Email is one of the most common methods of communication for organisations of all types. It is easy and fast and offers the ability to include things like links, images, and other files in your messages. What's more, email is integrated with a range of other digital workplace features in modern business software, so it is an integral part of day-to-day operations.
A large percentage of modern cyberattacks start with an email, so both organisations and individuals need to take steps to prevent falling victim to cybercrime via email systems. But email is also very vulnerable to online threats from hackers and other cybercriminals. Hackers can exploit its open nature in various ways to intercept communications or deliver harmful malware to unsuspecting users.
What is email protection?
Email protection refers to a range of security measures that Companies can introduce to computer networks to prevent employees from being compromised via email.
The types of email threats include:
- Phishing scams
Email protection measures help to prevent these threats from occurring. For example, secure email gateways (also known as spam filters) divert all inbound emails suspected to be spam or harmful into a separate inbox to avoid the user's primary inbox being cluttered. Antivirus software can scan these inbound emails for links, attachments and even images that contain known malware.
These are just a couple of the measures available in email protection. Many email platforms already have a version operating to help users, but it can pay to deploy an all-in-one system for the most effective email protection.
Does email need protection?
Despite its almost universal use, email has very little in the way of inherent measures to protect users. This is why our inboxes frequently become clogged up with marketing emails - companies acquire our email addresses and send their newsletters and other marketing materials directly to our inboxes.
Of course, the same information can be accessed by more malicious people. The most common email-based scam is phishing. Phishing is where the sender deploys messages en masse to entice the recipient to click on a link or download an attachment. The email might claim to be from a recognised authority such as a bank or retailer, asking the recipient to click a link and enter personal information like credit card details to verify a 'transaction'. In reality, the user unwittingly gives away their card details so that the sender can steal money from them.
Alternatively, the email may direct the recipient to download an attachment that installs malware on their system. This type of attack has done significant damage to organisations worldwide, locking them out of their systems, stealing confidential data or demanding a ransom in exchange for something. In any case, these are attacks that you do not want to fall victim to.
The other vulnerability of email is that it does not have end-to-end encryption. Unsecured email means that your outbound communications could be intercepted by hackers who could then access the content of those emails. This can lead to damaging data leaks that no company - or individual, for that matter - needs to experience.
How does email protection work?
Email protection primarily focuses on the prevention of attacks - it is proactive rather than reactive. Since most of the malicious content arrives in emails, an email protection system aims to stop these emails from reaching the inbox of the unsuspecting user.
The system mentioned above of secure email gates and antivirus scanners is the primary method of achieving this. The email gates are AI-powered and based on an enormous database of known senders, content types, and other factors that indicate scan or questionable content. They filter all suspicious emails into a separate inbox where users can still view them but will know to be warier of potential threats. With the added strength of antivirus scanning, which also relies on an extensive database of known malware, emails containing links, images, and attachments will be scanned and deleted if they have malware.
The other two elements of email protection are:
- Encryption for outbound emails.
- Making it impossible for anyone who intercepts a communication to understand the content.
Third-party encryption of emails makes it impossible for anyone but the sender and receiver to view the content. Training people to recognise potentially harmful emails reduces the risk of anyone allowing malware into the system.
Altogether, it amounts to a comprehensive system of protection for your email; this should not be overlooked because email is a popular target for hackers and scammers. If you or your organisation deals with sensitive data of any kind in your computer networks, and email is a part of your operations, you must have adequate email protection to keep you safe.