Email is the primary internal and external communication method for most organizations. Unfortunately, it also presents a significant security risk. As such, the various email vulnerabilities must be accounted for in your organization’s holistic cybersecurity strategy. Email security packages and plugins exist on a sliding scale—from a basic, built-in spam filter to heavy encryption. One of the most valuable of these to consider is email endpoint scanning.
What is Endpoint Email Scanning, and How Does it Work?
An email endpoint is any user that is receiving an email. This could be an internal employee, such as a manager, or an external contact, like a client. Endpoint email scanning works by looking for critical information in an email that seems out of the ordinary, such as an abnormal address, misspelling of words, or suspicious links. Filters may appear to work the same way, but scanning for indicators across all emails received is essential.
Robust endpoint email scanning programs are more likely to prevent the more clever and malicious phishing attempts. They’re also often the first line of defense against daily attacks. Below, we’ll break down how to implement endpoint email scanners, then how to optimize them for your needs.
Implementing Endpoint Email Scanning Effectively
Adding new software for users to learn is a daunting task that can often cause disruption and delays in business operations. However, adding scanning software to your current email client can be done remotely, and with minimal disruption. An effective plugin, whether commercially available or developed specifically for your team, should perform the following tasks:
- Scan incoming emails before they appear in the user’s inbox.
- Quarantine suspicious emails for expert internal or external review.
- Alert the user to the existence of possibly malicious emails or activities.
When endpoint email scanning software agents are added, they should be able to work with any email formatting across most email platforms. This is because they’re looking for key information identifiers. These red flags are present in even the most sophisticated threat.
Email Endpoint User Training Considerations
The user experience for endpoint email scanning is intuitive and requires minimal training. Users will be able to approach flagged emails with the caution that can save a company from disaster. Even if an authentic email comes through as suspicious, the user can review the email and release it if they determine it’s safe. Strategies to check if an email is authentic include:
- Checking the actual email address of the sender instead of just the contact name.
- Hovering over links to make sure the text that appears matches the text in the link.
- Determining if they were expecting an email from this source on this topic.
- Emailing a confirmation to the contact in a separate email (with caution).
Often employees are hesitant to use these strategies as they fear that it will be seen as a waste of time or make them appear incompetent. Dispelling these myths with your labor force and encouraging safe practices is a way to prevent incidents before they even occur. The scanner can flag the emails but your workforce still must decide if they’re authentic or not.
Optimizing Overall Endpoint Email Protection
Most emails sent in good faith are unlikely to pose a security risk, and many times it’s glaringly obvious when an email is a phishing attempt. However, as an organization scales up, it can often attract more serious attacks. These attacks may even be tailored to specific users within a company, from the newest intern to a long-standing member of senior management. As your company grows, you may want to ask yourself questions to assess if you need to increase email security:
- Does the company have access to sensitive information?
- Has the company recently been promoted in large media outlets?
- Is there publicly available information that can be used to make a scam appear realistic?
- Has there been a separation from the company that can cause a security risk?
- Does the company need to comply with specific compliance laws?
- Does the company have any public facing forms that can be utilized in an attack?
Assessing risk is the first step to proactive cybersecurity, yet when it comes to email, it’s often difficult to know what should or shouldn’t be considered a risk. RSI Security offers individual consultations that ensure that your company knows what it needs to protect itself from through ongoing threat and vulnerability management.
Plugins for web browsers that work similarly to the endpoint email scanning detailed above are also available for increased protection. Proactive web filtering, which compounds the reach of a firewall, can save a company from a malware headache at the hands of a single misclick on a webpage. Additionally, it’s worth considering that to prevent email endpoint threats entirely, it may involve measures beyond email security.
Email Security Best Practice: Defining Levels of Malicious Email
One of the most essential proactive email security measures is identifying different types of email threats and codifying them in levels, each with protocols for mitigation. For example:
- Level 1 – Simplistic, mass phishing emails that have offers that are too good to be true and personal messages from individuals like Bill Gates are easy to spot as phishing. But they still have the potential to trick employees with diminished technical knowledge. These emails are sent out en masse to attempt to trick as many people as possible. They are easily mitigated through basic screening methods pre-installed in email clients.
- Level 2 – Emails that call on users to click hyperlinks can trick users into downloading malware, which can sometimes be undetectable by an average user. The malware can slow a computer, steal information, or infect an entire network. Software that screens for downloadable material or HTML in emails, or renders the links unclickable, may help.
- Level 3 – A direct attack may come to an employee that has access to financial or secure information. These emails often appear to come from a trusted source like the CEO of the company. Hackers may use email spoofing that hides the actual email address and makes it appear that the email is coming from within the company, causing loyal employees to make bank transfers to “clients” that don’t exist or buy untraceable gift cards as gifts. Rigorous access control and training methods may be required to identify and mitigate these advanced email endpoint threats.
At all levels, it’s critical to be aware of users’ email accounts and behaviors. If an account is compromised, appropriate security protocols to change the password and run further security scans are essential, regardless of security clearance. Endpoint security scans may catch these issues, whether it’s a company’s own scanner that is detecting high levels of outgoing email or another company’s scanner flagging a trusted email source as suspicious.
Managed Email Security: Complete Protection
Malicious attacks using vital services like email seem to be never-ending and ever-evolving. This places a massive burden on all departments as they need to assess risks, find proper solutions, and implement appropriate security measures across all employees. Thus, a trusted team of cybersecurity professionals can provide your company the individual protections it needs to keep moving forward.
For a quick consultation on your email endpoint and general security needs, contact RSI Security today.