Security in email server: Best practices and strategies
As economic volatility and geopolitical tensions rise, companies are adopting a more conservative approach in all aspects of their business, including digital domains. Cyber risks that were once tolerable are now deemed unacceptable by senior executives. Ensuring security on email server login is a top priority to reduce the risk of cyber threats.
The global business community is becoming increasingly aware of cyber threats and is more willing to address them. However, email remains the primary attack vector for cybercriminals. Mimecast’s State of Email Security (SOES) study found that corporate reliance on email continues to grow, with 82% of companies reporting a higher email volume in 2022 compared to 79% in 2021 and 81% in 2020. The increase in email usage has led to a rise in email-based threats, with 74% of SOES respondents noting an increase over the past year.
The growing number of threats is a concern, but their increasing sophistication poses an even more significant challenge.
Cybercriminals are constantly refining and adapting their strategies. Dark web malware kits enable even those with minimal technical skills to launch highly sophisticated attacks. In the 2023 SOES survey, respondents identified the increasingly sophisticated nature of attacks as their biggest challenge (59%).
The three most severe types of email threats
Email-borne threats present a considerable challenge to cybersecurity professionals, with phishing, ransomware, and spoofing being the most prevalent types. Many security decision-makers have observed an increase in at least one of these attack types over the past year, with phishing being the most common. So, what’s one of the cause of these attacks? Humans, who continue to be the weakest link in email security. Factors such as employee negligence, inadequate cybersecurity awareness, and susceptibility to social engineering tactics render organizations vulnerable to email-based attacks.
Phishing attempts witnessed a considerable increase in 2022 compared to the previous year. Most concerning is that recipients opened a majority of these emails. Phishing is a significant concern for companies because it’s easy for someone to open a malware-infected email and share it with others, spreading the threat. Consequently, a high percentage of corporate security breaches result from phishing.
Among companies with 250 to 500 employees, a significant number acknowledged that ransomware attacks had damaged their business, with a higher percentage of companies with 1,000 to 5,000 employees admitting the same. However, for large enterprises with a workforce of 10,000 or greater, less than half were impacted by ransomware.
Email spoofing remains a severe risk, particularly for the public sector. Many individuals were aware of attempts to misuse their email domain, with a significant percentage witnessing an increase in this activity in 2022. The rise was even more pronounced among government agencies and other public institutions, with more than half reporting more frequent email spoofing.
Web domain spoofing is also prevalent, as companies frequently discover attempts to clone their websites. On average, businesses identified several such attempts in the past year.
Key practices for boosting email server security
Enhancing an organization’s email server security is vital for protecting sensitive data. Key measures include safeguarding emails, restricting domain access, implementing filters and antivirus protection, and securing networks. Ensuring physical security and understanding the email service provider’s security measures are also crucial for effective protection. By following these best practices, organizations can effectively enhance their email server security.
Configure default settings, usernames, and passwords
Many organizations overlook the importance of changing default settings and configurations on their email servers. Default login credentials, too, must be updated to ensure robust account and password security. Using default credentials leaves an email server and its data vulnerable to theft and compromise.
Implement DMARC to prevent domain spoofing
Cybercriminals often impersonate companies to execute phishing scams. Domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC) is an email protocol that protects a domain from unauthorized use. DMARC relies on the sender policy framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to authenticate authorized users sending emails on behalf of your domain. Consider further integrating Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) and Verified Mark Certificates (VMCs) to enhance the organization’s email security.
Maintain updated server software and firmware
Using outdated or unpatched server software exposes your email server to vulnerabilities. Regularly applying patches and updates helps to prevent cybercriminals from exploiting these weaknesses. Choose between manual and automated update implementation to consistently apply updates and patches.
Employ email server firewalls for traffic monitoring
Email server firewalls, like network firewalls, filter inbound and outbound traffic based on your email server’s rules. This helps monitor incoming and outgoing communications to detect suspicious activities. Consult the firewall manufacturer’s guidelines for setting up rules on the email server.
In conclusion, as email continues to be the primary attack vector for cybercriminals, it is crucial for organizations to prioritize enhancing their email server security.
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