As email threats continue to evolve and increase in popularity, understanding how to achieve efficient email threat protection is critical. For managed services providers (MSPs) who handle data for multiple customers, it’s especially important to use a secure email gateway and robust email monitoring system. A poorly protected email gateway can have a devastating impact on your MSP, exposing your business to the risk of financial loss, brand reputation damage, loss of revenue, and even legal liability if your customers are impacted.
This guide will explain the importance of using a secure email gateway, effective email monitoring, and adhering to a robust email threat protection strategy. It will also outline how MSPs can assess their own email threat protection strategy to determine whether it’s secure enough.
Why is email threat protection important?
Since most modern business operations rely on email as a form of communication, it makes sense that email is also a huge potential threat to cybersecurity. A report found that 85% of US companies were hit with an email-based cyberattack in 2019, suggesting email remains a major cybercrime concern. To give you an idea of the range of scams that can be employed, we’ll discuss some of the most popular cyberattacks designed to exploit email users.
Scams tend to come in three standard formats:
- An attempt to engage the victim in conversation with the cyberattacker. Popular scams of this nature include romance scams, lottery scams, advance-fee scams, and CEO/CFO scams involving bad actors impersonating a high-level employee to request urgent payments or sensitive data
- An attempt to make the victim click on a malicious link and visit a site
- An attempt to make the victim download an attached document, which is weaponized
The first of these attack types, which involves engaging the victim in conversation with the attacker, can typically be combated by common sense. The average internet-savvy email user is far less likely to engage in a conversation with someone they don’t know, simply because they’ll probably have some awareness that scams of this nature exist. However, the elderly, the housebound, the lonely, and the anxious are prime targets for this type of attack. If we know of an individual who might fall into this category, like a relative or a neighbor, we can help by offering support, keeping them informed, and warning them against these kinds of attacks.
The malicious link and malicious attachment threats are more widespread and are likely to be executed by more sophisticated cybercriminals. These types of attacks will also usually involve an element of social engineering designed to lure the victim into clicking on the link in the body of the email or opening the weaponized attachment.
The aim of these social engineering efforts are to persuade victims the sender is trustworthy, leading them to let their guard down. From there, links usually send the victim to a malicious site, where they might be persuaded to enter personal details or bank account information. Weaponized document attachments are usually used by cyberattackers as a means of installing malware onto the recipient’s device. This malware could be ransomware, banking fraud malware, or an information stealer.
Sophisticated email attacks will endeavor to “spoof” the source. This usually means the email will appear to come from and lead to a legitimate source. For example, cyberattacks might use the names of individuals you’re familiar with to create an email account and establish contact with you, leading you to believe that the email has come from someone you know. Some cybercriminals may even register lookalike domains. These domains closely resemble trusted vendors and are designed to deceive you into trusting the sender and any links contained in the body of the email.
Do you have efficient email threat protection?
To determine whether your email threat protection strategy is both efficient and sufficiently secure, you’ll need to review your email security. To do so, follow the steps listed below.
Firstly, ask yourself if you fully understand how your business and your employees use data. If you don’t have a policy in place for data use within your organization, then take the time to establish one. You should ensure your data usage policy is comprehensive. Once your data usage policy is established and sufficiently detailed, consider how you‘ll enforce it.
If you already have a policy in place, are your employees complying with it? If the answer to this question is no, it might be time to re-train your staff and impart the importance of appropriate data usage practices. Remember that if an employee doesn’t understand the importance of data confidentiality, they may not be aware of the repercussions associated with sharing information and data via email.
Secondly, determine who in your organization has access to what. Access rights controls are of critical importance to email threat protection, because they allow you to define clear limitations that ensure sensitive data is accessed by only the few people who need to see it. Not only does this make tracing the source of an email-based leak far easier, it also nurtures a working environment in which data security is treated as a priority.
Another key element of ensuring efficient email threat protection is training. Have your staff received comprehensive training on email threats? Do they understand how to spot a potentially malicious email? Is there an official process for dealing with threatening emails? Every staff member within your organization should be trained in email threat protection, the consequences of poor email security, how to protect themselves and the company, and how to identify email threats. Informed employees are far less likely to respond to spoof email, click on a malicious link, or download weaponized attachments.
If your staff are appropriately trained, you have stringent protocols for who has access to what within your company, and your business fully understands how data is being used, then you’re well on your way to establishing an efficient email threat protection strategy. The final pieces of the puzzle include ensuring you’re using a secure email gateway, a reliable email spam filter system, and you’re monitoring email—all of which can be done with the right email threat protection solution. With a combination of the right strategy and the right toolkit, you can optimize email security and keep your MSP and your customers safe from email threats.
Employing an email threat protection solution
To achieve efficient email threat protection, MSPs should avoid manual email monitoring efforts and should consider implementing a threat detection and prevention solution. SolarWinds® Mail Assure is an email security solution designed specifically to make it possible for MSPs to manage email security at scale for customers.
Mail Assure helps you keep end users safe and productive when navigating the potential minefield that is email. By using collective threat intelligence and machine learning, the solution continually gathers information that helps safeguard your customers against threats like spam, malware, viruses, ransomware, spear phishing, social engineering attacks, impersonation, business email compromise, and spoofing.
Processing email data from more than two million domains to understand emerging threats, Mail Assure delivers advanced threat protection for both inbound and outbound emails—with a filtering accuracy of 99.999%.
Mail Assure also offers email continuity solutions, with 24/7 email continuity by default. This is accessible via a web-based console, allowing you to add value for your customers at no extra cost. Even if the primary server goes offline, employees will still be able to send, read, and receive email, ensuring business-critical operations can continue. Its encrypted email archiving also makes it possible to store customer emails for as long as necessary to help prevent data loss.
With a full understanding of the sheer number of possible email threats that may await your customers, SolarWinds Mail Assure is a great way to shore up your defenses. This solution can help MSPs of all sizes add value, protect customers, and avoid email-based threats. To learn more, a 30-day free trial is available here.