5 Email Security Tools to Protect Your Business
Email serves a critical function in the operation of most businesses, yet it was never designed to be a secure method of communication. Internal security protocols and robust employee education can help decrease the likelihood of an email breach, but human error is inevitable. Email security tools fill the gap between intention and execution, defending your business.
Why Businesses Need Email Security
Email security tools provide consistent protection against internal and external data breaches. Many instances of insider threats to organizations can be traced back to user e-mail usage. Whether it’s an accidental data loss event caused by an incorrectly typed email address, or a malicious insider using their email to exfiltrate sensitive data, protecting email communication is an essential part of cybersecurity.
Contain Outbound Email-Based Data Breaches
An outbound email-based data breach occurs, on average, every 12 working hours. Of these data breaches, 33% cause financial damage, and 25% lead to regulatory audits or inspections. Yet, 62% of organizations still rely primarily on employees to self-report outbound email-based data violations and breaches.
Malicious insiders can use email to exfiltrate valuable intellectual property, including trade secrets. In one memorable case, an engineer stole 8,000 files from GE, earning a prison term of 87 months.
Negligence or unintentional errors are difficult to avoid without email security tools, and carry a high penalty. The ICO penalized a UK organization, fining them £200,000 ($278,552) for directly addressing an email rather than using bcc. This employee error accidentally revealed the names and email addresses of people involved in public hearings on child sex abuse.
Repel Malicious Actors
Email is a popular attack vector for many types of malicious activity. Social engineering and malware delivery via email is the primary attack vector in 30-35% of data breaches.
Types of Email Attack
Threat agents utilize a variety of email attack strategies to penetrate organizational defenses.
- Social Engineering
Attackers often begin their assault by attacking the weakest point in any organization – the human element. Social connectedness and reciprocity are foundational elements of a successful business; threat agents attempt to exploit these principles, tricking users into taking the desired action.
Phishing is a type of generalized email attack that depends upon creating a sense of fear or urgency and provoking an immediate reaction in line with the attacker’s goals.
Spearphishing is a form of highly-targeted email attack that relies on some form of ‘insider’ information about the target to establish credibility.
Malware is software used to cause harm or loss, often delivered through an attachment or a link in an email. Once installed, it carries out a predefined function, such as exploring for network vulnerabilities, logging keystrokes, or (in the case of ransomware) blocking access to critical files and demanding compensation to return control.
- Domain Spoofing
In domain spoofing attacks, malicious actors lend credibility to their email by imitating a legitimate sender. By the time the victim realizes their mistake, the damage is likely already underway.
What is Email Security?
Email security is a system of defenses that counteract the inherent insecurity of electronic mail communication. A robust security strategy protects email from interception, loss, or alteration, and reduces the risk of infiltration by malicious external actors.
Types of Email Security
A business email security system can consist of many different types of protection.
Malicious actors can intercept unencrypted emails and use the content, attachments, or identifying information to target their attacks more effectively. Encryption is a form of disguise, rendering the message incomprehensible to anyone but the legitimate recipient.
In-transit encryption only protects data in motion. It does not disguise the contents of an email or attachment once it has landed on a server. Most emails go through multiple servers or destinations which may not be as secure as the final destination, so in-transit encryption is generally considered insufficient protection for sensitive or secure data.
End-to-end encryption (E2EE) disguises the contents of an email message from the time it leaves the sender to arrival at its final destination, maintaining security throughout the entire journey. The protection provided by end-to-end encryption extends to attachments.
A spam filter is a set of rules that are used to examine each incoming email and make decisions about whether or where the message should be delivered. The main purpose of a spam filter is to block unwanted emails, not necessarily to detect threats.
Basic spam filters may flag emails in other languages or that overuse specific phrases, as well as blacklisting specific email addresses. More advanced spam filters can verify the legitimacy of the message’s origin point by scanning the information contained in the email header, while Bayesian spam filters can learn to identify spam more accurately after observing user activity.
Anti-virus software is a security product designed to detect and block malicious software, including the suspicious links and attachments that attackers deliver through legitimate-seeming emails. An alert system helps administrators understand and manage each detected threat.
Image files attached or inserted into an email are another potential source of attack. Image control features scan the content of all attached or inserted images in order to block inappropriate or unsafe content.
Best Email Security Tool Features
The best email security tools use multiple diverse features to provide consistent protection for every email vulnerability.
E2EE Encryption of Outgoing Mail
Basic protection from interception is provided by tools that encrypt the content, header, and attachments of all outgoing messages.
Filtering and Detection of Incoming Mail
To ensure email security, a quality email security tool must feature powerful spam filters and anti-virus software. Advanced products may also include image control features.
Track Source Domain
Monitoring employee email use helps defend against data breaches stemming from both intentional and accidental data exfiltration. Email monitoring software can track incoming and outgoing emails to ensure sensitive data isn’t falling into the wrong hands; and, in some cases, even block users from downloading attachments or clicking links received from suspicious addresses, or stop users from accidentally sending confidential information outside of the company.
Exclude Personal Accounts
Email monitoring and security systems can be controversial among employees, who are understandably concerned about maintaining their privacy. The ability to exclude personal accounts from organizational oversight is an essential email security tool feature.
Issue Risk Alerts
Judicious use of alert systems can help encourage security-aligned behavior from users while giving administrators the advance notice they need to prevent risky activity before it becomes a breach.
Block Compromising Behavior
Advanced email security solutions offer features that automatically block compromising user behavior, such as attaching protected files to emails or clicking on a link from a blacklisted sender, reducing the risk of digital defense penetration.
How Email Security Tools Protect Your Business
Email security tools defend your business against costly data breaches, regulatory penalties, and the loss of valuable data.
Analysis of Behavior to Detect Threats
Threat activity follows a different pattern than the flow of normal, everyday business activity. With advanced pattern recognition and risk assessment capabilities, behavioral analytics are one of the most important email security tools used to protect businesses. Leveraging the power of machine learning, AI, and big data, email security software with behavioral analytics can alert organizations to patterns of risky behavior, trace troublesome trends back to their origin points, and suggest responses.
The most advanced email security tools for businesses provide further insight into threat patterns with graphic representations and advanced reporting, displaying alert timelines and heat maps to inform email security measures.
Data Leaks Prevention
Spam filters and anti-virus software provide a basic level of protection from incoming attacks. However, misdelivery, where sensitive or protected data is inadvertently sent to an unintended recipient, often as an attachment in an email, is the primary factor in 5-10% of data breaches. Many email security tools can be configured to prompt users for confirmation of email address and attachments before the message is sent.
Protection of Trade Secrets and Intellectual Property
More robust email security measures include total data loss protection (DLP) services. DLP tools scan, categorize, and tag sensitive data within your business, and allow customization of the rules that govern the use of that. When unauthorized activity occurs, such as the access of protected files, instantaneous alerts allow administrators to take immediate action. With the best email security tools, businesses can block the attachment of critical files to prevent the exfiltration of trade secrets and intellectual property.
Adherence to Governance Requirements
Businesses that collect, store, and share sensitive or protected data are governed by internal security policies as well as external governmental and industry-specific regulations.
Internal Security Policy
Internal security protocols are developed to defend a business according to its resources and priorities. An email security tool with customizable rules can be used to ensure the consistent implementation of internal security protocols.
Compliance with data privacy regulations is a critical concern for any business. Organizations may be required to verify their compliance on an ongoing basis and may be subject to audits or investigations in the wake of an incident. Email security tools with comprehensive session capture and immutable logs quickly and easily provide the necessary proof required by regulatory bodies, saving your business time and effort.
Identification of Training Needs
Relevant, appropriate training on data and privacy regulation is a requirement for all organizations operating in the EU and UK. Insights gathered through email monitoring inform data-based decisions about your employee education strategy and allow customization of training programs to match organizational priorities.
Productivity Benefits of Email Security Tools
In addition to supporting a secure digital environment, email security tools also contain monitoring functions that support business development.
Measurement of KPIs
In departments such as sales or customer service, key performance indicators may include response rate, number of outgoing emails, or adherence to internal communication standards. A high-quality email monitoring software allows instant access to the information needed to evaluate the performance of teams, departments, and individuals.
Evaluation of Workload
Number of emails sent/received does not necessarily correspond to productivity levels, but it is a data point worthy of inclusion in wider workload evaluation efforts. The best email monitoring systems collect, index, and display this data in easily accessible reports, charts, and graphs.
5 Email Security Tools to Protect Your Business
Business email security software strengthens organizational defenses and automates protective measurements.
- Robust email security tool features content and action-based behavior rules, user activity monitoring, productivity analysis, OCR-based sensitive data detection, SIEM integration, and basic behavioral analytics.
- Advanced filtering places email risks in context, allowing administrators to sort organization-wide activity by user, department, or alert type.
- Fully customizable reports make it easy for your business to fulfill internal and external governance requirements, as well as provide actionable productivity insights related to email activity.
- Session-level recording enhances the investigation of risky patterns or security incidents.
- Individually enable or disable recording sessions, or choose to record only during violations.
- Intelligent email data loss prevention capabilities prevent common errors like misattachment and misdelivery as well as exfiltration by malicious actors.
- Does not support on-premise deployment
- Uses advanced email security and protection techniques to insulate businesses from risk, including reputational analysis and sandboxing.
- Does not provide productivity insights
- Includes productivity monitoring capabilities alongside email security features.
- Requires large amounts of storage
- Targeted insider threat detection product scalable up to 300,000 endpoints
- Veriato’s investigation and monitoring modules must be purchased separately
Annual global cybercrime costs are expected to reach $10.5 billion by 2025, and the likelihood of successful detection and prosecution may be as low as 0.05% in the US. Businesses cannot afford to rely on regulatory bodies, substandard technology, and luck to protect them from the devastation of a data breach. Take the safety of your business into your own hands by choosing an email security tool that combines advanced user activity monitoring and data loss protection features to ensure durable, portable protection of your business’s most valuable resources.