Top 8 Email Security Concerns Every Business Needs To Know

November 8, 2016

Over 300 billion emails are sent and received each day. That's a staggering number, highlighting just how vital email is for businesses worldwide. But with this massive flow of messages comes email security concerns, which are major headaches for companies everywhere. 

Email has leveled up to be the top means of communication among teammates, customers, and stakeholders alike. Important updates, critical documents, and vital decisions all find their way into our inboxes. But here's the catch: where there's valuable information, malicious attackers are lurking, ready to pounce.

In this blog, we'll delve into the key email security concerns that every business needs to know and uncover best practices to effectively tackle these risks head-on.

1. Phishing

One of the most prevalent email security concerns is phishing, a deceptive tactic used by cybercriminals to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or installing malware. Phishing emails often appear to be from legitimate sources, such as banks or trusted organizations, but in reality, they aim to compromise the recipient's email account or extract valuable data.

A significant incident occurred with Xoom Corporation in 2014, where a phishing attack resulted in a financial loss of $30.8 million. The attackers launched an email spoofing campaign targeting Xoom’s financial department, leading to a substantial immediate financial impact and a 14% dip in the company's stock. 


2. Spear phishing

While general phishing casts a wide net, spear phishing takes a more targeted approach. Unlike generic phishing emails that aim to deceive a broad audience, spear phishing messages are meticulously crafted to deceive specific individuals or organizations.

Spear phishing often incorporates personalized details gleaned from social media or other sources, making them appear more convincing and difficult to identify as fraudulent. This attack poses a heightened email security concern for businesses due to its tailored nature. 

By exploiting the trust between colleagues or leveraging familiarity with internal processes, spear phishing attacks can circumvent traditional defenses, leading to devastating consequences such as data breaches or financial loss.

Spear phishing

3. Malware threats

Malware, short for malicious software, encompasses a variety of harmful programs designed to infiltrate and disrupt computer systems. These threats can range from viruses and worms to ransomware and spyware, each posing a unique email security risk. 

Email serves as a common vector for malware distribution, with cybercriminals leveraging deceptive tactics to trick recipients into unwittingly downloading or executing malicious payloads. Attachments disguised as legitimate documents or links leading to infected websites are common methods used to propagate malware via email. 

The consequences of malware infections for businesses can be severe and widespread. Malware can lead to financial loss, reputational damage, and legal liabilities, besides causing operational disruption and loss of sensitive data.

Malware threats

4. Ransomware attacks

Ransomware, a menacing malware, poses a significant threat to email security. It operates by encrypting files or locking users out of their systems, demanding payment for the decryption key. These attacks frequently begin with spam emails containing malicious attachments or links. Once these attachments are opened or clicked, the ransomware swiftly infiltrates the system, wreaking havoc on files and networks.

Businesses have faced a barrage of ransomware assaults, highlighting the critical importance of robust email security solutions. Incidents such as WannaCry and NotPetya have inflicted widespread damage, causing financial losses and operational disruptions totaling billions of dollars. 

Ransomware attacks

5. Business email compromise

Business email compromise (BEC) is a sophisticated email scam in which cybercriminals impersonate trusted individuals or entities within an organization to deceive employees into transferring funds or sensitive information. This email security threat relies on social engineering tactics to manipulate victims into believing the fraudulent requests are legitimate. 

The financial ramifications of BEC attacks can be severe, resulting in substantial monetary losses for businesses, damage to reputation, and potential legal liabilities. One example is the BEC scam that targeted Ubiquiti Networks, a prominent technology company, resulting in the loss of over $46 million through fraudulent wire transfers. This incident serves as a stark illustration of the impact BEC attacks can have on organizations of all sizes.

Business email compromise

6. Account takeover (ATO)

Account Takeover (ATO) is the unauthorized access and control of an individual's email account by cybercriminals. Attackers use various methods to gain access to compromised email accounts and exploit them for malicious purposes, such as sending spam, launching phishing campaigns, or accessing sensitive information.

ATO poses significant email security concerns for businesses, with far-reaching consequences. Beyond the immediate impact of unauthorized access to sensitive information or communication channels, ATO can lead to reputational damage, financial loss, and regulatory penalties. 

Additionally, if an email account is compromised, it can be used as a starting point for further cyber-attacks. This can result in an even greater amount of harm being inflicted on businesses and their stakeholders.

Account takeover

7. Data leaks

Email security concerns extend to the risk of unintentional or intentional data leaks, where sensitive information is inadvertently exposed or maliciously disclosed through email communications.

Accidental leaks happen when someone makes a mistake, like sending an email with private files to the wrong person or including sensitive details in the message by accident. For example, a study by Tessian found that a whopping 88% of data breaches occur because of employee slip-ups, showing how common these mistakes are.

On the flip side, intentional leaks might come from insiders looking to mess with data for their gain. With cyber threats getting smarter and it being easy to send data through email, these worries are growing. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center saw a rise in complaints about email-based incidents, showing how these attacks are happening more often and getting trickier.

The rising trend in data leaks shows why email security is a major concern for organizations. The combination of unintentional mishaps and deliberate actions poses a challenging issue, making it essential to have robust email security practices in place while also providing training to people to be aware of these risks.

Data leaks

8. Email spoofing

Email spoofing is a deceptive technique used by cybercriminals to falsify the sender's address in an email to make it appear as though it's coming from a legitimate source. This manipulation can trick recipients into believing the email is trustworthy, leading them to disclose sensitive information, click on malicious links, or execute fraudulent transactions.

Email spoofing plays a pivotal role in various types of fraud, including phishing scams, business email compromise (BEC), and malware distribution. Identifying spoofed emails requires a keen eye and a cautious approach. Here are some tips to help you spot them:

• Check the sender's email address: Scrutinize the sender's email address for any inconsistencies or misspellings that may indicate spoofing. Pay attention to subtle differences, such as extra characters or domain variations.

• Verify the email's content: Examine the content of the email for any irregularities, such as grammatical errors, unusual language, or unexpected requests for sensitive information.

• Hover over links before clicking: Before clicking on any links embedded within the email, hover your mouse cursor over them to reveal the actual destination URL.

• Be wary of urgent requests: Be cautious of emails that pressure you to take immediate action or create a sense of urgency.

• Enable email authentication protocols: Ensure that your email service provider implements authentication protocols to verify the legitimacy of incoming emails and mitigate the risk of spoofing.

Email spoofing

Importance of email security

The importance of email security for businesses has never been more critical. Email is a primary way we communicate in the corporate world, especially for sharing sensitive and secret information. Recent numbers show why this is so urgent. For example, Verizon says that 94% of malware gets into systems through email. This shows how vulnerable email is and how tricky attackers have become.

It's not just a matter of information security, but also financial security. According to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, the average cost of a data breach is an enormous $4.45 million. The most costly breaches are often the result of malicious attacks like phishing and malware.

It's no longer a matter of choice for businesses to secure their email systems. It has become an absolute necessity. To ensure email security, companies should use advanced email filters and secure gateways. Additionally, it's crucial to educate employees about the dangers of phishing and malware attacks, since they are often the first point of contact with suspicious emails. 

Importance of email security

Best practices for email security

To mitigate the risks associated with email security concerns, implementing robust security measures and following best practices are essential. Here are some recommended strategies to enhance email security:

Utilize multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Employing multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to email accounts, requiring users to provide additional verification beyond just a password. This helps prevent unauthorized access in case passwords are compromised.

Implement secure email gateways

Secure email gateways act as a barrier between the internet and an organization's email server, filtering incoming and outgoing email traffic for potential threats. They help detect and block malicious email attachments, phishing attempts, and other email-based attacks.

Partner with an MSP (managed service provider)

Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) specializing in email security can provide access to advanced email security solutions and expertise. MSPs can assess an organization's security posture, identify vulnerabilities in email systems, and implement tailored security measures to protect against email threats.

Educate users on email security 

Providing ongoing training and awareness programs to employees about email security best practices is crucial. This includes educating users on how to recognize phishing attempts, avoid clicking on suspicious links or email attachments, and report any security incidents promptly.

Regularly update security software and email clients 

Ensure that security software, including antivirus programs and email clients, is kept up to date with the latest patches and security updates. Regular updates help address vulnerabilities in email systems and protect against emerging email threats.

Enforce strong password security

Encourage users to create strong, unique passwords for their email accounts and enable password policies that require regular password changes. Additionally, consider implementing password managers to securely store and manage passwords.

Monitor email traffic for anomalies 

Implement email monitoring tools to track email traffic for unusual patterns or suspicious activities, such as email bombing or mass phishing campaigns. Monitoring helps detect potential security breaches and enables timely response and mitigation efforts.

Best practices for email security

Put your email security concerns at rest with Techlocity

With so many email security concerns, organizations must strengthen their defenses against evolving cyber threats. Email communication carries numerous risks that are always present. If email security is inadequate, it can lead to significant financial losses and damage the reputation of the organization. 

To protect yourself against various online threats, it is important to remain vigilant, educate yourself about potential risks, and implement strong security measures. By teaming up with Techlocity, a reliable managed service provider, you can benefit from advanced security solutions and expert guidance that is customized to meet your specific needs.

Protect your business from potential threats by securing your email communications. Contact us for professional IT security consultations and assessments today! 

Prevent email security concerns with Techlocity

Frequently asked questions

What are the most common email security threats businesses face?

Businesses often encounter various email security threats, including phishing attacks, malware infections, ransomware assaults, and business email compromise (BEC) scams. These threats aim to exploit vulnerabilities in email systems and compromise sensitive information or financial assets.

How can businesses prevent email security breaches?

Businesses can enhance their email security posture by implementing robust security measures such as MFA, secure email gateways, and regular security updates for email clients and software. Educating employees about phishing awareness and enforcing strong password policies are also crucial steps in preventing email security breaches.

What role does email content play in email security?

Email content plays a significant role in email security, as malicious actors often use deceptive tactics to craft convincing phishing emails or embed malware in email attachments. Businesses should train employees to scrutinize email content for signs of suspicious activity and avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources.

Why is inadequate email security a significant concern for businesses?

Inadequate email security exposes businesses to a range of risks, including data breaches, financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Cybercriminals target email systems as a primary avenue for launching attacks, making robust email security essential for protecting sensitive information and maintaining business continuity.

What are the key components of an effective email security strategy?

An effective email security strategy encompasses various elements, including advanced threat detection mechanisms, regular security assessments, employee training and awareness programs, encryption technologies, and secure email protocols. 

How can businesses secure their email communications against advanced threats?

To secure email communications against advanced threats, businesses should rely on advanced email security solutions that incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to detect and mitigate emerging threats in real time. Additionally, implementing secure email protocols, such as transport layer security (TLS) encryption, can safeguard email transmissions against interception and tampering.

Why is educating email users crucial for enhancing email security?

Educating email users is critical for enhancing email security as they are often the first line of defense against email attacks. By training employees to recognize and report suspicious emails, businesses can empower them to identify potential threats, mitigate risks, and contribute to a stronger email security posture.

Is email security only as good as the email provider?

Email security is ultimately a shared responsibility between the provider and the end-users. Businesses must adopt proactive measures to secure their email systems, including implementing security best practices, regularly updating software, and educating employees about email security risks and prevention measures.