Table of contents
- Understanding the Importance of Email Security
- Communicating Email Security Best Practices to Employees
- #1 Use Corporate Email Only On Secure Devices
- #2 Create Strong Passwords
- #3 Don’t Use the Same Password Across Multiple Accounts
- #4 Change Your Passwords Regularly
- #5 Use Multi-Factor Authentication
- #6 Don’t Open Suspicious Emails
- #7 Use Secure Email Gateways
- #8 Avoid Using Public Internet
- #9 Don’t Share Your Private Details
- #10 Complete Your Cybersecurity Training
- Ensuring Privacy with Encrypted Email
- Secure Employee Communication Best Practices
- The Importance of Compliant Communication Software
- Cerkl Broadcast Software is Secure and Compliant
- What’s Next?
According to leading insurance and assurance companies, up to 91% of targeted cyberattacks start with an email. This is why email security needs to be a crucial element of every company’s cybersecurity strategy. Considering the vast volume of information shared via email in today’s digital age, the importance of secure and private communications cannot be overemphasized.
It stands to reason that heightened awareness of cybersecurity and employing the best practices in email security is a no-brainer. Not only can it save your company from data breaches and other cyber threats, thorough email security can prevent financial loss and reputation damage caused by email scams.
October is the annual Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and fittingly, the theme this year is Secure Our World. We’re going to explore this important topic in more detail. Amongst other things, we will share practical ways to communicate email security best practices to employees. We will also discuss the importance of encrypted email and how it ensures privacy and compliance in business communications.
Understanding the Importance of Email Security
Most of us are aware of the need to lock the front door of our homes. But have you ever given thought to the security of your digital house? While email is a fundamental tool for business communication, it is also one of the most vulnerable entry points for cybercriminals to gain access to personal, commercial, and financial information. Email security is crucial in keeping this sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
What is Email Security?
Email security incorporates various different techniques and methods that enable us to secure the access and content of an email account or service. Adopting email security protocols will reduce your vulnerability to security issues including multiple types of email scams. It involves everything from the use of strong, unique passwords to more complicated email encryption and phishing detection. Statistics show that phishing is the most common form of cybercrime, with an estimated 3.4 billion spam emails sent every day.
But as the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency points out, “staying safe online is easier than you think.” The key, of course, is to use email security best practices.
For instance, a secure email gateway filter will act as a defense line between the internet and your mail server. Designed to prevent unwanted and malicious emails, it will filter these out before they reach your inbox. Email authentication standards will, on the other hand, ensure, that emails claiming to have been sent from your email address actually were.
Why is Email Security Important?
In this digital age, cybersecurity awareness must be a constant priority. Email systems are an easy target for phishing attacks and email spoofing because they take advantage of users’ trust. Essentially, these planned attacks imitate a trusted source, encouraging the user to input sensitive information.
But email security isn’t just about keeping your email accounts from unauthorized access. It applies to your entire corporate network as well. Investing in employee training to recognize phishing emails, combined with tools that limit access to public Wi-Fi networks, will go a long way to ensuring your data stays secure.
At the same time, adopting best practices for email security isn’t a tick-the-box exercise. Rather, it requires an ongoing effort closely linked to the shift in hacker tactics. Some great options include encouraging employees to change passwords regularly, using multi-factor authentication, and critically examining all emails received. It’s a combination of practices like these that will keep corporate email secure.
There is no doubt that email security protocols are an important first step to keeping data secure from breaches. So, it is essential to stay informed and proactive about maintaining security in all your email activity.
Communicating Email Security Best Practices to Employees
A chilling thought is that approximately 85% of all data breaches are caused by some kind of employee error. According to research by Stanford University professor Jeff Hancock and security firm, Tessian, that doesn’t mean humans are the weakest link. Rather, there are reasons for human error that result in security repercussions, and it’s up to companies to recognize what these are. They include:
- Many (up to 85%) people respond to emails too quickly without assessing the email first.
- Simple distraction.
- Perceived legitimacy of emails that look authentic but aren’t.
- Fatigue and stress.
- The fact that employees aren’t all cybersecurity savvy even when they are experts in other fields.
The Stanford/Tessian research suggests simply taking a more human approach with employees in terms of training and policies. Furthermore, training should be tailored for different age groups to accommodate technological changes over different generations.
But, says Hancock, it’s important to also use “machine intelligent technology” to alert people in real-time about potential mistakes or phishing threats.
In a more recent report, Tessian states that 94% of companies experienced a spear phishing or impersonation attack in 2022. Email security best practices are crucial aspects of information security within a company. These practices are designed to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of email content from unauthorized access and cybercriminals.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance is focusing on four key behaviors for Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2023. All four are email security best practices:
- Strong passwords and a password manager
- Multi-factor authentication
- Recognition and reporting of phishing
- Updating software
Here are our top 10 email security best practices.
#1 Use Corporate Email Only On Secure Devices
One of the first email security protocols is to only utilize corporate emails on trusted devices. Employing devices that are secured with the latest antivirus and operating system updates substantially reduces the chances of security breaches in email accounts. Inevitably, employees’ business emails may contain sensitive information that could compromise the corporate network if accessed inappropriately or illegally.
#2 Create Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are an important key to ensuring email security. Employees should be urged to generate unique passwords infused with a mixture of alphanumeric and special characters. This makes it a bit more tough for malicious actors to guess and then gain access to your email accounts.
As the National Cybersecurity Alliance warns, if you use one password to secure multiple digital accounts, you’re asking for trouble. Imagine if it gets stolen because of a breach. It will then, in effect, become a “skeleton key for your whole cyber life.” That’s a scary thought.
This is why they recommend using password managers that generate new, long, unique, complex, and ultimately create secure passwords automatically. The obvious human reaction is that these failsafe passwords are too complicated to remember or, in some cases, write down accurately. The answer is to save the password on your computer so that it will remember it for you.
#3 Don’t Use the Same Password Across Multiple Accounts
Using the same password across various platforms is a common mistake that many people make. Keeping unique passwords for different sites significantly reduces the probability of hackers gaining access to all accounts simultaneously. Ideally, you should never use a duplicate password.
#4 Change Your Passwords Regularly
Changing passwords periodically is another of the most important email security best practices. A common recommendation is to change your passwords every 90 days, or even less, for optimal security. It might seem like an irritation, but if you get hacked you’ll probably be really angry and not just irritated!
#5 Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication is often referred to as either two-factor authentication or two-step verification. It’s become increasingly popular because it increases email security by requiring the account holder to provide two or more forms of identification for access.
One commonly used form of multi-factor authentication requires a code to be sent to a specific mobile device previously identified on the account in question. So, even if someone cracks your password, they are still going to need your phone to access your account.
Other forms include inputting an extra PIN or answering security questions to which you have previously provided answers. Biometric identifiers, especially facial recognition, are popular too.
#6 Don’t Open Suspicious Emails
Emails with an unusual subject line or received from an unknown sender could potentially be phishing scams aimed at stealing important data. Encourage employees to be vigilant and report any suspicious email received. Using an email gateway equipped with content filters can be hugely useful in lessening these email-borne threats.
#7 Use Secure Email Gateways
Secure email gateways provide a consolidated interface for managing email security. These gateways help to block spam, malware, and phishing attacks. They also ensure that email attachments are delivered securely to the intended recipient.
#8 Avoid Using Public Internet
One of the biggest risk factors of cybersecurity is to use internet access that is available to the public. It is a known fact that public Wi-Fi networks are hotspots for cyber-attackers, so don’t risk it. Also caution your employees against using any public Wi-Fi networks, however easy it may be to link into them. Explain the inherent security risks of public internet communications and make sure they know they must only use trusted Wi-Fi or a VPN to keep data secure.
#9 Don’t Share Your Private Details
Most people don’t share their most private details with strangers. But when it comes to emails, many people don’t realize the dangers of sharing private details via this method of communication unless there are strong security measures in place.
Generally, emails are not the place to share sensitive personal or business information.
Also, always be careful of email scams asking for sensitive data such as bank account details, passwords, and so on. Banks and other financial institutions will never ask you to supply this kind of information.
#10 Complete Your Cybersecurity Training
Employee training in cybersecurity awareness is a crucial aspect of email security best practices.
Resources like case studies, expert opinions, and interactive training programs can give employees the skills and knowledge they need to protect their corporate email and understand phishing attacks, email spoofing, and email encryption. But it’s up to employers to present these resources in a way that employees will want to read the information and learn from it.
Ensuring Privacy with Encrypted Email
If you ever doubted that email security is a top priority for both businesses and individuals in today’s digital age, take note of this. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2023 report, the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 is US$4.45 million, a 15% increase over three years. As a result, states the report, 51% of organizations are going to increase their security investments.
One of the most effective email security protocols is email encryption. This method protects your emails from unauthorized access by transforming the content into unreadable ciphertext.
What is Email Encryption?
Email encryption is a technology that conceals the content of your emails, making it inaccessible to cybercriminals and spies. Everything from the body of the email to its attachments and even the subject line could be encrypted. The data can only be decrypted and read by the intended recipient who has the correct decryption key. This way, even if a hacker gains access to your email account, they won’t be able to decipher the contents of the email.
Email encryption works on various features, including your email server, email gateway, and email address. It is an integral part of a comprehensive email security strategy that also includes other practices like multifactor authentication and frequently changing passwords.
Importance of Using Encrypted Email
Quite simply, encrypting your emails helps to prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. If you’re running a business, email encryption can help to protect your corporate email from phishing attacks and scams that could compromise your corporate networks. Even on a personal level, encrypting your emails can keep your data secure from identity thieves who use phishing emails to trick people into revealing their personal details. Identity theft is a huge risk on a personal level!
Email encryption also helps safeguard against malware and email spoofing. It helps deliver the trust your email recipients need to open and click your email marketing campaigns, assisting in increasing engagement and results. Ultimately, for any business using email marketing, encrypted emails can benefit both the business and subscriber email list.
How to Send and Receive Encrypted Emails
Sending an encrypted email requires both the sender and receiver to have either the same email encryption software or email service providers that support encryption. Before sending an email, the sender’s email client will use a specific algorithm to encrypt the email content. The receiver’s email client then decrypts the email using a special key that is provided by the sender.
As mentioned above, it’s worth noting that public Wi-Fi networks can be a huge security risk when sending or receiving emails. Hackers on the same network could potentially gain unauthorized access to your emails if they are not encrypted. So, as we have already said, always use a trusted Wi-Fi connection when sending sensitive information or consider using a virtual private network (VPN).
As encryption standards and techniques continue to evolve, it’s crucial to stay updated about various email authentication standards. It is also essential to act promptly and proactively when it comes to implementing these changes for enhanced email security.
Secure Employee Communication Best Practices
We live in a fast-developing digital age where cybercriminals are constantly finding innovative ways to breach security systems. However, implementing email security best practices can effectively protect corporate networks. You just need to know what to do.
Clear Communication Policies
No matter the size of your organization, having clear communication policies is vital. Some of the protocols that must be emphasized (and can never be over-emphasized) include:
- Not using public Wi-Fi for business email
- Never open doubtful email attachments – get back to the sender if you’re concerned
- Making use of gateway email content filter
Email Signature Standards
Email signature standards contribute significantly to maintaining email security. By setting standards, you can help prevent phishing scams and email spoofing. This also aids in the recognition of legitimate messages, which will enhance cybersecurity awareness.
Sensitive Information Handling
Handling sensitive information requires care and ultimate caution. Encryption software encrypts the data, making it unreadable to unauthorized access. Besides encryption, as we’ve already emphasized, multi-factor authentication and changing passwords often add extra layers of security.
Reporting Security Incidents
Incident reporting is a critical part of ensuring data security. Training employees to recognize and report security issues, like phishing emails or attacks quickly, helps to nullify the potential impact. However, the need for swift reporting doesn’t mean that information security should be compromised during the reporting process.
The Importance of Compliant Communication Software
Email security is paramount when it comes to protecting corporate networks from email-borne threats and phishing scams. Choosing compliant communication software is a pivotal step in maintaining the security of sensitive information. Email security protocols ensure your data remains secure by authorizing only permitted users to gain access.
What is Compliant Communication Software?
The strictest regulations were enacted by the European Union (EU) in 2018. Known as the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), they require that organizations keep data safe and give people control over how their data is used. Another function of the GDPR is to simplify the regulatory environment for international business. Even though this is an EU regulation, it may require compliance from companies outside the EU, including the U.S. For instance, if a U.S. citizen is living in an EU country when a company collects data that applies to this person, the GDPR will apply.
The GDPR doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens who live in the U.S. However, there are several regulations in the U.S. that offer some kind of protection. For instance, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), also introduced in 2018, controls the collection of personal data from those living in the state of California.
There’s also a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that explains how information and communication technology (ICT) products should conform to official ICT standards. The VPAT is important because it facilitates accessibility compliance and helps organizations make informed decisions. It also reduces legal and reputational risks and ultimately promotes a more inclusive and accessible digital environment for individuals with disabilities.
Predictably, responsible companies want to be sure that their software provider has the required certificates for security and compliance, so they are protected and their employee data doesn’t leak.
Cerkl Broadcast Software is Secure and Compliant
Broadcast was designed and built to maximize privacy and accessibility. Encryption is an important control and we utilize firewalls to manage access.
Our software is fully CCPA and GDPR compliant, ensuring your content is secure and users are safe. It also conforms to ICT standards based on the VPAT.
When it comes to Broadcast Email, we verify IP addresses via a reverse domain name system (rDNS). Then, when this is paired with sender authentication, deliverability is ensured.
Given the sophistication of modern threats, it makes 100% sense to invest in employee training. But it is just as important to adopt stringent email security best practices. Leveraging advanced security tools is key to protecting your corporate and individual email accounts. After all, being prepared and ensuring your employees are educated is your best defense against cyber threats.
We can help you upgrade your email system and maximize email security. If you want to be protected from cybercriminals, let’s talk.
It’s important that employees understand the fundamentals about email security best practices. This includes knowing the vulnerabilities that enable cybercriminals to gain access to important information. They also need to appreciate the fact that cybercriminals target personal and company information – anything that may potentially benefit them. So, for example, a company’s financial information and employees’ personal information are equally vulnerable.
Three types of email security that help us stay safe are encryption, spam filters, and email security best practices that employees need to follow.
There are several proven ways to ensure emails remain secure. These include creating strong passwords, changing passwords regularly, and being constantly aware of and reporting phishing threats. Multi-factor authentication adds another layer of security. Additionally, it’s important to use secure email gateways and to avoid opening incoming emails and attachments that look even vaguely suspicious. Another important email security protocol is encrypted email, making it inaccessible to cybercriminals.
Employees don’t need to understand the technology behind encrypted emails. Tech experts will set up systems and employees can continue to send and receive emails in the normal way.