5 Common Email Security Issues and How to Avoid Them

Do your employees contribute to the more than 269 billion email messages that get sent each day? Email is a quick, easy way to share information.

But it’s also an easy path into your company’s private information that leaves you vulnerable. Unauthorized access to sensitive data can be damaging to your company and your employees. Viruses can shutter your computer network until you resolve the issue. 

Email security issues cost time and money. They can also hurt your reputation.

Learn more about these five email security weaknesses that many companies face. Then, find out what you can do about them to cut your risks.

1. Phishing Scams

That email looks legit, but is it really from the portrayed sender? Spear phishing is a sophisticated way hackers try to gain access to your information. The email looks like it’s from a trusted person or company, but it’s actually from a hacker.

Since the email looks legit, you might click the link and enter your information. Many of these advanced phishing scams use lesser known threats, which aren’t always caught by anti-virus software. 

Solutions

Train your employees to be suspicious of potential phishing scams. It’s always safer to go directly to the website in question rather than clicking a link in an email.

Running a simulated phishing attack tests your employees to see if they follow the email security guidelines. A more robust scanning system helps catch viruses if a real phishing scam is successful.

2. Poor Password Management

Your employees should know not to use simple passwords like “password123.” But they may not understand how easy it is to crack passwords using their personal info, pet names, and favorite hobbies. 

Strict password requirements enforced by some programs and websites seem annoying. But they’re so complicated for a reason. Hackers can easily figure out passwords that are short or simple.

Employees sometimes leak their passwords unintentionally. They might share passwords with someone else or write down a password to remember it. That information in the wrong hands gives full access to the email account.

Solutions

Password issues are easy to solve if you’re diligent and train your employees well. Train them on the importance of choosing strong passwords and changing them frequently. Consider setting your systems to force password changes at set intervals.

A password with at least 12 characters increases security. Aim for even longer passwords with 16 characters or more. 

Employees also need to protect passwords using a secure password manager. Writing down a password or sharing it is a quick way to put your email data at risk. 

Multi-factor authentication can add another layer of security. It works by requiring you to enter a PIN sent to your phone or other device. Your email account is still secure unless the hacker also has your device to retrieve the PIN.

Holding regular training on passwords and other email security issues helps keep your employees aware. Learn more about how security training can help improve your email security.

3. Confidential Data That’s Not Encrypted

Email is an efficient way to send information, but sensitive or proprietary information send via email leaves you exposed to data losses.Travel plans, customer information, financial data, receipts, and discussions about business topics are examples.

Sometimes you can’t avoid sending that data via email. Many companies send receipts and travel confirmations through email. 

The problem comes in when you don’t encrypt the data or your email program doesn’t have strong enough encryption. Even if your system encrypts emails, the recipient’s server may not support encryption, which leaves the data open to hacking.

Solutions

Ensure your email system uses encryption before sending any sensitive data. If you regularly deal with personal client information such as addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers, establish guidelines for sharing that info. Let employees know which information can’t go through email to protect important data.

4. Malware Infections

Email is an easy way for hackers to infiltrate your system using viruses. Malware comes in different formats, including viruses, spyware, ransomware, and software you don’t consent to downloading. 

Once installed on your computer, the malware can let the hacker access data, control things you do online, send spam messages, and other harmful activities. Viruses can cause your systems to crash.

Ransomware encrypts the information on your computer so you can’t access it. The hacker demands a ransom to regain access to your files. 

Not all basic anti-virus software programs protect against these viruses. New threats pop up regularly so the software doesn’t always keep up fast enough.

Your employees’ activities can increase the chances of malware issues. If they click on suspicious links or open infected email messages, they can infect the network. 

Solutions

Using more powerful anti-virus solutions helps you better stop viruses before they damage your computer and files. Multiple virus scanning options help catch things that might slip through one program. Ensure employees run anti-virus scans regularly.

Regularly updating those software programs helps keep you protected from the latest threats. The updates often add in protection for previously unknown viruses and other malware.

5. Physically Compromised Information

Not all comprised email happens due to cyber attacks. Physical access to computers and mobile devices leaves your company open to unauthorized data access.

Accessing work emails from phones and tablets lets your employees stay connected no matter where they are. If they save passwords on those devices, thieves have full access to those emails if the device gets stolen.

Another potential threat is shoulder surfing while an employee accesses email in public. Someone standing behind or beside the employee may be able to see sensitive data on the screen. This technique can also let scammers see passwords or PINs entered into the device.

Solutions

Alert employees about the threat of people looking over their shoulders. Encourage them to check their email in secure locations where others can’t see their screens.

Using passcodes on mobile devices helps keep unauthorized people out of all apps, including email. Enable an additional password or passcode to get into the email program for an additional layer of protection.

Improve Your Email Security

Focusing on email security cuts down on potential financial and information attacks on your company. A combination of powerful software solutions and training for employees helps secure your network.

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