A small-business owner’s guide to enhancing email security

As we approach the second week of June to celebrate National Email Week, it’s good to be reminded that email remains a crucial communication tool for businesses of all sizes. However, this convenience comes with a hidden threat: cybercriminals who exploit email to steal data, launch malware attacks, and disrupt operations. 

Considering that email is still a popular vector used by cybercriminals, it’s more important than ever to implement comprehensive email security measures. 

What are the biggest email threats?

Knowing the most common email threats is the first step to keeping your business safe. The most common email threat by far is phishing, where emails appear to be from legitimate sources such as banks or delivery companies, tricking recipients into clicking malicious links or downloading malware-laced attachments.

Other cybercriminals may just hack their way into your email accounts through brute force methods or social engineering. Once inside, cybercriminals can wreak havoc on your systems or use compromised accounts to impersonate employees and launch even more cunning attacks. Business email compromise scams often involve using compromised accounts to request unauthorized wire transfers or elevated access privileges into your company network.  

Email spoofing is another prevalent threat, where attackers forge email headers to make messages appear as though they are from a trusted source.Used in phishing and scam campaigns, this tactic is designed to trick victims into thinking an email is from someone they know or trust, so they lower their guard and do as the attacker says.

Best practices for building your email security fortress

If you don’t have a dedicated IT department, that doesn’t make you powerless to email-based threats. There are several best practices you should follow to fortify your defenses: 

  • Stick to dedicated business accounts: Your business email address should be used for business only. Using your company email for personal online activities makes it easier for scammers to profile you, increasing the risk of a highly targeted cyberattack.
  • Set long and unique password combinations: A strong and unguessable password is the foundation of digital security. This means avoiding using birthdays or names for your passwords, and definitely steering clear of easy-to-guess combinations like “123456” or “password.” Instead, you should aim for unique passwords that are at least 12 characters long. In fact, longer passwords or passphrases are much stronger (and more memorable) than a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols. 
  • Enable multifactor authentication (MFA): MFA adds an extra step to the login process, making it much more difficult for cybercriminals to hack your accounts. It involves requesting for additional verification such as a one-time passcode generated by a mobile authenticator app or a fingerprint scan.
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so hackers can monitor traffic and data that goes in and out of these networks. If you enter your email or access private information via public Wi-Fi, hackers can see everything you’re doing. That’s why you should avoid using your business email on these networks as much as possible. If public Wi-Fi is your only option, use a VPN to hide your online activities from prying eyes.
  • Employee education: Human error, such as clicking on links and email attachments, can undermine even the most sophisticated security measures. To combat this, train your employees on how to identify phishing scams. Common signs of phishing include spoofed domains, unsolicited links and attachments, requests for personal information, and messages that instill a sense of urgency. The moment employees recognize these signs, they should remove the email from their inbox and report it to their security team.   
  • Install email security software: Email filtering and security software can automatically detect and quarantine spam emails that potentially contain phishing attempts or malware. These safeguards are also synced up with the latest threat intelligence databases, which means they can detect and filter the latest phishing scams. 
  • Back up your data: Cybersecurity isn’t just about prevention; it’s also about recovery. Make sure you have a regular backup schedule for your business emails. In the unfortunate event of a cyberattack or data loss, a recent backup can help you get back on your feet quickly.
  • Stay informed: New email threats are constantly emerging, so regular training and staying abreast of security trends is absolutely crucial. You should also regularly review and update your security measures to keep the latest threats at bay. 

By educating your employees and implementing the right security measures, you can create a more secure email environment for your business. And if all of these seem too overwhelming for you and your staff, don’t fret. The experts at Interplay will be more than happy to provide comprehensive cybersecurity for your business. For hands-on cybersecurity and IT support for your Seattle-based business, contact us today.