7 Email Security Best Practices To Followon 4 September 2023
The first email was sent way back in 1969 and … email hasn’t changed much since.
One thing that has changed, though, is the frequency and complexity of email attacks. Today, phishing—which involves hackers sending spam messages containing malicious links—is the most common form of cybercrime. Cyber criminals send an estimated 3.4 billion spam emails with ill intent every day.
That’s why it’s critical that businesses large and small follow solid email security best practices, especially with the rise of remote work.
There’s no denying that remote work has many benefits, such as improved worker focus and productivity, and that it lowers real estate costs. However, allowing some or all of your workforce to telecommute does present some security concerns, especially for larger organisations.
“In a world where office boundaries have expanded to include our homes and other locales, enterprise email security is the cornerstone of a secure business environment,” says Guillaume van de Laar, CEO of CBDSense. “Security practices for email and other media shouldn’t be just policies—they should be part of your corporate DNA.”
Van de Laar often tells his team that security isn't a department—it's a responsibility. “It's a mindset that empowers every individual to act as a guardian of our corporate assets.”
So what email security best practices do business leaders share and follow in their organisations to keep their intellectual property and sensitive data safe? Keep reading to see their insights.
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7 Email Security Best Practices For Employees & Business Leaders
1. Use multifactor authentication.
Multifactor authentication (MFA) grants a user access to a program only once they’ve successfully presented two or more pieces of evidence to verify their identity through these methods:
- Knowledge—something only the user knows, like a password or pin number
- Possession—something only the user possesses, such as a key fob or token, or a text (if the user has a mobile phone)
- Inherence—something the user is, which typically involves a biometric identifier like facial or voice recognition
“MFA is a battle-tested way to help secure your company’s email,” says Matt Kinsey, chief information security officer of IT Fusion. “When someone logs in to their email, they must also, say, provide a code that is rotated on a phone app, or via SMS, to further identify themselves. With the increasing costs of compromised business email, adding MFA to your company’s email is essential.”
2. Employ anti-spam and anti-phishing tools.
Kinsey says anti-spam and anti-phishing tools reduce the number of fraudulent emails you receive. These tools use a combination of security techniques to identify spam and phishing emails, which attempt to gain information from you, and prevent them from being delivered to your inbox.
“Many tools in this security category also provide link and attachment protection to ensure that email links and attachments are safe, further improving your business email security,” Kinsey explains.
3. Avoid using the same password for different applications.
“One of the most important best practices for corporate email security is using unique passwords for every application,” says Dr. Te Wu, CEO of PMO Advisory. “It’s all too common for employees to use the same password across corporate systems and websites. When multiple accounts share the same credentials, all of them are vulnerable to attack if just one is compromised.”
Dr. Wu says bad actors are aware that trying a previously used password for one account on a compromised system is a common way to get access to additional accounts belonging to the same user. “To avoid this security risk, require that your staff use different, robust passwords for every account. A solution that can help is the use of a password manager or a single sign-on system.”
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4. Regularly update and patch your email client.
Rei Shen, founder of Success in Depth and former Amazon Engineer, says keeping your email client and operating system up to date is crucial for maintaining corporate email security.
“Software updates often include critical security fixes that address vulnerabilities exploited by hackers,” says Shen. “By promptly installing updates and patches, you minimise the risk of falling victim to common cyber threats.”
5. Encrypt your emails.
“End-to-end encryption ensures that only recipients who have the correct decryption keys may read the email,” says Jeff Mains, CEO of Champion Leadership Group. “This security method provides an additional safeguard, lowering vulnerability to snooping and other forms of unauthorised interference with communication. This is especially important in hybrid and remote workplaces, where emails may pass through several more networks and devices due to different geographies.”
6. Implement key email authentication protocols (SPF, DKIM, DMARC).
McKenna Yeakey, senior enterprise security engineer at Samsara, says email spoofing is a prevalent tactic used by cyber criminals to deceive recipients into wrongly believing a fraudulent email is from a legitimate source.
“Implementing email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC* help prevent such spoofing threats,” says Yeakey. “By verifying the authenticity of incoming emails, your organisation can drastically reduce the risk of falling victim to phishing scams and unauthorised access attempts.”
If you’re interested in technical information on these protocols, check out sender policy framework (SPF), DomainKeys identified mail (DKIM), and domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC).
7. Provide continuous education and training.
Business email security is ever-changing because cyber criminals change their tactics over time. Hence why van de Laar advises that in the “ever-changing landscape of cyber threats, ignorance isn’t bliss—it’s a risk. Ensure you have regular training sessions that keep your team vigilant and prepared as you never know when that next email could present a security vulnerability.”
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