • Have Multiple Backups. The more the merrier! With only one backup, you increase the likelihood that phishing attacks could sabotage your emergency plan.
  • Keep Backups in Different Places. With unique protections for each location, you minimize a hacker being able to take everything in one attack.
  • Test Your Backups. How is your security plan holding up? If you spot cracks in the armor, it’s time to update.
  • Restore Regularly. One session of backing up won’t do the trick. Schedule events ahead of time to restore everything.

Protect Your Communications

With confidential data being sent across email messages and the common service provider lacking the security policies to keep your accounts protected, it’s time to take email security into your own hands.

Now that you know the answers to “What is email security and how can I implement it?”, your account can get the protection it needs.

Good email security covers everything from employee education available in security awareness training to a secure email gateway and email encryption software.

With these protections, you can rest assured your accounts are safe when you enact the proper measures. Learn more about how you and your employees can keep accounts secure and information protected.