Email security is crucial because email is a common target for cyberattacks due to its widespread use and the potential for attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. By implementing robust email security measures, individuals and organizations can protect themselves from various email-based threats and maintain the privacy and integrity of their communications.
“Happiness has many roots, but none more important than security.”E.R. Stettinius, Jr
Email security best practices refers to the measures and techniques employed to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, authenticity, and availability of email communication. With the widespread use of email for both personal and business purposes, ensuring the security of email communication is crucial to protect sensitive information, prevent unauthorized access, and maintain the overall privacy of the users. Let’s focus on understanding this with an example below.
Hannah works at a medium-sized marketing agency. She often communicates with clients, partners, and colleagues via email. Recently, she received an email from what appeared to be her company’s IT department, requesting her to click on a link to update her email password due to a supposed security breach. The email included the company logo and seemed legitimate.
Now, here are some recommended actions that Hannah can take to avoid falling victim to types of phishing attacks, scams and other similar threats:
Email security Best practices
Since we have understood what is Email security, next, we will briefly explore the best practices for email security and walkthrough each point to enhance our comprehension and appreciate its relevance in terms of security. This will be presented below.”
1. Training Employees
Regular training sessions for employees, like Hannah, are crucial to educate them about email security best practices. Employees should be trained to recognize phishing emails, suspicious links, and other social engineering tactics commonly used in cyberattacks. Consistently conducted security awareness training sessions can educate staff on optimal security practices and ensure users are kept informed.
2. Prioritize account Management
As the number of users increases, the potential security risks also grow. So the best way to avoid this is to set up a role-based management which only lets authorized number of users to access a certain level.
3. Stay away from suspicious links
Email hyperlinks frequently point to a different web domain than the one they claim to belong to. Some links can appear to be from a familiar domain name, like www.facebook.com, but in reality send them to a malicious website. Prioritize verifying link destinations by hovering over them with the mouse pointer to check for any discrepancies between displayed and actual links. Remember, although this technique can also be manipulated, if uncertain, it’s safer to manually enter domain names into browsers rather than clicking email links.
4. 2FA/ MFA
This stands for 2 step-verification (2FA) or multifactor authentication which is an authentication method that requires the user to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to the requested account. Incorporating an extra factor, be it a second, third, or more, into the authentication procedure provides an extra level of protection. This safeguards against prevalent email security concerns, including brute-force attacks and password cracking.
5. Use of strong passwords
This is infact the most crucial thing to be followed to increase security. According NIST, it is recommended to focus on the length with an equal complexity in the password rather than just making it complex. Utilizing unique combinations of special characters and numerals, without repetition, is recommended.
6. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts
In simple words, attackers can quickly access other accounts if one account that has the same login information as others has its security broken. The risk escalates significantly when employees employ identical passwords for both their corporate and personal accounts. Therefore, ensure a clear demarcation between your personal and professional spheres.
7. Keep updating Passwords
Creating a strong password just doesn’t make it secure for lifetime. It’s highly recommended to keep updating or changing passwords within a certain period of time to avoid any breaches. It lessens the vulnerability and exposure and considered a good cybersecurity practice.
8. Be careful of email attachments
Through attachments, attackers can send executable codes which once opened can automatically install viruses or malwares into the system without any indication. Antimalware software that recognizes the malicious source may eradicate dangerous attachments. When an attachment features an extension linked to an executable program, like EXE or MSI, exercise heightened caution before accessing it. Even files such as Word documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs can harbor malicious code, underscoring the need for vigilance when dealing with any form of attached file.
9. Avoid using public Wi-Fi
While the allure of free public Wi-Fi is strong, it also comes with substantial security risks. When employees access their corporate email over public Wi-Fi, any individual on the same network could potentially reach their email by using packet sniffing tools like Wireshark to monitor and potentially obtain personal information by intercepting email communications. Hence, it is recommended to use only known network connections and Wi-Fi.
Encryption ensures that the content of the email remains private and secure during transmission. There are two main types of encryption for email: Transport Layer Security (TLS): Encrypts the communication between email servers, ensuring that the email content cannot be easily intercepted or tampered with during transit. End-to-End Encryption: Encrypts the email content from the sender’s device to the recipient’s device, making it extremely difficult for anyone, including service providers, to access the content.
11. Back-up files regularly
To always be on the safer side, keep a back-up or a copy of your confidential data on an external hard drive or somewhere safe which is not accessible by a thrid-party. In the event that you lose crucial files through email, you’ll still have them stored securely, or you can opt for a cloud-based solution that automatically creates backups for any modifications made to your files.
12. Encrypting Emails
To maintain privacy and confidentiality of the data, encryption is adopted by many organizations. Without encryption, emails can be intercepted while they are being transmitted over the internet. Encryption prevents eavesdroppers from understanding the content of the emails even if they manage to intercept them.
13. Enabling Alerts
It is a proactive approach to staying informed about potential security threats and unauthorized access to your email account. Set up alerts to receive notifications whenever a login to your email account is detected from an unfamiliar device or location. If you send or receive encrypted emails, set up alerts for any issues related to encryption, such as failed decryption attempts or mismatched keys. Configure alerts for any attempts to recover or reset your account using account recovery options. This can help you prevent unauthorized access through account recovery mechanisms.
14. Turn off automatic forwarding
By disallowing the automatic forwarding of emails to external domains, the ability of cybercriminals to extract email messages and the associated data is effectively restricted.
15. Usage of automated protocols
Email protocols like DMARC and BIMI can help organizations prevent spoofing attacks against them. While BIMI and DMARC cannot completely eliminate business email spoofing, they have bolstered security by validating genuine emails and establishing a protocol to document and enforce actions against those dismissed by the organization’s system.
16. Preventing spam and undesirable senders
Spam emails often contain malicious attachments or links that can lead to phishing sites, malware downloads, or other cyber threats. By blocking spam, you reduce the risk of inadvertently exposing your computer or network to security risks. Many spam emails are actually phishing attempts, where attackers impersonate legitimate organizations to steal your sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, or personal data.
You can also read: What is a Common Indicator Of A Phishing Attempt?
17. Gmail’s Confidential mode
Gmail’s confidential mode aims to provide increased control over email transmission by allowing the setting of expiration dates and implementing measures to reduce the ease of email forwarding.
Access your Gmail account, then select the Compose button located in the upper-left corner of the interface. Initiate email composition in Confidential Mode by clicking on the small lock icon at the bottom of the window.
18. Avoid sharing email address
Cultivate the practice of refraining from sharing your email address with everyone and every application, as this precaution can help prevent your email from being easily discovered and subsequently targeted for spam and other unwanted activities.
19. Log out of devices after use
When utilizing another individual’s mobile device or laptop, it is recommended to log out of your email account and eliminate all traces to ensure enhanced security. Especially using a public computer is a contributing factor, as it involves the situation where an individual is logged into an account, and anyone who subsequently uses the same public computer can interfere with that person’s ongoing tasks.
20. Avoid disclosing your passwords
Ensure that your password is kept secure and inaccessible to anyone else. Do not write it or post it in places which is reachable to everyone. Even when placing trust in someone to whom you provide your password, there remains a possibility that they might not store it securely or could store it on a device vulnerable to compromise. This situation could lead to potential theft, thereby endangering not only you but also your accounts and private information. Formulate email security best practices for employees and provide awareness on the same regularly.
Which is a good security practice for email?
A good security practice for email involves a combination of technical measures and user behaviors to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of your email communications. Follow the above mentioned 20 Email security best practices.
What are the 3 email safety rules to stay safe?
Three essential email safety rules to stay safe are:
1. Beware of Phishing Emails: Phishing is a common email-based cyberattack where attackers impersonate trusted entities to trick recipients into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. To stay safe:
> Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown or unexpected sources.
2. Use Strong Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Password security is crucial for email safety.
> Use strong, unique passwords for your email accounts.
> Enable 2FA whenever possible.
3. Protect Sensitive Information: Email often contains sensitive and confidential information, so it’s vital to protect it:
> Use encryption tools
> Be cautious about sharing personal or financial information over email, even with trusted contacts.
What are the golden rules of email safety?
The “golden rules” of email safety encompass a set of fundamental principles that, when followed, can greatly enhance your email security and protect you from various online threats. The “golden rules” are mentioned above as 20 Email security best practices.