Email is a powerful tool for business and personal communication, but it can also be a major vulnerability for an information system. After all, security architecture is about building layers of protection around your data. Emails must go through those walls to reach their recipients.
It’s also an area where finding the right balance between security and accessibility is essential for a successful implementation. Inadequate security leaves the organization vulnerable to threats that can cause significant financial or reputational harm. On the other hand, when cybersecurity measures prevent people from accessing tools and information they genuinely need to do their jobs, they start looking for ways to circumvent them!
The methods for compromising email security are many. Spam emails can contain malware or links that lead users to bogus websites that capture credentials and other sensitive information. Phishing attacks try to lure recipients into disclosing confidential information or taking harmful actions such as transferring money. Hostile parties can also use huge numbers of emails to overwhelm a company’s email servers, causing them to crash and thus preventing legitimate users – including customers – from communicating.
Cybersecurity Is Everyone’s Responsibility
While there are a number of security protocols that your email service provider or email administrator can implement to protect your company as a whole, there are also steps that individual users can take to limit their risks:
- Avoid sending highly confidential or sensitive information via email. If you must send such content, add an extra layer of encryption.
- Install anti-virus and malware detection software on any device that you use to read or send emails. Keep the definitions up-to-date and schedule regular system scans. Be cautious about having business emails sent to your phone or tablet.
- Don’t open email attachments unless you are sure who the sender is and are expecting the file. Scan attachments with anti-virus and/or malware detection software before opening them. Be especially cautious of emails that ask you to enable macros before opening attachments.
- Protect your business email address. Think carefully before posting your address on public websites or social media channels. Cybercriminals frequently scan such sites for email addresses. Limit your subscriptions to mailing lists and unsubscribe from lists you no longer care about.
- Learn to recognize phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering. Implement multi-factor authentication systems to verify the identity of a correspondent before taking action. Remember, while some attempts may be clumsy – using bad grammar or incorrect names, for example – cybercriminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
The ease and speed of email are why we like using it, but don’t let that sense of urgency tempt you into making bad choices. Take time to think before you act!
This is the first in a series of articles discussing some of the most commonly overlooked aspects of security architecture and cybersecurity compliance. Future articles will address employee training and awareness, automated updates and patches, documentation, and notification and filing requirements.