Email is one of the most popular forms of communication, especially in the business world. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In the 2016 US presidential elections, hackers gained access to emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign and her Democratic National Committee staff. The stolen emails were published by WikiLeaks, and the result was a public relations nightmare for the Clinton campaign.
Email security best practices are the crucial elements of your data privacy strategy you should be aware of to protect your business. It doesn't matter whether you manage a small office or an entire corporate network. Using them avoids a potential data breach and prevents phishing attacks.
Email security enables the safeguarding of a business or a client's privacy. It prevents unauthorized access to sensitive data like financial information and important documents.
This is where professional email security services come into play. They help you stay ahead of the game and promote superior organizational performance by protecting every valuable resource of the corporation.
10 Email security best practices you must follow
Read through our email security best practices guide for secure email communications for your business:
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1. Use strong passwords
Create complex passwords that are at least eight characters long. They should include at least three of the following:
Avoid using personal information such as your name, address, date of birth, or pet's name. For example, don't use "Amanda123" as a password; use "!Am@ndA!" instead. The more complex the password, the better.
2. Train employees
Train your employees in good cyber security practices, such as identifying red flags for phishing attacks. The more knowledgeable your employees are about email security, the less likely they will fall victim to a scammer's tricks. They won't click on a malicious attachment or link containing a virus.
Everyone in your company must understand the risks of email and prevent them. For example, emails from an unknown sender with a vague or no subject line or those containing unexpected attachments can be a phishing attack. They should also know not to share sensitive information over email. Sensitive information can be financial information or usernames and passwords.
Include password protection tips as part of your employee training program. Also, consider implementing a password management program. You can conduct training in several ways, including:
Company-wide training sessions.
Personalized training sessions for executives or other high-profile employees.
Security awareness training tools.
3. Use of proxies
The use of proxies to view websites can be helpful for both employees and employers. By using a proxy, employees can keep their location data private. They can conduct research without fear of website cookies tracking their behavior. An employer can also benefit from anonymous web browsing. They can easily monitor their employees' online activity without them knowing.
Residential proxies from Blazing SEO are top-grade proxies and one of the best solutions for email security today. This is because they allow you to send emails without exposing your IP address. You can avoid banning email service providers and keep your email account safe in the process.
4. Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. You've probably heard the term "two-factor authentication" before. It's an excellent option to employ in addition to a strong password.
For example, when logging in to your email, you input your password, and a code is sent to your mobile phone for verification. Your account is thus inaccessible without that second piece of information. This keeps hackers away from your email, keeping your data safe.
Services like Google and Apple allow you to enable 2FA on your accounts. You may be asked to verify your identity every time you log in to an account for these services. Some services require 2FA only every few weeks or months.
5. Use encrypted connections
Data that isn't encrypted is readable by anyone who intercepts it in transit, including hackers and other cybercriminals. A password-protected public Wi-Fi network offers some protection from prying eyes, but it isn't enough to keep your data safe.
If you need to work on sensitive materials, especially personally identifiable information (PII), you should use a virtual private network (VPN) instead because:
A VPN guarantees that the client device and server connection are secure. Even if someone intercepts the traffic, they won't read it.
When you send an email, the message goes through several servers before reaching its destination. It is there where it must be decrypted so that the recipient can read it.
Encryption ensures that no one who accesses the message during transit will read it. You can encrypt messages automatically by choosing an encryption service when setting up your email account.
Related guide: Everything You Need To Know About Email Security
6. Back-up files regularly
You should regularly back up all your files on a server or an external hard drive. This will ensure that you'll have another copy stored somewhere else. If you ever lose important files via email, you still have them in storage.
Or, you can use a cloud-based system that automatically backs up any changes to your files. This is important because cybercriminals often target small businesses. They assume they don't have the resources to fight back.
7. Keep software and antivirus programs up-to-date
Attackers leverage weaknesses in outdated software to hack into your system. They are a threat since they can steal information or harm your computer in other ways.
Luckily, all major operating systems (Windows, Mac OS, Linux) have antivirus software. Ensure that you enable automatic updates for both the operating system and any additional antivirus software that you use. Allow any updates that are available to install themselves promptly. Also, ensure that you have enabled automatic scanning. Through scanning, identifying any viruses that find their way onto your computer will be easy.
8. Keep an eye out for suspicious emails
Be cautious when opening attachments in emails. Email attachments are commonly used to introduce malware or ransomware onto your computer or server. Before opening an attachment, verify that you know the sender and that the file isn't suspicious.
Some of the most frequent types of email scams:
- Phishing emails: These are malicious emails disguised as legitimate messages. It could be from your bank or other company that you do business with regularly.
- Spear phishing emails: These are highly targeted phishing emails designed for a specific victim. Usually, someone who works at an organization with sensitive data.
- Spoofed emails: These emails appear to be from someone you know. Unfortunately, they come from a hacker who has found a way to hide their real email address.
To ensure your emails are delivered to the inbox, you must implement Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). These three methods work together to authenticate your emails and protect your sender's reputation:
SPF works by verifying that email comes from an IP address authorized to send mail for a given domain.
DKIM uses encryption to verify that a message comes from the sender and has not been altered. This method is more secure than SPF, but it takes more time to set up.
DMARC allows you to set rules for handling your mail when it fails authentication.
9. Check links before you click on them
Check where that link will direct you before clicking on any link in an email message. If the link looks suspicious, don't click on it even if it seems to be from someone you know. Instead, call or text that person and ask if they sent the message.
You could also type the website address in your browser to ensure you're not redirected to a fake site.
It's best to block particularly vulnerable attachment types, like .exe files, which could contain viruses or malware. If an employee needs these files, they can be approved case-by-case basis.
10. Deploy a gateway email content filter
Gateway email content filters are software applications connecting the Internet and your mail servers. These email content filters intercept incoming messages. They check them for malware or other suspicious elements that might indicate an attack. The message is then delivered to the appropriate destination or quarantined for review if needed.
One of the most effective ways to improve email security is by screening incoming communications before they enter your organization. This allows you to identify and block spam messages and malware before reaching your users' inboxes. This ensures all outbound communications meet security standards.
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If you're a small business owner, the importance of keeping your email secure can't be overstated. You are not just responsible for yourself and your staff, but also for your clients and your investors. Your company is likely to have sensitive information that needs to be protected. It could be financial details, mailing lists, or customer information. If a cybercriminal could gain access to this information, your company could be in serious trouble.
You can rest assured knowing you're protecting your business from a growing threat. In fact, go one step ahead and check out our guide on how DMARC can safeguard your users from spoofing and phishing. Protect your domain from fraudulent emails with these best-kept secrets!
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