5 Email Security Essentials You Should Know By Now


Email security is a top concern for any business. Since becoming an integral part of business, company email has been at risk from hackers and phishing scams. Though the need for protection against these kinds of attacks hasn’t gone away, increased security measuresOpens in a new tab. are necessary to ensure continued safety. 

To help keep your emails protected, here are five email security essentials you should know:

1. Have Email Security Tools

You can filter out potentially harmful emails with three specific email security toolsOpens in a new tab.:

DKIM

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) ensures that each email passing through the system is genuine. Using asymmetric cryptography, DKIM can tell if an email has undergone alterations before arriving in your inbox.

SPF

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) ensures that each email you receive comes from exactly where it claims and not anywhere else.

DMARC

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, or DMARC, allows companies to extend the abilities of their DKIM and SPF systems, including alerting senders to the rejection of their potentially harmful emails.

When these systems detect potentially fraudulent emails, they prevent them from arriving in your inbox, allowing you to avoid harmful emails altogether.

2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Nowadays, having one password to access your emails does not guarantee email security. Even with a strong password, it has less ability than multiple authentication processes. Using Multi-Factor AuthenticationOpens in a new tab. can increase the security of your emails substantially. 

MFA could include having multiple passwords or a password paired with a fingerprint. Often, the secondary password or fingerprint will be only a one-time use. The primary password would be the key piece of authentication used every time an employee needs access to their email. 

Even though an employee would not use the secondary password or fingerprint every time, it will provide a secondary protecting barrier to company email. Essentially, it allows any employee partial access, so all they have to do is provide a single username and password, just like any other email. A person who is not an employee will have a harder time breaking into the system, as they will need multiple ways to gain access instead of one password.

Similarly, a computer attempt to hack into company systems will have a harder time doing so if multiple authentication methods are in use. Though a computer may guess a primary password, it will have difficulty accessing company email accounts if it cannot provide the fingerprint needed to log in. 

3. Complex Passwords Don’t Equal Strong Passwords

For years it has been standard practice to create complicated passwords that are difficult to guess. However, using a string of random symbols is no longer the best way to protect your emails. 

Instead, using a phrase or even a nonsensical string of words is more difficult to crack than a password full of numbers, symbols, and letters. 

Complicated passwords are hard to remember and often result in a user writing down the password somewhere. When an employee writes down their passwords, it causes a security risk, as there is now a potential for someone with malicious intent to find the password and use it. The need to write down your password to remember it cancels out the security a complex password could provide.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) suggests that a longer password is better than a more complicated one. To achieve this, you can use phrases that include multiple words that have both capital and lowercase letters. 

For instance, MymotHersSuperfluFfYcaT will be a more effective password than M0m$c@t! The former is much longer and has irregular capitalization, which is more difficult to guess. Even though the latter uses more special symbols, it will be easier to crack because it has fewer combinations you could use for that particular password length. 

These days, computers do most of the password guessing for hackers. While there is no guarantee that a computer will not discover your longer password, it is much less likely than if you had a shorter one. 

4. Rethink Regular Password Changes

Another previously standard practice is changing your passwords regularly to prevent hacks. However, studies have shown that updating your passwords too often, such as on a ninety-day rotation, equates to poor passwords. 

Frequently updated passwords become a chore. Often, employees struggle to commit to passwords that are updating soon. For instance, one of your employees might not remember all the different passwords, especially if they all use nonsensical words, numbers, and symbols. 

They might write down each new password as they come. This habit means the password is no longer secure because paper copies are available to anyone who might find them.

Routinely changed passwords will also tend to be less creative as time goes on. Whoever is in charge of making the new password (unless you have a random algorithm to spew them out for you) might find themselves switching a single number or letter at a time. 

For instance, a password that is Abcdefg1 might become Bbcdefg1 or even Abcdefg2. They may also face pressure from their subordinates or coworkers to keep changes to passwords minimal to help more people cope with the constant updates. 

However, these changes are less important than you may think. Changing your passwords to an entirely new phrase is beneficial after an incident like a hacking attempt, but not strictly necessary otherwise.

5. Be Phishing and Malware Aware

Training your team about phishing risks and how to help prevent them can limit the risk to your emails. Using safe phishing awareness practices every day will help keep your emails secureOpens in a new tab. company-wide.

Although many email security measures can prevent most phishing scams, there is always a risk of more sophisticated ones slipping through. Because of this, it is unwise to fully rely on your software. Be wary of unknown senders, and of any emails that you think are suspicious.

Similarly, you should extend caution towards any email links or attachments that seem suspicious. It is just as important to ensure all your coworkers and employees know how to treat potentially threatening emails and attachments, and how they can identify emails as such.  

Malware can also potentially threaten your email through attachments or links. If you have email scanning software, it might miss a potentially harmful attachment even if the email itself is safe to open.

Links can be especially tricky, as most malware can come disguised as a link to a popular and safe company. Usually, these links will have a slight spelling error, or a different font that can make it hard to discern from a true link. Be sure to prepare your employeesOpens in a new tab. about these kinds of risks so they can be on the lookout beforehand and avoid clicking on something problematic. 

Conclusion

These five email security essentials will help you provide a safer work environment for your coworkers and employees while helping to prevent the risk of getting hacked.

Although unfortunately, utilizing each security measure won’t guarantee absolute protection, they will greatly diminish the risk of attack from malware, phishing scams, and other email security threats.

Mauricio Prinzlau is the CEO and Co-founder of CloudwardsOpens in a new tab.. He is at the helm of the company and steers a team of editors, writers and designers from all around the world.

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