Hackers keep coming up with new and sophisticated methods of hacking, with the frequency of email security breaches increasing every year. Often, emails are sent via untrusted external networks and they are in plain text, meaning anyone can intercept and read the contents, as well as modify or copy them. Email security systems’ security in organizations is up to the email administrators and the IT department. However, everyone in the company needs to be aware of email threats and understand the basics when it comes to email security.
In 2019, the largest email leak in history happened. The email marketing service company called Verifications.io faced an email breach when over 2 billion email addresses were exposed. This happened due to questionable data security practices and storage of customer information on unsecured public databases. There are different types of security threats that may happen in an organization such as:
Spamming may not seem like an actual threat to most, but spam can be a deadly risk to your data security. In 2017, a breach leaked more than 700 million email addresses from a spambot. The spambot had been misconfigured and a spammer’s server left open and vulnerable to attack. The breach consequences were minimized by the many repeated and fake addresses in the breached data.
Email bombing is a common spamming method where the target receives hundreds of messages. Once hacker get hold of your email address, they run a script to sign you up for unsecured sites, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. With your inbox inundated with spam, you will not notice unusual activity, enabling hackers to get access to your accounts.
Ransomware encrypts your data, which the hackers hold hostage until you pay ransom for it, mostly in Bitcoin. Ransomware was very prevalent in 2018 and there were more than 204 million ransomware attacks. The 2017 Wannacry ransomware attacks struck computers globally that ran on Microsoft Windows OS by encrypting data and demanding for payment in Bitcoin cryptocurrency.
Phishing is an attack where hackers use electronic communication, such as email, to dupe individuals into thinking they’re communicating with trusted entities such as banks. This way, the target is more likely to go ahead and give their data when prompted to do so or open the attachments in the emails, which expose them to viruses and malware. According to a report by Lookout’s Mobile Spotlight, hackers are increasingly targeting mobile devices, with phishing scams increasing in 2019’s last quarter by 37%. In 2020’s first quarter, phishing attempts rose 7% from 16% to 22%.
How to Secure Your Email System
Installing a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) creates a tunnel where your device can connect securely to the internet. A VPN app hides your IP address, and best of all, encrypts all your communication. Any person who tries to snoop on your network cannot read your messages unless they have the encryption key.
Having an Email Security Gateway
The email gateway prevents any emails that are against company policy from being transmitted over the company network to send malware. An email gateway ensures that your network can filter all communication and flag any messages that contain malicious attachments.
Be Cautious of Email Attachments
Do not open any email attachments as they may be carrying viruses or malware. Scrutinize each attachment, even when it looks legitimate. To tell the legitimacy of an attachment, check its file extension. GIF, TIF/TFF, JPEG/JPG, MPEG/MPG, MP3, or WAV are often safe attachments. Watch out for DOC, TXT or XLS extensions, which are likely to be unsecured. Check with the sender to be sure before you open and avoid sending files with EXE or double extensions.
Emails are still a very common method of communication. Hackers know this and use it to their advantage to hack into unsecured systems through spamming, ransomware, phishing, and many other methods of infiltrating company systems. Taking precautions such as VPNs, email security gateways, and caution in clicking on attachments are just some of the measures you can take to protect yourself from attacks.
This is a guest article contributed by TurnOnVPN