Email Security: 7 Important Strategies you should be Implementing Now

Mark Ziesemer / March 12, 2018
Email Security: 7 Important Strategies you should be Implementing Now

Every day, there are people who are out to steal our identities, account numbers, social security numbers and many other forms of personal or sensitive information. These predators have turned to email as a way to obtain this information, and organizations that hold this data are at risk. It is important you make sure your organization’s data is secure – especially considering increasing compliance requirements. There are a number of measures you can take to secure access and content of email accounts or services across your organization. How do you know your data is secure and that you are using best practices? We will look at a number of email security basics your organization should be implementing to stay secure and compliant.

1.  Scanning and Configuration

Effective email security solutions are a necessity in today’s world for protecting mailboxes against SPAM and malware. However, it is also critical to ensure that any solution is configured and tested to meet the organization’s security requirements – while also not impacting the usability of a primary communications system. Proper DNS configurations for Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) are required to help protect your organization’s own email reputation, while also helping to protect against phishing attacks.

2.  Use Strong Authentication

Passwords, alone, are not secure online – at least not in modern times.  Password complexity requirements, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and conditional access policies are all required considerations in light of the increasing number of online attacks utilizing stolen passwords, weak passwords, brute-force guessing, phishing, man-in-the-middle, and other such attacks.  Most of the industry is already moving to MFA as a required standard – and lack of MFA is frequently identified as a primary contributing factor to recent data breaches.  Even if user passwords are successfully obtained as part of a phishing attack, MFA can help restrict malicious use and limit the damage.

3.  Response, Monitoring, and Auditing

Security solutions are ineffective unless they are properly monitored. Automating response tactics combined with mailbox auditing help to ensure that when an infected email hits your network, you are able to automatically prioritize remediation. Having an automated tool can help contain any threat before it could cause serious damage.  A formalized and tested Computer Security Incident Response Policy (CSIRP) ensures that needed preparations are in-place in advance of an actual security incident.

4.  Data Protection, Encryption and Leakage 

Outbound emails are leaving your environment daily.  Data Loss Prevention (DLP), Rights Management, and Email Encryption serve to provide protection and management awareness, while helping to better manage associated risks. These security layers should be able to limit outbound traffic, detect compromised accounts and keep your organization from getting blacklisted.

5.  Network Analytics

Having the ability to continuously analyze threats and monitoring traffic trends are important to your email security strategy. URL-based threats should automatically be analyzed to protect against malicious content. With these real time analytics, websites that once looked to be good can be blocked if malicious behavior occurs – even after emails have been received.

6.  Comprehensive protection from BEC threats

Comprehensive protection ensures your systems are taking the appropriate measures to secure your network before, during, and after attacks. Business email compromise (BEC) threats use social engineering to trick end-users into taking action. These are phishing threats that cybercriminals impersonate employees or customers to hand over sensitive data or transfer funds. These emails look convincing as they may not use malware or malicious URLs to threaten organizations and are difficult to detect. IT monitoring along with user education, awareness, and testing can help users to outsmart these attacks and provide organizational wins against BEC threats.

7.  Visibility

Most organizations have no idea who or what is on their network and where emails are coming and going. Having this visibility will help your organization protect against threats and help in remediation. If you know where emails are coming from and what they contain, you will be able to prevent threats across your environment. You will be able to authorize legitimate senders and block fraudulent emails before reaching employees or customers. If your network is infected, visibility will allow you to see where malware originated, who was affected and what the malware is doing.  
If your organization is not implementing these 7 strategies, your network is potentially at risk. Whether you are or not, performing security assessments can ensure there are no holes in your protection. From there, you will be able to identify risks in your network and find a solution that will keep cyber criminals out. Many solutions are simple to deploy and use whether your environment is on premise or have a cloud/hybrid model. For more information please visit our Security Solutions

Mark Ziesemer
About the Author

Mark Ziesemer
Information Security Architect
Mark is a versatile Information Technology professional with over 15 years of comprehensive experience and an Information Security focus across networking, infrastructure/operations, cloud technologies, and software development.  He has regularly been involved in all areas of I.T. from design, engineering, and architecture through operations, support, and training – with emphases in security, high availability, monitoring, performance, quality, automation, standards compliance, and documentation across all efforts – and with a proficiency towards providing enterprise services and solutions.

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