Email Security: It’s More Involved Than You Realize

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Every day, computer users around the world send and receive about 300 billion emails, a number that Statista projects will increase to nearly 380 billion in 2025. These numbers are music to the ears of cyber criminals. You see, of all the cyber threat vectors available to bad actors, none is more attractive than email. That’s why more than 80 percent of successful cyber attacks occur through email. Hackers exploit email for several reasons:
  1. The attack surface is massive
  2. It’s easy to exploit email because it doesn’t require sophisticated technology
  3. Most email hacks involve social engineering tricks that prey on user vulnerabilities and trust
That’s why all businesses, large or small, need robust email protection. An effective solution can deliver malware detection rates of over 99.5% and catch rates of 99.7%. To get these kinds of results, a solution has to employ a layered approach that covers the basics, such as spam filters and antivirus protection, as well as more advanced controls such as URL wrapping and sandboxing. But more importantly, the technology has to be supported by security experts, and that means putting in place a response team that can act to contain and remediate attacks. And of course, no email security strategy is complete without a comprehensive user awareness program, since social engineering is so prevalent with phishing and ransomware attacks.

Managed Secure Email Gateway and the Importance of Management

As with all things security, email security management requires resources, expertise, and time – all of which most businesses would rather dedicate to profit-generating functions. So it makes sense to work with a managed security services provider (MSSP) that offers a managed security email gateway (SEG) service, backed by an incident response team that can act quickly to validate alerts and react if there is a confirmed security incident. Without the team needed to actually use your tools, you will have countless alerts and suspicious incidents sitting idly by. Many of history’s largest security breaches involved sophisticated tools and alerts which were ignored because of a lack of resources needed to properly manage them. These security experts are among a company’s most valuable; after all, email is the primary attack vector at most enterprises. These experts must combine proven science with art, following robust security playbooks while also applying a high level of outside-the-box, creative thinking, in order to successfully classify and react to incoming threats.

Secure Email Gateway

SEG software takes a holistic approach to email security by filtering out spam and other unwanted messages while also providing advanced techniques to stop phishing and ransomware. Leveraging a managed SEG is a good idea whether you run your email application on-premise or in the cloud. Some companies believe they have all the protection they need with cloud-based email, but this is really not the case. In reviewing managed email security providers, here are some must-have features to look for:

1. Spam Protection

A key SEG function is protection against spam, which if left unchecked can introduce malware into networks. You want a SEG offering that delivers high efficacy against spam with sophisticated techniques to prevent malicious messages from getting through the gateway. Effective spam controls look for indicators of compromise (IOCs) in IP addresses, domains, and reputation, and use validation techniques to address tricks such as spoofing and the practice by bad actors of altering messages while in transit.

2. Sandboxing

Sandboxing once was available only to companies with deep pockets but is now affordable to a wider customer base. Sandboxing prevents infection by automatically running email attachments such as PDFs and Word files in a secure, controlled environment to identify malicious behavior. If a suspicious file turns out to be legitimate, the system allows the recipient to open it. In cases where a compromised file slips through and a user opens it (remember, no security control is 100% foolproof), the security team isolates it, investigates it, and takes steps to contain the infection.  

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3. URL Wrapping

URL wrapping prevents users from accessing compromised websites by essentially redirecting a link to a controlled virtual environment that allows you to see the website without the risk of exposure to malware. This way, a user can see that a website is suspicious and avoid clicking on any further links that can surreptitiously introduce malicious code into the network.

4. User Awareness

According to Verizon, 90% of data-loss incidents involve phishing or some other form of social engineering. This statistic underscores how critical user awareness programs are. Phishing simulations can be especially effective in teaching users to spot suspicious emails and flag them to the security team. Typically, 40% of users in an organization are susceptible to phishing, a number that can be reduced to single digits with proper training.

5. Rapid Response Team

When it comes to security, technology does most of the work but human intervention is still needed in some situations. Specifically, when an incident occurs, you need a response team to investigate it and determine if it’s an actual attack. Most companies, especially in the SMB space, don’t have the resources for such a team, which is why contracting an MSSP for email security is an attractive option.


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Trust Buchanan to Manage Your Email Security

There are many great SEG providers out there. But at the end of the day, it’s more important to identify a reliable partner who will wear the toolbelt than it is to find the right tools. The right partner will likely bring those tools to the table for you.

An effective, reliable MSSP will have a team of experts that can react quickly to contain a breach. The faster a company responds to an incident, the lesser the damage. As you perform due diligence in choosing an MSSP, be sure to prioritize rapid response capabilities. Just about any provider can install a security service and let it run. But how effective the provider is in managing the technology and actually preventing breaches is where the rubber meets the road. Contact Buchanan to find out more about our managed email offering and rapid response team.

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