4 Email Security Best Practices Every Employee Needs to Know

Posted by Mark Jennings - August 27, 2018 - IT Security

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Most organizations today recognize the importance of developing secure business systems and networks to protect their digital assets from malicious outside sources. By 2021, cybercrimes are expected to cause $6 trillion in damages annually, and businesses are wise to take seriously how this growing trend can impact their futures.

However, while companies invest in cybersecurity protection solutions to combat these unknown external forces, many businesses neglect to notice one of their most significant data security vulnerabilities - their own employees.

Email phishing schemes continue to be one of the most common methods that hackers use to infiltrate secure systems and cause devastating damage. Being able to combat these dangers effectively has become a growing issue today, especially in organizations that employ large numbers of employees who regularly use email as their primary method of internal and external communication.

This makes it crucial that employees are educated about the importance of email security and best practices that they can follow to limit the chance of falling victim to these attacks.

1. Identifying Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are malicious emails designed to elicit a response from the person opening them. Many times, this is done through a subject line or message that creates a sense of urgency for the user to act.

Phishing emails often ask for users to click a link or verify personal information and use it for malicious intent. They typically are poorly written and contain many identifiers including strange attachments, unidentifiable email domain names, and pixelated images and logos.

Occasionally, phishing emails may be disguised as legitimate emails from someone in your contacts. If you’re not sure whether someone you know actually emailed you or not, contact them and ask directly. 

Employees should be trained that if they come across these emails, they should never open them or click the links provided. Instead, delete them immediately and notify the IT department of the issue.

2. Managing Passwords Effectively

Over the years, it has become easier for hackers to recognize patterns in password creation and successfully gain access to email accounts, database systems, and other secure business areas.

It's essential that employees follow a documented procedure for generating and managing their passwords for business use. While using the same password for all your logins might be convenient, it is not recommended in a business environment. Instead, employees should be using computer-generated and regularly alternated passwords to access essential areas of the business. By using more complex combinations of unique characters and numbers, it becomes nearly impossible for outside sources to obtain your access information.

Employees should also be taught password storage basics, such as never writing down passwords. In many cases, leaving a list of passwords lying around can be just as dangerous as having unsecure passwords to begin with. Users should not use the same password to access multiple systems. Otherwise, if a hacker is able to crack one system they will be able to access other systems easily. Each system or service should have its own unique password.

If you feel staff will struggle with managing multiple complex and ever-changing passwords, consider a password management software tool that securely stores login information and eliminates the need to remember many different passwords.   

3. Diligently Scanning Emails

In many cases, effective email security begins and ends with being more diligent with the emails you open and the links that click.

Clickable links can take you to a variety of malicious websites designed to download viruses and keyloggers that capture everything you type into your computer. These programs can make it very easy for hackers to get access to your personal banking information, usernames and passwords, and other secure business information.

It's important to be cynical when reviewing all emails, even if they appear to be coming from a trusted source. Before clicking any links, train employees to look at the URL that is being used and make sure you trust the source and the person that sent it to you implicitly.

4. Dealing with Email Attachments

When viewing attachments in an email, the filename extensions should play a significant role in your acceptance and opening of these files. As a rule of thumb, executable files such as .exe or .cmd should be carefully considered before opening. These files are programs that can immediately start causing harm on your computer and should be thoroughly vetted before use.

However, seemingly harmless files like Word, Excel, and PDF documents can also run hidden scripts and macros that download viruses and other malicious code into your system. Running all your email attachments through security scanners and other email protection solutions is best practice and can help to avoid any malicious downloads. Employees should know about these tools and be taught the importance of being vigilant when it comes to attachments.  

Email security is something that every business should take seriously. Take the time to educate employees on hidden dangers they may be coming across. By encouraging employees to follow these email security best practices, you can ensure that your systems stay protected while addressing both external and internal vulnerabilities.

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about the author

Mark Jennings

Mark Jennings is SymQuest’s Area Vice President of IT Sales. Jennings works with SymQuest’s sales and service teams to educate customers on current best practices around data protection, disaster recovery, security, and overall technology planning.

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