If you haven’t protected your email yet, you’re open to attacks. This comprehensive guide explains what you need for complete email protection and where to get it.
Email protection solutions provide features like spam filtering, firewalls, anti-phishing controls, antivirus policies, spyware detection, login security, data loss protection, and encryption to help secure your organization against email attacks like phishing, spoofing, business email compromise, credential hacking, malware, and more.
Why use email protection?
Email is one of the most widely used forms of business communication on the planet, but the truth is email on its own isn’t inherently secure for private communication. In addition to privacy issues, email is one of the top ways attackers steal information and find their way into company networks.
A recent study estimated at nearly half of all emails sent are phishing attempts. With such many attacks, businesses must stay one step ahead of attackers who abuse these systems in order to protect their data and their customers.
Protection doesn’t just come in the form of technology and software. Businesses must also look at who they are entrusting the policies, configuration, and management of email systems. Lax controls or a misconfiguration by a system administrator could open the door to attackers who know how to exploit human behavior or weaknesses in protocols like SMTP and DNS.
With so many moving parts regarding email security, let’s break down the different forms of protection and see how they work together in order to protect communications.
Types of email protection
A key staple in any email protection platform is virus scanning. Malicious attachments play a massive role in both phishing as well as ransomware attacks. Attackers will hide payloads inside harmless looking attachments masquerading as purchase orders, invoices, and other business documents that you’d expect to find on a company mail server.
Viruses can be identified based on their unique signature. A major caveat to signature-based detection is that attackers make slight variations to the file in order to evade detection. Signature-based detection is great for known threats but won’t alert on a threat it has not learned about.
A better option is to ensure your protection plan includes a mix of both signature and behavior malware detection. Behavioral detection utilizes real time data powered by artificial intelligence that looks at thousands of different signals to understand the intended actions and intent of a file.
This form of dynamic analysis can also look at behavioral relationships between the sender and recipient before making a judgement on a file.
Phishing attacks are carried out by tricking recipients into thinking that the sender is someone that they aren’t. Attackers exploit this trust in order to steal information, gain access to a network, or exploit organizations for financial gain.
Anti-phishing defenses use a combination of artificial intelligence as well as a reputation-based system to stop phishing attempts before they reach a user's inbox. Machine learning can be used to scan millions of phishing messages and train an algorithm to detect phishing attempts.
This technology can also be paired with a domain reputation system that automatically marks messages as spam if they come from a known phishing domain, or blacklisted server.
Just like attachments, links inside of emails can be just as harmful and even harder to detect with an untrained eye. Bad actors can clone legitimate websites and spin up their own malicious lookalike with very little effort. When someone accidentally logs into these cloned websites the attackers can collect the real login information and exploit it.
Catching these malicious links before they reach the recipient is key to preventing a compromised account. Link scanning can use a combination of domain lookups and reputation analysis in order to mark the message as spam or allow the message through but remove the link.
Insider Threat Detection
We know email coming into the network can be a threat, but what about outbound messages? Whether accidental or intentional, staff members could send sensitive documents via email which could violate agreements, break compliance, or result in financial loss.
Internal scanning works on the email server side and scans outbound messages for particular files, names, numbers and recipients. Many types of software allow companies to configure their own rulesets, which can stop a message from being sent if it matches a specific criteria or contains specific keywords.
Many products have templates available that can help prevent HIPAA or PCI related information from leaving the company network. Alerts can be configured to notify management, send the user a warning, or disable the account.
Small business protection
Do small businesses need email protection? The short answer is yes. While smaller businesses won’t have a huge target on their back like corporate enterprises, they still can fall prey to well crafted phishing emails or ransomware.
Unlike larger organizations with bigger budgets, small businesses cannot afford to pay a ransomware attack, or lose money due to a wire fraud phishing scam. At the same time protection must be affordable and allow the service to scale and grow with the business and its users.
At an enterprise level, robust security is necessary to avoid downtime and prevent breaches. Enterprise companies are one of the biggest targets for brand impersonation and spear phishing attacks. For enterprises these systems must seamlessly integrate into existing IT infrastructure while being able to scale with proven technology.
Email protection for established companies should also include an educational phishing campaign component to help consistently train staff in identifying phishing emails. This helps promote a culture of security and gives organizations a way to visualize exactly how susceptible their employees are to email-based threats.
Larger organizations will find that protection as a service is more effective than a standalone product that must be managed in house. In house products are usually only limited signature-based detection and cannot take advantage of large data streams or advanced artificial intelligence features. Utilizing a service also provides better ROI, when compared to building an in house solution and hiring staff to manage and maintain it.
How to choose the best email protection for you
Here are some questions to ask yourself when shopping for email scanning software:
- How many inboxes do I need to protect?
- If the company network went down due to an attack, how impactful would that be?
- Does this system require technical setup, or is it ready to use?
- Does the software use artificial intelligence or signature-based detection?
- Am I looking for a standalone product, or a complete protection service?
Agari works proactively to identify threats before they ever reach your email server. Before being routed, a machine learning algorithm scans incoming messages and checks hundreds of aspects of the email to find malicious behavior. Unlike clunky plugins which can break your mail app, Agari works on the network level to stop threats before they reach your mail server. All this protection lives in the Agari cloud, meaning no lengthy onboardings, or complicated integrations.
Advanced Email Protection combined with Agari Phishing Defense can work together to protect email inboxes on all fronts and doesn’t rely on outdated signature detection which can easily be fooled.
The Agari advantage
Agari offers a turnkey solution to combat phishing attacks through automatic phishing response, remediation, and containment. The system utilizes both signature-based security as well as behavioral analysis to stop malicious files and bad actors at the same time.
Cutting edge predictive analytics identifies new threat trends as they emerge by proactively scanning trillions of messages. As new threat patterns are identified, they are automatically applied to your threat database, ensuring even the newest types of attacks are thwarted.
No matter where your email is hosted, Agari offers a wide variety of integrations into platforms like Office 365, Microsoft Exchange, and Gmail. Setup is simple, and doesn’t require any downtime, meaning no missed emails during onboarding.