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Top email security tips

Of all the resources businesses use to communicate with, email is the one that causes more data leakages than any other. It is easy for sensitive information to accidentally get released such as employee details, upcoming software launches or even legal content. There is also the issue of hackers finding ways to access company networks to damage and/or steal information.

When an email security issue occurs, company liability  can become a serious problem, leaving damage limitation as the only option, which can be costly in all manner of ways.

However, there are some ways that you can minimize exposure to these risks and protect your important corporate assets:

Create strong passwords
Many employees use passwords that are too easy to remember. They will use things like names, birthdays and simple words. As a result, these are often easy to hack.

A better approach is to enforce a policy where all users have to create complex passwords that use a mixture of upper case letters, lower case letters, characters and numbers. Then, for extra protection, make sure that users have to update these passwords often (every 60-90 days) and they don’t use the same email password to log into other areas such as network resources. That way, if an email password is compromised, other assets remain secure.

Ensure compliance
Compliance regulations may not be that exciting but they are there for a reason. Financial and healthcare institutions in particular have to ensure that data is kept as secure as possible in order to avoid serious consequences.

Failure to comply with regulations not only carries financial penalties, but can seriously damage your corporate reputation. This will impact on your future business to the point where customers might avoid working with you.

Launch a fightback against spam 
One of the most annoying and dangerous security issues is spam , with more than three percent of spam mails containing dangerous malware . We all receive emails each day that try and make you give up important details such as your bank details. Spam also negatively impacts on employee productivity, so you need an anti-spam solution in place.

However, if you choose a product that is ‘too strict’ in how it views spam , you can end up having important emails blocked at the same time, which again causes productivity issues. The best choice is to choose a solution that looks at global spam traffic trends and then modifies its strategy accordingly.

Watch for malware
Malware is more vicious and dangerous than ever, with new attacks emerging all the time. Your organization not only has to fight against all the malware that is currently out there, but has to be ready to defend itself from zero-day exploits. Having powerful malware engines in place is something that you simply cannot live without.

Don’t go phishing
If you are unaware of the techniques used with phishing scams, it is easy to give up your details without even knowing that you have put yourself at risk. Be aware of any emails that ask you to surrender private information that could be used for identity theft. You’ll constantly get these types of  email whether you want to or not, so be aware of them at all times.

A good step is to have a tool that looks for keywords related to confidential data not just embedded in the email, but also in the subject line, attachments and the address. Coupled with a policy that helps to ensure data is not sent out deliberately or inadvertently , your organization will have an extra level of protection against any number of attacks.

Use filtering and monitoring
Outside hackers are not the only issue you should be aware of. There are also many cases where the threat has occurred from inside an organization, leading to the loss of financial data, corporate strategies and client details. Sometimes, employees aren’t even aware that they are putting their company at risk with their email behavior.

Having a way to monitor email content will solve most of these problems. Make sure that inappropriate messages are blocked and watch for emails that might contain information that is not to be released externally.

Be ready for any breaches
Hackers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in how they ‘attack’ companies, with many recent news articles highlighting how easy it is for data breaches to occur. Social engineering is more common than ever where hackers trick employees into giving up important details.

Be prepared for all types of hacking and don’t become a victim of corporate espionage. It is impossible to be 100% protected from all threats, but the more security policies and applications you have in place, the better your chances are of not suffering a catastrophic breach.

Implement a proper defense
It is clear that you must have software that deals with spam, malware, viruses and content filtering. If you go for only basic or free solutions, you will end up paying a steeper price than if you had purchased software of value.

Even with all the software tools in place, if your staff don’t know about threats they might face, it makes the whole security process slightly redundant. Train your staff to resist hacking attempts, how to recognize malware and avoiding phishing scams. When properly trained, employees can become the equivalent of a ‘human firewall’.

In the end, always be prepared with proper email security, know what threats are out there, be prepared for any eventuality and make sure that your employees are not the weak link in your email security defense plan.