Best Practices for Choosing the Right Email Security Software
Great news! Amazon Prime Day is here and Amazon is offering a $150 Bonus Credit! The key is to use it before it expires, so click here and enter some basic information to claim your credit. Happy shopping!
Sound familiar? How about this one:
Hi, John. There’s an issue with your Amazon Prime subscription. But you can fix it in a few minutes by updating your billing information. Click here to get started.
Hackers descend on Amazon Prime Day like a swarm of locusts every year, hoping to take advantage of eager shoppers and watchers. The above messages are just two examples of how they try to grab your attention via email and then lead you to a fake site to enter sensitive credentials.
The prevalence of these kinds of scams has led Steve Bernas, the CEO and president of the Better Business Bureau for Northern Illinois and Chicago, to issue the following warning: “It’s really a big day for the scammers. Retail experts say Prime Day nets more sales for Amazon than Black Friday. For the crooks, that’s great rip-off potential.”
Bigger than Amazon
Only a few things are bigger than Amazon, and email scams may be one of them. The lure of a great deal and the fear of missing out are just two of several ways hackers trick unsuspecting users into doing something they wouldn’t otherwise do.
Email-based attacks come in various forms—phishing, spear phishing, vishing, whaling, etc.—but with the right security software, combined with regular user awareness training, you can safeguard your organization from unrelenting predators.
Understanding the Benefits of Email Security Software
Adequately protecting your email account is a two-pronged approach:
- Proactive protection: The first involves steps you take to make sure no one can hack your account, such as using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication. This prevents a hacker from sending emails in your name or going through your inbox to look for sensitive information.
- Automated protection: The other uses software, which provides automated, multi-layered protection based on the latest threat intelligence, to guard your organization against spam, malware, and other email-based security risks.
How Email Security Software Protects Users
Email security software filters out communications from hackers trying to steal information. Granted, if you or your team members know how to spot fraudulent emails, you can stay away from the threats on your own, but because attackers’ methods have become more and more sophisticated, it’s getting harder to detect fake emails without the help of software.
To illustrate, let’s use an example.
Suppose you get two fraudulent emails, both of which pretend to be from a bank you use, Bank of America. Both are saying you need to click a link to change your password because there’s been a data leak that may have exposed your login credentials.
One of the emails has a few grammatical errors, the Bank of America font isn’t quite right, and the color scheme seems a little off, too. Instantly, you can tell something’s not right. You ignore the email and send it to your trash.
The other email is spot on. Everything’s perfect, from the grammar to the color scheme, to the fonts to the wording. There’s also a legitimate Bank of America phone number at the bottom. The email looks legit in every possible way. You don’t see any harm in clicking the link and you start moving the cursor to do so.
Email security software prevents you from being put in this position in the first place. Here’s how: Both emails came from illegitimate URLs, and an email security solution can detect fake URLs and send them to your trash or spam folder straight away, removing the temptation to click altogether.
Because the software kept the email out of your primary inbox, you can’t unwittingly divulge sensitive information.
Key Features of Email Security Software
Email security software comes with powerful features that protect users from hackers. These include:
Spam filters work by flagging and getting rid of emails containing spam. They look for specific spammy elements, such as:
- Email header data that indicates the email came from a malicious actor. The header data isn’t visible unless you choose to view it using a feature such as Gmail’s “Show Original” menu option. But an email security system automatically searches for that information to determine if the email came from a spammer
- Fake URLs, such as “yah00.com” with two zeroes instead of “yahoo.com”
- Emails from known spammers—or those included in a blacklist that’s constantly updated
- Spammy content, such as text about offers, deals, or language designed to pressure someone into clicking
Antivirus email protection is similar to regular antivirus software in that it scans the content of the email for potential viruses, including viruses in attachments that automatically get installed on the user’s device as soon as the attached file is opened. Antivirus programs can also detect malware hidden inside images. Once malware is identified, the software automatically discards the email.
Business Email Compromise (BEC) Protection
A business email compromise (BEC) attack—also known as impostor email or CEO fraud—involves a hacker sending an email that appears to be from someone in your organization—someone whom you’d assume would be authorized to request sensitive information. Typically, the attacker would impersonate an executive, manager, or someone else authorized to receive sensitive data.
These kinds of attacks have drawn the attention of several branches of law enforcement, including U.S. authorities. For example, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently filed a lawsuit against a cybercriminal who allegedly stole $100 million using BEC. Even Facebook and Google have fallen victim to BEC and wire fraud.
BEC attacks use social engineering to take advantage of human frailty, and email security software protects against BEC threats by:
- Identifying fake URLs
- Checking the email’s content against a list of words or vocabulary generally used by BEC attackers
- Preventing users from sending emails from high-level accounts using unauthorized devices
Content and Image Control
Email protection software can detect malicious content and images using filtration systems that scan what’s inside each message. By blocking emails that contain dangerous content, email security software prevents recipients from clicking on something that could be a threat.
Hackers may try to steal data by intercepting emails sent or received over unsecured connections. But because email security software encrypts data sent in emails, only the intended recipient can decode the message and read it.
9 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Email Security Solution for Your Organization
Now that you know the value the right email security solution can provide, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing one:
- Ease of deployment: The solution should be simple and quick to deploy across your organization. Your provider may include deployment as part of their service package.
- Scalability and customization: Your email security system should support scaling up or down as needed, such as if you have to add short-term employees during a busy season. Customization is equally important because it enables you to adjust settings for individual users, teams, or groups.
- Ability to prevent a wide range of threats: The more threats your system blocks, the better.
- Ability to keep up with the evolving threat landscape: Your email solution should get the latest threat information, such as tactics, URLs, and IP addresses, from a reliable threat intelligence platform. In this way, it can block more attacks—even those that are relatively new.
- Protection across devices: Your solution should guard both handheld and desktop devices. Each user should be able to use as many devices as they need, moving seamlessly from one to the next as they use email.
- Low learning curve: Your email security should be easy to learn, so employees can start using it right away.
- Strong return on investment: Your solution of choice should pay dividends, whether in terms of blocking a wide range of threats or saving employees time dealing with spam.
- Compliance: Not complying with data security and management regulations comes at a serious cost. Ensure your security solution complies with any applicable standards.
- Reliability and authority: A dependable solution often comes with a track record of success. By choosing a reliable provider, you also benefit from their commitment to continue providing top-notch products and services.
Secure Your Email Environment
Whether it’s Amazon Prime time or just another day at the office, email security software can provide comprehensive protection against email-based attacks. Just make sure your solution is frequently updated so it can pick up the latest threat information and keep you aligned with compliance regulations.
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