What is email security?
The term ‘email security’ covers various ways of using email safely to ensure that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information is not compromised.
This includes following email security best practices when sending information by email and storing it in email accounts, and protecting against inbound email security threats such as phishing attacks.
Why is email security important?
There are two main reasons to enforce the secure use of email communications.
First, many data breaches are caused by emails mistakenly being sent to the wrong recipient, for instance through misusing the Cc (carbon copy) and Bcc (blind carbon copy) fields.
If personal information is compromised, organisations are at risk of regulatory action under the DPA (Data Protection Act) 2018 and UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), and EU GDPR.
Second, most cyber attacks start with phishing emails: by clicking on a link or opening a malicious attachment, victims can endanger their organisation’s security and compromise sensitive data.
As well as implementing technical security measures, it is therefore essential to ensure that all staff are aware of the threat and know what to do to ensure they use email safely.
This reduces the risks associated with email communications and the impact of email threats.
What are the different types of email security?
Email security measures can be split into two groups: technical and organisational.
Technical measures include encryption and filtering.
Organisational measures include policies to enforce email security practices and staff awareness training to ensure employees are a strong last line of defence against malicious content.
Email security best practices
Email security best practices include:
- Automated email encryption that can analyse outbound email traffic and encrypt it if it is sensitive. This way, attackers will not be able to read emails if they do manage to intercept them.
- Threat intelligence to understand the latest threats and how they might affect your organisation.
- A secure email gateway to prevent spam and malicious email messages, such as those from spear phishing and business email compromise (BEC) attackers, from getting through.
- Security awareness training to help staff understand the threats they face, and know how to recognise phishing emails and what to do when they suspect an email is malicious.
- Password security and MFA (multifactor authentication) policies to ensure individual email accounts are secure and prevent attackers from hacking them.