Within most organizations, the nuts and bolts around email security flies under the radar screen – nobody outside the IT group thinks about it until there’s a problem. While most folks are aware of the risks associated with unsecure email, it’s unfortunately generally perceived that these risks are minimal enough to throw caution to the wind. However, when an actual breach does occur, the damage can be devastating. What are the top three threats around email security that keep email experts up at night?
Employee error is the number one cause of email security breach, and it’s hardly surprising since mistakes happen all the time. It can be as simple as sending an email containing sensitive personal information to the wrong person – and just about everyone with an email account has either sent or received an email intended for another recipient at one time or another.
However, when that email was sent with an attachment that contains confidential personal information, it’s no laughing matter. For instance, if your mortgage broker sends your loan application containing your name, address, social security number, and credit history to the wrong person, it’s highly likely that neither you nor the sender will even know that the error occurred until after the damage is done.
Hackers and Phishing Scams
When a hacker intercepts an email and subsequently hijacks and account, it’s highly likely that the attack will run unchecked for a substantial period of time because it’s so hard to detect. And the longer it runs, the more damage is done.
Hacking presents two distinct threats to email account holders. First, hackers and their contacts become vulnerable to elaborate phishing scams that don’t appear suspicious because the communication feels logical and expected. For example, if a retail customer has requested an electronic receipt and the hacker snags the email containing that receipt, it’s a relatively simple exercise to craft an email posing as the retailer that convinces the recipient to click through and “verify transaction details” simply because the correspondence is expected.
Second, if hackers have access to archived emails with attachments containing confidential information, they can easily sift through and pluck critical personal data – including logins and passwords – to empty your bank accounts. This is why it’s critically important to segregate the sensitive information from the body of the email and protect it with a password that expires within a predetermined time frame.
In addition to employees and hackers, organizations now need to worry about the government spying on private email communication. To protect customers from prying eyes, it’s vitally important to send private documents securely. The best software solutions not only ensure that secure document delivery protocols are in place to protect sensitive attachments from direct interception but also avoid transferring communication threads to third parties who can be compelled by court order to turn over messages and attachments. Put simply, if the third party never has access to the data in the first place, it can’t turn over what it doesn’t have.
These threats are continually evolving, but key aspects of email security threats remain constant. First, there’s no way to eradicate employee error – it’s going to happen and needs to be proactively addressed. Second, hackers will perpetually innovate and refine their schemes, and thus it’s critically important to ensure that email account holders aren’t vulnerable to these hijackers in the first place. And third, government surveillance is a reality that isn’t going away. Therefore, it’s vital to implement solutions that not only obscure communication from prying eyes but also ensure that personal data never resides with a third party. And when these measures are in place, email security experts can finally sleep at night.