Email Security Best Practices in 2021

Emphasizing email security best practices in 2021 is crucial, no matter the size of the enterprise.

Emphasizing email security best practices in 2021 is crucial, no matter the size of the enterprise. Email remains one of the most common attack vectors, often a target for malicious malware and ransomware, hacking, and phishing attacks. Emails are also a recurrent source for data loss and leakage, whether accidental or intentional.

In this post, we’ll look at email security best practices in 2021, and share 4 ways to ensure your enterprise’s sensitive data is secure.

4 ways to ensure email security best practices in 2021

With new research from Mimecast reporting that 60% of organizations expect email attacks in 2021, email security best practices remain a concern for enterprises and small businesses alike. Security breaches most often occur due to vulnerabilities in corporate email security, phishing attacks, malware, and common user mistakes. 

These can lead to data loss and leakage, network downtime, and worse — losing control of confidential and sensitive information. Data leaks involving financials, intellectual property, or employee and customer information negatively impact not only reputation but also revenue and market share. In highly regulated industries, it can even leave enterprises facing heavy fines. 

Nonetheless, many of today’s enterprises feel ill-prepared to protect against threats to their most used line of business communication, email. Solutions exist to safeguard against all types of email attacks, but you still need an overall strategy to ensure the security of your enterprise. Let’s look at 4 ways to do this, and how you can ensure email security best practices in 2021.

1. Endpoint email security best practices

Email Security Concept

Endpoint security (or endpoint protection) is the practice of defending computer networks which are remotely bridged to client devices. It might be laptops, tablets, mobile phones, IoT devices, or any wireless devices linking to the corporate network. All of these open attack vectors for security threats, as employees are often the target of hackers looking to access a network through phishing attacks, spam, and malware. 

To defend against security threats such as these, today’s enterprises utilize anti-virus protection tools in combination with endpoint email security software. This allows administrators to filter network email for suspicious senders or IP addresses. It also provides a way to block incoming malware and spam, or to identify and address compromised systems to restrict them from spreading spam further.  

Endpoint security software can also ensure that only devices that meet a network’s security policies have the ability to access the enterprise’s network. Requirements include elements like if a device’s operating system is up-to-date, whether or not the employee is working behind an operational firewall, or if there are any security flaws on the device which should prevent its right to access the network.

Addressing zero-day attacks with endpoint security

Another area endpoint security must address is zero-day attack vectors. A zero-day attack involves hackers exploiting previously unrevealed vulnerabilities in a network’s software, hardware, or firmware. 

The only way to combat this is by regularly updating and patching all endpoints. It won’t guarantee your network is defended against zero-day attacks, but it will reduce their occurrence. When attacks do occur, being aware of their existence can help mitigate any potential damage until a security patch is available.

Ensuring personal and corporate email security with endpoint security

The final crucial element of endpoint security is ensuring every device on the network is following email security best practices for both personal and corporate accounts. To do this, enterprises often establish strict policies for employees. In 2021, these email security best practices include but are not limited to the following.

● Use only strong passwords which have a combination of lower-case and capital letters, characters (#), and numbers.

● Do not use passwords with any personal connection or identification, such as: residences, family members, pet names, interests, etc.

● Use different passwords for different accounts, avoiding duplicate passwords from across the web.

● Never store login credentials on paper or anywhere on a device that can be the target of hacking attacks.

● Implement password rotation on every account and device; consider automating the rotation process.

Beyond these practices, enterprises often look to two-factor authentication for an additional layer of security. Experts recommend this for all employees, devices, applications, and any channels which employees use to connect with the network. It’s also important management provides regular training to help staff learn how to identify and report phishing attacks or other malicious email-delivered attacks on the network.

2. High-end encryption for all email communications

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The next of the email security best practices in 2021 includes ensuring the enterprise has reliable encryption for all email communication. Enterprises must encrypt not only the content within each email but also any attachments. This is true for both emails at rest and in transit. 

Unfortunately, major platforms like Gmail and Outlook are lacking in this regard. There are some encryption tools, but they require both senders and recipients to agree to and enable third-party extensions. These can have a significant impact on user experience, interrupt workflows, or simply not meet internal network security policies. Enterprises thus must carefully consider any encryption tools they use, and ensure all solutions are as user-friendly as they are effective.

Another way to accomplish high-end encryption is deploying document security solutions. These provide admins the ability to create permissions for who can view, edit, print, and download documents off the network. They also provide ways to revoke recipient access after sending emails, or to manage functions like expiry options, watermarking, defense against screen capture, and tracking of sensitive documents. Features like these ensure all confidential information is secure, and should be a key component to any enterprise encryption solutions.

3. Email server protection

Another area of email security best practices in 2021 includes regular server maintenance and protection. Servers not only house the enterprise’s data, they are where employees transfer and process sensitive information. Attacks such as spam and distributed denial of service (DDoS) can target servers, allowing hackers to disrupt day-to-day activities, or even to leverage servers as spambots. 

To safeguard against this, it’s thus vital IT teams establish and enforce email server protection techniques. Email server protection techniques include but are not limited to the following.

●Set specific domains and IPs which users can safely email, restricting relay parameters to ensure best practices.

● Reduce the potential for spam and DDoS by monitoring traffic and mitigating any suspicious traffic on the network.

● Use reverse DNS lookup for sender verification, ensuring the sender is a trusted source before any email communications can begin.

● Safeguard against spambots by deploying content filtering to flag and restrict suspicious email content.

4. Preventing data loss and leakage

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Finally, email security best practices should also aim to prevent data loss and leakage, whether accidental (employee-born) or intentional (insider / outsider threats). One way to do this is by establishing rules for any inbound or outbound content. These rules, set by network admins, look to identify and protect any confidential or “internal only” information.

Sensitive documents share various attributes which can identify them: keywords, data types, document settings, or restrictions, etc. Data loss prevention (DLP) tools can allocate these to protect sensitive data by filtering, blocking, and censoring specific elements, expressions, and keywords. Beyond prohibiting certain actions, DLP tools can also alert admins about potential threats to data security in real-time, or violations of internal and external data access policies.

Today’s advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence have seen particular popularity for this. Sophisticated DLP tools allow enterprises to set rules to detect unusual network activity, respond to issues as they occur, or prevent data loss and leakage before it happens. This is vital not only to protecting reputation but also for meeting internal, local, and international policies and regulations. 

Discover more with Preava

At Preava, we aim to help growing and large enterprises alike combat data loss and leakage in email communications. We know that without advanced DLP tools in 2021, businesses face significant cybersecurity risks. Thus, our software, Prevea Prevent, works with Gmail for Business to stop companies from sending emails to unintended recipients. 

Preava LogoEncryption, firewalls, and antivirus software are essential, but one of the most unmitigated data loss threats remains email. If you’d like to learn more about Preava Prevent or consult our specialists on email security best practices in 2021, simply contact us at Preava today.

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