Corporate email security 101

7 minute read

Corporate email security 101

Phishing attacks, scamming, data theft, and financial loss are all consequences of poor email security and highly affect corporate reputation. What are some of the best practices to ensure email security? How can these practices be implemented to safeguard businesses and their reputations? 

One of the top global risks listed in 2020 has been cyberattacks. So much so that The World Economic Forum listed cyberattacks on critical infrastructure as the fifth top risk in 2020

Email remains one of the most common channels by which corporations are attacked, yet it also remains one of the most relevant ways to share information and collaborate. Therefore, the need for secure emails is undeniable. 

Cybercriminals can and will find the overlooked and vulnerable areas of an enterprise's security measures and exploit these weaknesses for profit. Common problems like spam and phishing can cause the following negative effects on your business:

  • Malicious code into the corporate network 
  • Denial of Email Service (DoES) failure and stoppage of associated workflows 
  • Vulnerable client mailers can also be used for attacks of various types

Poor email security can also wreak long-term damage to your corporate reputation. Business emails are a professional way for employees to represent their company's brand, products, and services. These emails will often contain sensitive information. One mistake, one leak of data and it will be very difficult to regain your positive reputation. 

As important as cybersecurity is, it is often overlooked. This article will share how cyberattacks can ruin your business and how to prevent them. 

email security 101

How do cyberattacks impact a business?

Cyberattacks can cause major damage to your business - whether it’s large or small. Even huge corporations such as Facebook and Google with top-notch security protocols have been victims of cybercriminal attacks which resulted in losses of millions of dollars. The interest behind such crimes is not only financial but something much more important nowadays - data. So what is the impact of these attacks?

Reputation damage

Businesses are built and grow on the foundation of trust and reputation. Customers trust a company with their information and expect to have confidentiality throughout their whole collaboration period. 

Phishing scams expose customer data. As a result, the trust in the company tarnishes. This highly affects the brand's image and consequently the reputation in the eyes of current customers, partners, employees, and most importantly, potential clients. 

To put it simply: Brand value decreases as well as revenue. 

Customer loss

Leaks and breaches of data and sensitive information leave customers afraid and unable to trust a business again. Naturally, they will start to look elsewhere for the product or services you provide. 

Repairing this damage might take a lot of time and effort. The company has to start building trust and reliability again. Similar to customers, investors and other stakeholders tend to steer clear of untrustworthy companies. No investors mean loss of company value. Facebook's example is a case study worth mentioning to any business looking into cybersecurity. 

Regulatory fines and compensation

Much like any other breach of confidentiality, phishing attacks may be subject to legal consequences. Financial penalties may be charged on account of phishing attacks exposing confidential data, as with PCI or HIPPA violations. 

If this happens, companies will have to compensate clients and employees whose privacy has been breached and data has been leaked. 

Loss of intellectual property 

This may not come as first thought when thinking about possible losses caused by cyberattacks but it is equally important. All businesses have their secrets to success and client satisfaction and they can be compromised by phishing attacks

Sensitive information and intellectual property that can be exposed during cyber attacks include:

  • Client lists
  • Analysis data
  • Valuable research
  • Future plans
  • Patents
  • Designs

How to protect your business from cyber threats

Here are our top 5 tips to protect your business from cyber threats.

Email authentication standards and security software

Email authentication is one of the first defenses against phishing attacks. Properly configuring email authentication standards is an essential step to protect your company's email. You may think that it is an extra element but this will strongly protect your company as well as your clients. 

Without systems such as email authentication, spammers can change the source of an email address so it appears as if it had originated from a legitimate sender. Cybercriminals often use this method and pretend to be banks, well-known companies, or social networks to encourage receivers to click on fraudulent links where they can steal user information.

SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are standards that help different aspects of authentication and ensure that your domain is safe and cannot be forged. An SPF record should be used to protect corporate email.

Likewise, DLP systems control outgoing information in order to prevent data leaks. They complement the company's rules for working with postal services. 

Use message encryption 

If you don't want people getting access to your email communication, you should start encrypting it. Emails are often stored on the mail server unencrypted, and anyone with access to the mail logs will be able to read them. This can severely damage your reputation.

Message encryption protects information by encrypting the content and attachments of an email message. Emails that are encrypted are sent in the form of ciphertext between an email client and an email server. Encryption protects the privacy of the information sent because third parties are unable to read or access the contents of an encrypted email message.

Use a well-trusted anti-virus 

The first line of defense against any viral attack is to ensure that your anti-virus software is up-to-date and that it has the capability of scanning files attached to incoming emails. This is especially important if you create the sort of content that might be of interest to cybercriminals, eg. If you are developing apps, or if you are writing about security issues or other topics that would appeal to a wide audience.

Any attachment must be scanned before it reaches the corporate network. Any of the following can contain malicious code:

  • Documents
  • PDFs
  • Archives
  • Images

Two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is widely used in the case when a computer protected by one password can be hacked – and more often than not, it is. Hackers don’t always behave like gentlemen, so they will try to cause damage even if this means breaking the law.

The admin has to make sure that the user they are talking with is a real owner of the account, and not a hacker trying to take control of the account. One of the most common methods used in this sense is called two-factor authentication.

This method consists of two stages: in the first stage, a person logs into their account using a username and password. In the second stage, they enter a code that will be sent to their smartphone. This code may be a six-digit number generated by an app or sent via SMS. It authenticates you as a real person; otherwise, nobody but you should know your smartphone number or have access to your login codes.

Digital certificate authentication 

Digital certificate authentication also serves as a sensible alternative. Digital certificates that prove the identity of a user are issued by certification authorities. After authenticating the user, the certifying authority saves its digital signature to a file containing the public key and information about the user and issues a certificate confirming that this public key belongs to a specific person. The certificate is a means of user authentication, with the identity servers of the corporate network playing the role of the relying party.

Bonus points

Here are a few bonus best practices for email security

  • Never launch programs received by email, even if the letter came from a well-known person.
  • Do not give your password to anyone, not even well-known colleagues, IT, and security personnel. Do not share account information with others.
  • When opening received documents, do not allow the use of macros.
  • Whenever possible, use the latest versions of mail and only corporate mailboxes.
  • Do not view your personal mail at work on free mail services and do not visit sites not related to work.
  • Do not trust even "well-known" addresses. The sender's address is very easy to forge and cyber fraudsters take advantage of it. Do not rush to open attachments and follow links, even if the letter looks like a message from a famous person.
  • If an email message asks for your password or requires a password in exchange for receiving any service, then you should not enter it. Most likely, these are cybercriminal tricks.
  • Do not use or install programs not approved for use in your company and not intended for the performance of job duties.

Final thoughts

Email is a critical tool for running any business. As such, it should be protected with the best possible security systems. The consequences of poor email security include data loss, leaking of confidential information, loss in revenue, fines, and reputation damage. Keep your business safe and secure by following the tips outlined in this blog. 

Email security FAQs

How do cyberattacks impact business?

Cyberattacks can wreak the following damages to your business: reputation damage, customer loss, regulatory fines and compensation, and loss of intellectual property.

How can I protect my business from cyberattacks?

These 5 tips can protect your business from cyber threats. Email authentication standards and security software. Use message encryption. Use a well-trusted anti-virus. Two-factor authentication. Digital certificate authentication. 

How can I make my corporate email more secure? 

Email threats are on the rise, and your company is likely to be targeted at some point. Cybercriminals have many different types of attacks in their arsenal—from phishing scams to malware to ransomware. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself against all of these attacks is by implementing a robust email security policy.