There have been a number of recent high-profile events highlighting the importance of email security. For example, there was a breach several years ago of a well-known tech company that affected one billion customers. According to a report from Fortune, the contact information of more than 1.5 million customers of a major wireless provider was stolen recently also.
With these companies facing such massive cybersecurity breaches, it leaves small businesses afraid they’re going to be victims, and they might not have the resources to combat or rebound from such attacks.
For small businesses, email security is one of the biggest cybersecurity concerns, and actually, by safeguarding emails small businesses can protect themselves and their customers. Despite the importance of email security, it’s something that can be overlooked.
Cybercriminals often target email accounts because of the fact they are overlooked and represent a point of weakness. Plus, emails can hold a lot of information including documents, data, and contacts.
The following are essential email security tips for small businesses.
Choose a Secure Email Host
For email security, you need a strong foundation. A secure email server is essential. When you choose an email server for your business, you want to look for one with two-factor authentication.
Two-factor authentication means that to access the service, two forms of identity have to be used.
This could, as an example, be a password and a phone number. This way, if email accounts do get hacked, the cybercriminal still can’t access the information.
Two-factor authentication is an important added layer of protection, and it can also be used to protect other accounts such as web applications or social media accounts.
A secure email host will need to have spam protection and anti-malware protection.
Finally, when choosing an email hosting service for your business, look for one with data loss prevention policies that are built-in.
All of your employees need to be trained on password best practices, and this training may need to be frequently updated as there are changes in what makes for a secure, strong password. The more complex a password, the better.
No Personal Email Use
Another area to train your employees in terms of email security is on the separation between work and personal email messages. Your business policy should prohibit the use of work email accounts for personal messages and vice versa.
Employees, in fact, shouldn’t be using work systems to do anything except work from a security standpoint.
You have to do the same as the owner of the business. If you’re shopping online or using your work account for personal emails, you’re putting your organization at risk of being targeted by cybercriminals.
Regular security training should include the risks of personal tasks that are done on work systems.
Don’t Open Attachments
Everyone in your business should know that they should never open an attachment unless they’re expecting it to come through. This includes attachments from people the recipient may know. One of the most frequent ways hackers gain access to emails is by sending emails with attachments.
When the attachment is opened, it can infect the computer.
Let your employees know that anytime they receive an attachment on their work email account, they should call the person they think sent it to them and confirm.
The same goes for links.
Phishing scams will often come from what looks like someone you know or a business you know, such as a bank. It will direct you to click a malicious link, and you’ll be sent to a fake website where your personal information can be stolen.
Other phishing red flags to be aware of yourself and to train your employees on include emails that come with a generic introduction. Rather than coming directly to you and mentioning your name, a suspicious email might say something like “Dear Email User.” Even if an email does use your name, you need to check and double-check the source.
With phishing, the email address the email comes from can look incredibly similar to an address of someone you know—it may just be one letter or number.
Finally, depending on the nature of your business and the type of information sent in your emails, you might consider encrypted emails. This offers a higher level of protection so that when emails are sent, they’re automatically encrypted, and hackers don’t know what information is in them. There are also tools to encrypt files you send by email easily.