Why You Should Leave Email Security to the Professionals
Email remains a primary vector for cybersecurity threats. According to the Verizon Data Breach Incident Report, 94 percent of malware is spread via email, and phishing accounts for 80 percent of social engineering attacks. Losses associated with phishing attacks averaged $17,700 per minute in 2019, according to data from RiskIQ.
Clearly, organizations should take steps to protect their users from malicious emails, links and attachments. For many, that means installing an email security solution that blocks spam and prevents most malware from reaching inboxes. Such solutions are relatively easy to install, even for organizations that have limited cybersecurity expertise on staff.
These products are mature and very effective. Although spam still represents more than half of all email, and best-in-class email security tools block more than 99 percent of spam.
But spam filtering is only one element of email security. Two other critical questions need to be addressed:
- Does this email come from the person who claims to be the sender, and
- Has the message been altered in any way?
Answering these questions is a complex problem that’s best left to cybersecurity professionals.
Is the Email Sender Legitimate?
Let’s consider the first question. When we receive an email, we naturally assume that the person or domain listed in the “from” field is the sender. Unless there’s something suspicious about the email, we don’t scrutinize the header information. Even if we did, it might be hard to discern a “spoofed” email, particularly if the real sender’s email account has been hijacked.
That’s how business email compromise (BEC) works. In a BEC scam, a fraudster sends an email purporting to be from the company CEO, CFO or someone with financial authority. The victim, usually someone in accounting, is tricked into wiring money to a fraudulent bank account, paying a fraudulent invoice or sharing sensitive information. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, BEC is the most lucrative cybercrime, netting attackers $1.8 billion in 2019.
Luckily, there is a powerful tool that can keep fake emails out of inboxes. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) leverages the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) protocols to authenticate emails. DKIM attaches an encrypted verifier to the header of an email to prove that it’s from an authorized domain, and SPF provides a mechanism for organizations to allow their emails to be verified.
Problem is, DMARC is difficult to implement and can cause legitimate emails to be rejected if it’s not configured correctly. As a result, many organizations never turn on the DMARC enforcement capabilities in their email security tools.
Has the Email Been Altered?
Even if we can prove that the email sender is legitimate, we still don’t know if it has been modified in transit. We also don’t know if someone has been eavesdropping on the communication.
There are several ways hackers can pull off a man-in-the-middle attack.
- They can hijack email accounts
- Listen in on wireless networks
- Install malware that redirects email traffic
- After monitoring communications, they can use packet injection to insert malicious data into an email message.
The best way to avoid these scenarios is to encrypt and sign email. Email encryption involves “scrambling” the email into a format that can only be read by recipients with the private decryption key. Digitally signing an email works the opposite way — senders use their private key as verification of their signature. These techniques require an understanding of public / private key pairs and careful tuning of the email encryption system to prevent performance problems.
Losses associated with phishing attacks averaged $17,700 per minute in 2019, according to data from RiskIQ.
How GDS Can Help with Email Security
The point of all this is that email security is highly complex. It takes a lot more than installing a spam filter and antivirus software. If you do that, you’ll have some minimal protection, but you won’t have the kind of trusted and secure communication that is vital to business operations.
Global Data Systems has cybersecurity experts with extensive experience in email security. We employ a suite of tools from industry-leading vendors to fully protect your email communications. When you partner with GDS, you can rest assured that these tools will be implemented quickly and accurately, maintained properly, and monitored around-the-clock. We’ll handle everything from end to end so you can focus on your core business.
Doesn’t it make good sense to leave email security to the professionals?
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