Email Security Gateway

Nathan Hill-Haimes

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    Email Security Gateway

    Email is the predominant form of communication for businesses the world over. Email usage and popularity have grown since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with so many more people working from home. Even before the increase in people working remotely, email provided cybercriminals with a route into company data. But with increased usage from off-site destinations, the threat to security has reached new heights.

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    The methods employed by cybercriminals evolve constantly. They are highly sophisticated and increasingly invasive, posing a greater danger than ever. The methodologies used by these crooks include phishing scams containing malicious attachments and links and posts on social websites. They lure employees into divulging information or pathways to information that can end up being the subject of ransomware, threatening data corruption or revelation.

    An average of 6 out of every 10 businesses experienced a cyber attack seeking a ransom in 2020, which resulted in a total of 6 working days being lost, which is more than twice the downtime caused in 2019.

    What is an email security gateway?

    Secure email gateways are designed to block pre-delivery email threats before they have a chance to get to the mail server on bespoke systems, Microsft’s Office 365, or Google’s Workspace or G-Suite software.

    A good email security gateway also protects employees from phishing attacks via social engineering and business email intervention.

    How does an email security gateway work?

    Email security gateways are configured to recognise malware, spam, and viruses by scanning all email communications, including internal correspondence and incoming and internal traffic, plus any attachments or URL links that could prove harmful.

    Once detected, harmful content that has been tagged as being malicious can be quarantined or rejected. Depending on the type of security gateway system they use, the IT department may access the quarantined emails if they so wish.

    Outgoing email protection

    As well as scanning for incoming threats, a good email security gateway also checks for any potential data loss through all outgoing content. State-of-the-art gateways also have an email archive function that will store emails according to legal requirements and facilitate data management

    Another aspect of cutting edge email security gateways is that they have an inbuilt continuity feature that enables employees to access emails even in a compromised network.

    Leading email security gateways have an inbuilt dashboard that enables managers to run a series of reports and analytics, allowing management to monitor and gain valuable insights into the company’s network security.

    email security gateway

    On-premises versus the Cloud

    Some businesses choose to install a secure email gateway on their premises by using either a hardware appliance or a virtual appliance in the Cloud. The choice of device is dependent on whether the company in question has an on-premises email server, like Exchange, or if they use an email service located in the Cloud, like Microsoft Office 365.

    The other consideration is if the company is contemplating migrating its services to the Cloud, which questions how comfortable the business feels with having its data and services located off-site, outside its network boundaries.

    Businesses that install on-premises devices or software programs to guard their emails are responsible for buying and maintaining the hardware and associated software. They must also assume responsibility for ensuring that software and connectivity to email servers are kept up to date in terms of the latest threats and trends.

    Businesses that utilise a secure email gateway in the Cloud, on the other hand, are not burdened with that responsibility. It falls instead to the security vendor.

    Cloud-based secure email gateways (SEGs) also have the advantage of being scalable. Regardless of the level of traffic the system is handling, SEGs in the Cloud can quickly and easily be upscaled.

    Is Microsoft 365 a secure email gateway?

    The fact of the matter is that Microsoft 365 has more than 200 million active users every month. It is by far the most popular office computer system on the planet. That is precisely why cybercriminals make it their number one target as they continuously push to find and exploit security gaps in the software.

    Whilst under normal circumstances, one could consider Microsoft 365 to be reasonably secure, loopholes are bound to be found when it comes under that sort of pressure.

    Do I need further protection over and above Microsoft 365?

    Most computer professionals would agree that as good as Microsoft 365 is, with the added attention it is now receiving from cybercriminals, you would be wise to add another layer to your network email security through an enhanced secure email gateway system.

    There are many SEGs available and most claim to have similar functionality. However, each system has its features, so it is essential to do your research well to ensure you get the right email security gateway for your company’s specific needs.

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