Email Security: Best Practices for SMBs and Top Email Security Providers

Image of email security on a digital canvas with locks and binary representation
Email security, more important than you think

Email continues to be the top communication method worldwide. It’s cheap, fast, and easily accessible. It also provides several benefits to businesses with efficient electronic data transmission. That said, email is still prone to vulnerabilities. That’s why having top mail security in your company is vital.

In this article, I’ll go over what email security is and how it works. I’ll also give you a few best practices for you to stay ahead of cyberattackers. Finally, I’ll give you a list of the best email security providers that you can choose for your business.

What Is Email Security?

Email security aims to protect email accounts from cyberattacks. It includes threat prevention, prediction, and other techniques. If you’re not careful, cyberattackers can infiltrate your company through your emails. They’ll target you with phishing, malware, or DoS attacks. 

image depicting a guy about to provide his credit card details to a phishing email
Above all, stay away from phishing!

As a result, several vendors are providing off-the-shelf email security solutions. These help you stay safe from email vulnerabilities

Here’s an overview for you to understand how email security works

How Does Email Security Work?

To understand how email security works, you need to understand the process of an email being generated and sent

  1. You draft an email containing information
  2. The email goes through machines and servers
  3. SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) transports the email to the receiver
  4. POP3 or IMAP handle the email delivery

Since this whole process is very lengthy and complex, cybercriminals often exploit it. Moreover, anyone who intercepts an email can extract all its information

Email security essentially safeguards the lengthy transfer process. For example, it encrypts and filters emails. Some email security solutions also include several anti-malware systems. That ensures the safety and integrity of the email transmission

That said, email security isn’t all systematic. You should also educate your employees on the best practices of email use. After all, human errors are one of the most commonly exploited vulnerabilities.

To help you with that, I’ve gathered these 9 email security best practices you can implement.

9 Email Security Best Practices

1. Set up Spam Filters

Spam emails may be dangerous. They often contain malicious code, making them potentially lethal for businesses. That’s why you should set up spam filters. These filters find all the unsolicited emails flowing in your network. You can also find pre-made or customized filtering solutions.

These filters can also offload the lengthy process of finding and removing spam. In fact, they use rules to automate the process, so you don’t have to sort through harmful mail manually. If you’re less prone to malicious code, you keep your organization’s reputation intact

2. Implement Email Encryption

Emails are direct means of communication. That means anyone who intercepts them can access their data. However, email encryption can prevent intruders from extracting info from emails. Email encryption also protects confidential information. It also helps you avoid identity and data theft, and can secure unprotected mail data backups. 

Therefore, your business should implement email encryption for added security. To do that, you can select an email security service provider or create a custom-made solution.

3. Include Antivirus Protection

Hackers are getting more innovative in using different forms of malware. Through these new attacks, they take down organizational data and networks. That’s why antivirus protection is a very crucial aspect of email security. It can protect you from malicious code and malware sent through spam emails.  

image of an unsecured email that is serving as an attack vector among other secured emails
Unsecured email is basically a gate for cybercriminals.

4. Use Secure Email Gateways (SEG)

A Secure Email Gateway (SEG) is a solution that protects your organization’s internal mailing servers. It inspects, monitors, and analyzes the incoming and outgoing emails before delivery. Basically, an SEG is an email firewall for your business. It can also be very crucial in securing the emails and the sensitive data they carry. 

Because SEGs are implemented on the server side, you can leverage them to provide overall email security. SEGs can filter spam, report and block malware, and create allowlists/blocklists. SEGs also stop sensitive data from leaving your organization through emails. 

5. Adopt Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Lost or stolen credentials can often lead to data and identity theft. In turn, they can have a catastrophic impact on your business. Multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security. Users will have to identify themselves through different verification measures. Only then will they have access to the systems and the data. Enabling MFA can help you increase customer trust and reduce fraud and identity theft. Finally, it can also achieve compliance, and simplify the login process.

Image of a person is using his smartphone to serve as a second layer of authentication to get into a system on his laptop.
MFA is especially useful for your email security!

6. Educate Employees

Humans contribute to data breaches and cyberattacks. No matter how secure your systems are, a human lapse in judgment can potentially allow cybercriminals in. After that, it’ll be easy to take the system down. That’s why no one should use corporate emails for personal use or to move data from one device to another. 

Therefore, employee education is one of the most important email security measures you can take to prevent any incidents. This can help your employees learn the best email practices. It’ll also educate them on the consequences of negligence. 

7. Use a VPN

When you’re using a virtual private network (VPN), hackers can’t infiltrate your company through your public networks. A VPN allows you to securely tunnel to your organization’s network from anywhere on the planet. That makes it one of the most efficient and robust ways to secure your email. It even protects you outside your organization’s network. 

Pro Tip: Some Quality VPN Providers

Although the market is flooded with VPN options, KerioControl, Nord VPN, and ExpressVPN are some of the most secure, feature-packed VPNs. They also prioritize security and anonymity. 

Image of VPN wording on a shield in a graphic circuit board; showcasing the importance of VPN for email security
VPN is another tool email security

8. Reset Passwords Systematically

Systematic password reset prevents intruders from leveraging exploited passwords to access your systems. It’s also essential for you to enforce systematic password resets within your organization to stay on top of security breaches. Thankfully, you can also automate and streamline the password resets with an efficient self-service password reset. 

9. Set Up Email Authentication Protocols (SPF, DKIM, DMARC)

Finally, you can bolster your email security with email authentication protocols. For example, use Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). That way, you prevent unsolicited traffic, malware, phishing, email spoofing, and other email security concerns.

On top of everything else, SMBs can also perform timely email backups. That way, you can restore the data in case of a disaster. What’s more, consider implementing an email retention policy. Delete the emails that are no longer valid for business operations. That’ll help you secure your emails and ensure compliance.

Now that we’ve seen several best practices in securing your emails, I’ll show you the top email security providers for SMBs. 

Top 3 Email Security Providers: Pros and Cons

Thankfully, you don’t need to implement good email security practices alone. Below are our top picks for the best email security providers for SMBs in 2022. Each of these services can provide an end-to-end email security solution. They can encrypt email, protect from malware, and support VPNs. What’s more, they may even have an SEG and MFA. They don’t all offer the same features, but you should find the best service for you depending on your needs. Let’s dive in.

1. Mimecast

Mimecast is one of the leading SaaS offerings for SEG providers for SMBs. It can help you protect your organizational emails by mitigating risk and enabling email encryption. Mimecast also offers threat protection from malware. 

Pros

  • Several security features include CyberGraph, URL Protection, and attachment protection.
  • Inbuilt Security awareness for avoiding human errors

Cons

  • Administrative console is slightly complex and not so intuitive to use
  • Free trial version is unavailable for you to try and decide if this meets your needs

2. Microsoft Defender

Microsoft Defender for Office 365 is a cloud-based email filtering service from Microsoft. It protects your organization from several cyber threats. It also offers several features like advanced protection for internal mail, safe links and attachments, report message add-in, advanced threat investigation, attack simulation training, etc. 

Pros

  • Detailed risk-level notifications for risk categorization
  • Different plans to meet the needs of different organizations
  • Single and centralized console for easy usage and control

Cons

  • Heavy on resource and bandwidth consumption based on the configuration
  • Some advanced security features only work on Microsoft documents

3. Mail Essentials

Lastly, we have Mail Essentials. It’s a solid email security provisioning service, and it packs up several advanced and highly customizable features. Mail Essential offers up to 14 pre-defined anti-spam filters, 4 antivirus engines, and other malware scanning abilities in a single package. 

Pros

  • Easy integration with different mailboxes and email servers; fits with on-premise, cloud, or hybrid deployment setups. 
  • Easy to use web console with integrated reporting
  • Included data leakage prevention and email content enforcement 

Cons

  • Challenging spam filter customization

Final Words

In this article, I’ve detailed how and why email security is very crucial for the protection, privacy, and integrity of your data. We also discussed in detail the working of an email security solution. Additionally, you learned some of the best security practices, like using a VPN, systematic password resets, secure email gateway, multi-factor authentication, and encryption. Lastly, I also listed some of the top email security services.  

Now that you know what an email security service can offer you, it’s time for you to choose the right service for your business. Regardless of the provider you choose, always follow the best practices to protect the most critical means of communication—emails.

Have more questions about email security? Check out the FAQ and Resources below!

 

FAQ

What are the benefits of email authentication protocols?

Email authentication protocols are very crucial in protecting organizations against email fraud. They also create robust email security. Some of the major email authentication protocols include SPF, DKIM, DMARC, and BIMI. These protocols can help you in protecting your brand reputation and data integrity. They’ll also support email deliverability and protect your customers and employees alike.

What is a secure email gateway?

A secure email gateway (SEG) is either a device or software primarily meant for email security. Basically, it monitors the information being sent and received via emails. These email gateways add a layer of security and prevent unwanted, unsolicited, or suspicious emails. They also prevent sensitive information from falling in the wrong hands.

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN)  helps you extend a private network across any public network. As a result, this enables you to securely tunnel to your organizational network from anywhere across the globe. When choosing your email security service, ensure it supports VPN use.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is a fraudulent activity where a cybercriminal designs and develops a fraudulent email. This “fake” email tricks the users into sharing or submitting sensitive information. It may even make them involuntarily download malware leading to data theft, corruption, and even data destruction. Most email security services provide anti-phishing services to secure their users against phishing.

What is a DoS attack?

In a DoS (denial of service) attack, a hacker uses one or more computers to send a large volume of requests to a system or server. In turn, that takes the system down and hinders its operation/performance. A lack of robust email security services or best practices could potentially allow cybercriminals to disrupt your business through DoS attacks. 

 

Resources 

TechGenix: Newsletters 

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TechGenix: Cybersecurity Section

Learn more about cybersecurity.

TechGenix: Enterprise Section

Learn more about different Enterprise news, tools, and services

TechGenix: Article on Secure Email Gateway

Learn more about secure email gateway.

Fortinet: Email Security

Learn more about email security and different types of attacks.

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