How many times do we pause and think about an unsolicited email?
As critical emails are to business success, so is knowing that they come from a trusted source and not an impersonated one.
Remember how Sony Pictures’ corporate network was compromised in a phishing email scam, which risked the identity of more than 46,000[i] employees and contractors?
Likewise, while Hillary Clinton was running for the US presidential election, the election campaign email threads with her Democratic National Committee staff got leaked and were published by WikiLeaks.
Such high-level email security breaches clearly highlight how crucial is it to protect your email data from phishing attacks.
In this blog post, we discuss the best email security practices that will help you keep phishing attacks at bay.
Top 5 Email Security Best Practices
1. Use Reliable Email Passwords
Email accounts with weak passwords are more likely to face a breach. Moreover, people recycle their passwords across multiple email and social network accounts. If an attacker happens to get one password combination correct, they’ll be able to break into several accounts.
Therefore, as a best practice, you should encourage your employees to use a unique password for every account and update them on a regular basis. They should be asked to create unique and difficult passwords that:
a. Are a string of uncommon words/characters/numbers.
b. Are a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols.
c. Don’t entail usernames or personal information.
2. Educate Your Employees About Cybersecurity
To significantly improve your company’s cybersecurity posture, educate your teams so that they are ready to spot any potential signs of an attack. They should be aware of what a malicious email looks like and the consequences of clicking on phishing emails.
Organizations should conduct informative workshops on phishing email simulation and educate their employees on do’s and don’ts of opening email attachments.
Another thing employees should do is to check if the email URL contains the HTTP extension and whether it looks legitimate.
3. Watch Out For Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are sophisticatedly designed to trick employees into downloading malware that can leak sensitive business information.
Unfortunately, there is no way to stop phishing emails. The solution lies in educating the workforce not to respond to suspicious email attachments. Run regular phishing simulations to alert employees and notice their promptness in identifying such scams.
Ensure that your staff learns how to interact with emails and is able to:
a. Identify suspicious files and links
b. Assess the logic behind an unknown email message
c. Inspect the sender’s email address
d. Verify the grammar, business context, tone, etc in an email
4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) or Multi-Factor Authentication
Two-factor or multi-factor authentication requires an employee to provide additional credentials so that an extra layer of defense is added to their accounts.
2FA/MFA asks the employee to authenticate their identity by providing:
a. A unique token, card number.
b. A PIN or OTP received via text message, voice call, or email.
c. Biometric data i.e. eye, fingerprint, or face recognition.
d. A login confirmation from a mobile phone prompt.
This way you can ensure that a user’s account is secure even if their password gets compromised. It is one of the most straightforward and efficient methods of protecting your data.
5. Handle Email Attachments Carefully
Some of the cyber-attacks may be enclosed in email attachments with hidden executable files or programs. Since these files can inject malware into the system, you should ensure that your employees are able to identify suspicious attachments and ask themselves these questions before opening one:
a. Is the sender a trustworthy co-worker?
b. Is the format of the attachment legitimate or is it with an extension .exe, .msi, or .jar?
c. How often has the sender emailed an attachment?
d. Does the sender’s address look legitimate?
If there’s a doubt about the authenticity of such emails, prefer using endpoint encryption. These tools have anti-malware software and virus programs that can scan an email’s content for illegitimate links.
The Bottom Line
Cybercriminals will always be on the lookout to break into your organization’s integrity and steal crucial data. Thus, with phishing emails becoming more common, CISOs should step up to ensure that their organizational email inboxes are secure.
Following a mix of these best practices will help you mitigate email-based threats and safeguard your employees from falling prey to advanced-level phishing email attacks.
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