Enterprise email security refers to the various technologies and processes that organizations use to protect their email systems and networks from unwanted or malicious email, including spam, phishing, and malware. This can include email filtering, encryption, multi-factor authentication, and other security mechanisms to help ensure the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of email communications.
Why Is Enterprise Email Security Important?
Enterprise email security is important because email is a commonly used tool for communication and information exchange in businesses. Without proper security measures, email systems and sensitive information transmitted through emails can be vulnerable to attacks that can result in data breaches, loss of sensitive information, financial loss, and damage to the organization’s reputation.
Enterprises must understand the security level of their email environment. Implementing effective email security helps to protect the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of sensitive information, maintain the privacy of email communications, and safeguard the organization against potential legal and regulatory consequences.
Common Tools Used to Secure Email Systems
There are several types of tools used to secure email systems, including:
Anti-spam filters: Block unwanted and unsolicited emails.
Anti-virus software: Detects and removes malware from incoming and outgoing emails.
Encryption: Protects sensitive information by converting it into a code.
Multi-factor authentication: Verifies the identity of users before allowing access to email accounts.
Email gateway appliances: Offer an additional layer of protection against external threats. These help implement email-specific security standards.
DLP (Data Loss Prevention) software: Prevents sensitive information from being sent through emails.
Email firewalls: Filter and block malicious traffic to email systems.
Best Practices to Strengthen Your Enterprise Email Security
Creating Backups and Securing the Email Gateway
Securing the email gateway can include implementing firewall software, intrusion detection and prevention systems, or other security controls to help block malicious traffic and prevent unwanted access to the email system in case of a successful cyber attack.
Creating backups involves regularly saving copies of important data, such as email messages, to a separate location. This can include backing up email messages to a separate server or cloud-based storage service, as well as creating regular snapshots of the email system itself.
Having backups is important in case of any disaster or cyber attack that would compromise the email system, it allows organizations to restore the system and data quickly and minimize the damage.
Implement Email Security Standards
Email security protocols help to ensure that only legitimate email messages are delivered to an organization’s inboxes, while blocking those that are malicious or fraudulent. For example:
DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): An email authentication method that allows the person receiving the email to check that it was actually sent by the domain it claims to be sent from, and that it hasn’t been modified during transit. It does this by attaching a digital signature to the email headers which can be verified by the recipient’s mail server.
SPF (Sender Policy Framework): An email validation system designed to prevent email spam by detecting email spoofing. This authentication method allows the person receiving the email to verify that it was sent from an authorized IP address.
DMARC (domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance): An authentication protocol for emails, designed to enable email domain owners to protect domains from unwanted use, commonly known as email spoofing. DMARC allows a domain owner to publish a policy in the DNS that specifies which mechanism(s) an email message should pass and what to do if it fails the evaluation.
Using Email Encryption
Encrypting emails and attachments helps to protect potentially sensitive data and assets by ensuring that they can only be read by authorized individuals. Email encryption involves converting the plain text in an email into an obfuscated message that is only readable by someone with the correct decryption key.
Encryption can be applied to email messages in transit and at rest. When an email is in transit, it may travel through multiple servers, networks, and devices before it reaches its intended recipient. Encrypting attachments is also an important practice. Attachments can contain sensitive or confidential information, and if they are not encrypted, they can be intercepted and read by unauthorized individuals.
Maintaining Email and Endpoint Hygiene
Email hygiene refers to the process of filtering incoming and outgoing email messages to identify and block those that contain malware, spam, or other malicious content. This often involves using a variety of techniques such as spam filters, antivirus, and sandboxing, which can detect and thwart malware before it reaches the inboxes of employees.
Endpoint hygiene refers to the process of securing the devices and systems that employees use to access email and other network resources. This can include installing and regularly updating endpoint security software like antivirus and antimalware, as well as implementing security policies like password management and device encryption.
MFA (short for multi-factor authentication) adds an additional layer of security to the user login process, making it harder for an unauthorized user to gain entry to an organization’s email systems and network resources. It requires the user to provide two or more forms of identification in order to access an account or system. This might include a password (or something else that a user exclusively knows) and a physical attribute like a security token or a fingerprint.
Because MFA requires multiple modes of identification, attackers will find it much harder to access an account, even if they have obtained a password. MFA can be applied to various systems like email, network resources, and other applications. By implementing MFA, organizations can reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack, as well as help to protect sensitive information and assets.
Providing Security Awareness Training
Awareness training is a best practice for enterprise email security because it helps to educate employees about the different types of cyber threats that they may encounter in their email inboxes, and how to recognize and avoid them. This can include training on topics such as phishing, spam, and malware, as well as on the specific policies and procedures that the organization has put in place to protect against these threats.
By providing employees with the knowledge and skills they need to identify and respond to threats, organizations can help reduce the likelihood of a successful cyber attack. This can be done through various mediums like interactive e-learning, simulated phishing attack, classroom training and others.
Enterprise email security is a critical component of protecting an organization’s systems and data from cyber threats. There are several best practices that organizations can implement to help reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack and protect sensitive information and assets.
These best practices include awareness training, email and endpoint hygiene, increasing phishing awareness, using multi-factor authentication, using email security protocols, encrypting emails and attachments, and securing the email gateway and creating backups.
By implementing these best practices, organizations can empower their employees to be part of the solution, rather than a potential vulnerability, reduce the risk of a successful cyber attack, and help to protect sensitive information and assets. Additionally, implementing these practices can also help organizations comply with various regulations and standards.
About the Author
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Imperva, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Check Point, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. Today he heads Agile SEO, the leading marketing agency in the technology industry. Connect with Gilad on Linkedin.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.