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5 Tips to Help You Improve Email Security

It’s easy to look at cyber attacks and think, “That would never happen to me.” However, if you look at the trends and study the numbers, the data says otherwise. Small businesses are being targeted like never before and email is often the preferred entry point. If you don’t have a plan for securing your email, then you’re planning for trouble.

The Need for Better Email Security

If you aren’t aware of the email threats your business is likely facing, then now’s the time to get educated on this important matter. Email security threats are everywhere and your business, no matter how small, isn’t immune.

5 Tips to Help You Improve Email Security

“Cybercriminals are targeting corporate users to a much higher extent than personal email account holders. The reason is clear. There is more to be gained from infecting corporate computers with malware than personal computers,” SpamTitan explains. “Businesses are much more likely to pay ransoms if data are encrypted by ransomware. The data stored by businesses has much higher value on the darknet, and plundering business bank accounts nets far higher rewards.”

How much more are businesses targeted than the average personal account? SpamTitan points out a statistic that shows businesses are 6.2 times more likely to receive phishing emails and 4.3 times more likely to be hit with malware-infected messages. Nonprofits are the biggest target, but other sectors with bullseyes on their backsides include schools, government entities, the housing sector, and entertainment companies.

Email attacks come in a variety of shapes and forms. Depending on what information is trying to be compromised and who is doing the compromising, your business may face any of the following threats:

  • Phishing. One common attack method is phishing. This is where the attacker pretends to be someone they aren’t – likely a business partner or bank account – and steals private information like usernames and passwords. Then, they take this information and access the corresponding account.
  • DDoS. Formally known as distributed denial of service attacks, DDoS attacks are used to spread malicious software that allows someone to remotely control the infected systems and crash servers.
  • Malicious codes. When downloading attachments, there’s always a chance that an attacker has placed malicious code somewhere inside. This malicious code, usually disguised by safe code, can give someone unauthorized access to your system.
  • Insider threats. Don’t ignore the possibility that email threats could come from the inside. Disgruntled employees often do desperate things and may attempt to sabotage from within.
  • Human error. Finally, human error is a major cause of problems. Employees may accidentally leak important data in outgoing emails, which can be extremely costly.

5 Tips for Improving Your Email Security

Clearly, there are lots of email threats facing your business. Ignoring them will do you no good. What you really need to do is be proactive and mitigate risk wherever possible. Here are some tips for doing so:

#1. Use an Encryption Service

You absolutely have to use some sort of encryption service in today’s cyber security landscape. There are multiple kinds of encryption, but data-centric seems to be less risky than point-to-point encryption and the variety of other types you’ll find.

“If you use data-centric encryption for email security, you no longer depend on a bunch of random servers to protect you. Even if a hacker intercepts it, they won’t be able to read it,” Virtru explains. “This doesn’t make breaches impossible — a hacker could use malware to spy on the data while the recipient is accessing it, for example — but it greatly reduces the odds of a successful attack.”

#2. Use Separate Email Accounts

Think of your email account like the first domino in a long line of hundreds of other dominos. If that first domino gets knocked over (compromised), then the rest of them are also going to fall. In order to reduce the risk of having hundreds of dominos fall over when an email account is hacked, it’s wise to use separate accounts for different purposes.

For example, you should have one email account for all of your social media notifications and website accounts, another email account for financial information, and another email for sales and networking. This might make things slightly more complicated on your end, but it significantly reduces the likelihood of a negative chain of events.

#3. Be Wary of Clicking Unknown Links

If you ever see an unknown link in an email – especially from a sender you don’t recognize – do not click on it. Hackers like to use malicious links to compromise a recipient’s computer system and will disguise them as something else. The same goes for attachments. If you don’t recognize an attachment or aren’t sure why one was sent, ask for confirmation before downloading it.

#4. Use Stronger Passwords

Believe it or not, one of the primary ways hackers get inside email accounts is by guessing usernames and passwords. If you can make your password so complex that it can’t be easily guessed – either by a person or a password generator – then you stand a much smaller chance of being successfully attacked.

Not only should passwords be complex, but you should use a different one for every account you have. It’s also smart to use a password manager so you don’t forget your login credentials.

#5. Just be Smart

The final tip is to just be smart. Don’t do anything that seems fishy or dumb. Make sure you’re the only one who knows your password. Always log out of your accounts when they’re not being used. Don’t click on links from people you don’t know. Common sense is typically the best defense.

Take Email Security Seriously

Email security is a big deal. While you may not have been compromised to date, a time is coming when you will face an attack. If you continue to do nothing, you could risk losing important data or permanently hurting your business. Now’s the time to step up to the plate and make a commitment to running a tighter ship. In doing so, you’re making an investment in the future.


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Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. Follow her on Twitter.

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