Microsoft 365 Email Security

Best Practices – Email Security for Small Businesses

Cyber security for business email: Effective ways to protect your data and reputation

Email may be a critical tool for communicating with your customers and partners, but it’s also the number one attack vector for cybercriminals. Implementing heightened email security for business networks is no longer optional for organizations that value their data, reputation, and stakeholder relationships. Even if you think your company is too small to attract cybercriminals’ interest, you are likely to be mistaken.

Nine out of ten successful cyberattacks are launched by sending a phishing email. According to Statista, almost every third adult encountered some form of phishing attempt in 2022. In the US, this type of cybercrime remained the most prevalent in 2023. Based on fraudulent methods to trick recipients into disclosing private details or installing malicious software, these criminal activities aim to snatch financial or personal information, which causes immense economic and reputational losses.

Small businesses are vulnerable to cyber threats, too. Let’s explore some practices you can embrace to safeguard your organization’s communication networks and assets.

Why is email security important when running a site for a small business?

Cybercriminals often target smaller companies, viewing them as easy prey. Email-borne malware can blow up your network and create hidden pathways to steal your data, allowing hackers to access business information, financial records, and trade secrets. Recovering from the breach is a lengthy and expensive process that may irreparably damage your customer confidence and, ultimately, the success of your site.

Business email security management is necessary to:

  • Defend your data sources. In smaller companies, a single successful phishing attack can expose the plurality of customer data and employee records. When your email security is good, you are better positioned to block malicious emails that trick you into entering login credentials or downloading malware.
  • Thwart business email compromise (BEC). Sophisticated phishing campaigns may target executives and accounting departments to commit wire fraud or steal Form W-2 data. Leading-edge electronic mail security solutions can ward off these threats before the damage is done.
  • Maintain business reputation. If your email system is compromised, it can be used to send dangerous requests or notifications to your customers under your domain name. This erodes trust in your brand and lands your company on spam blocklists, which may further cause additional communication and reputation issues.

The integrity of your email systems is a worthwhile investment in your business success. Otherwise, it may only be a matter of time before your company falls victim to cybercrime.

Business email security questions to ask yourself

Before implementing recommended cybersecurity strategies, small businesses must determine their current level of protection and any existing vulnerabilities. The following questions may help:

  • Do you provide cyber threat prevention training? Your team must be well-educated to minimize email-borne risks across your company. Start regular training on topics like phishing and BEC to enable your employees to navigate through dangerous emails.
  • Do you have a robust small business email security solution in place? Without one, the risks are higher. Implementing a secure email gateway should be an immediate priority to replace outdated systems or make up for the missing ones.
  • Can you assess email threats? You can’t evaluate risks and take appropriate action without visibility mechanisms. Adopt a solution that provides detailed reporting and analytics on threats like phishing URLs, malware attachments, and spam.
  • Have you embraced encryption and DLP controls? Data loss prevention and encryption technology can turn your business into a cyber fortress with capabilities like content scanning and policy enforcement based on keywords, file types, etc.
  • Do you have business continuity and backup measures? Think through processes that will help your company function despite email attacks, such as the emergency inbox, automatic failover, and spooling.

Assessing the current electronic correspondence security methods often falls by the wayside. However, with the rise of targeted phishing, account takeovers, and other hard-to-repel email-based attacks, knowing your vulnerabilities is the first step to strengthening cyber protection.

Good business email security practices

Keeping your software updated and paying attention to cutting-edge email security practices can aid your efforts to safeguard communication channels and sensitive information from threats lurking in digital spaces. Here are four practices that small businesses can apply without hefty investments.

Implement strong authentication

Enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) for business accounts is of paramount importance. Advanced authentication adds further protection to account logins by requiring not only the password but also other information, such as a passcode or biometric inputs.

MFA is a good practice to deter:

  • Account compromise risk. Even if the attacker obtains the user’s password, they still need the second authentication factor to log in to the account. This dramatically reduces the risk of account compromise.
  • Phishing attacks. MFA protects your business against phishing by requiring additional authentication, even if the user enters their credentials during a phishing attempt. Without the second factor to complete the login process, stolen credentials are useless.

To reinforce your small business email security, enable MFA on all your business accounts whenever possible, including cloud storage, banking, payroll, and tax filing systems.

Educate your team

Your employees are often the weakest link in security. Regular training can help them steer clear of manipulative tactics and threats and decrease a significant vulnerability in your business’s cyber defenses.

  • Strong passwords. Instruct your people to use complex passwords containing a mix of numbers, symbols, and letters for all business accounts. Reusing the same password across multiple accounts or sticking with easy-to-guess ones is a bad practice.
  • Suspicious email. Dedicate your training to spotting and avoiding phishing attempts. These often feature urgent words, poor grammar, and requests for sensitive information. Employees should never open hyperlinks or download attachments from unsolicited or suspicious emails.
  • Public Wi-Fi. Train your employees to avoid conducting sensitive work or logging into email accounts on public Wi-Fi. If the Internet connection is necessary, a virtual private network should be used to encrypt the traffic.

Education underpins the best email security for small businesses. Professional training turns employees from the company’s weak points into a strong defense against email-disseminated perils.

Adopt specific protocols and standards to prevent spoofing

DMARC, DKIM, and SPF are among the most effective methods to protect electronic communication against malicious attacks. By authenticating your outbound email and formulating an accurate policy for how recipients should handle unauthorized emails, you can lock down basic vulnerabilities.

  • DMARC. DMARC deters malicious actors from imitating your domain in emails’ “From” addresses. It allows you to specify the authentication mechanisms you use and provides receiving servers with the algorithm of action if an email fails authentication.
  • DKIM. In simple words, this cryptographic business email security practice attaches a digital signature to outbound emails to confirm the authenticity of a message. The digital signature can authenticate any email and make sure it hasn’t been tampered with.
  • SPF. This DNS record acts like a “whitelist” of servers considered trustworthy enough to send emails on your domain’s behalf. By configuring SPF records, you can instruct destination servers to reject or flag emails that are not sent from the authorized servers.

Think of these protocols and standards as email-level authentication. Like complex passwords, they can bolster your cyber defenses.

Invest in advanced threat protection (ATP) tools

In business email cybersecurity, ATP tools can uncover deviations in the content, structure, or sender sections to identify phishing attempts targeting your company. Using behavioral assessment and ML, they build a baseline of normal communication patterns to spot deceptive emails impersonating internal senders or discussing topics relevant to your business.

  • URL Defense. ATP solutions with built-in URL Defense will analyze links in emails and block those determined to be malicious. Some of their capabilities also allow them to “rewrite” safe links for complementary protection.
  • Zero-day threat detection. ATP tools utilize heuristics and behavioral analysis to detect abnormalities your latest software patch has not yet addressed. By flagging them, you gain visibility into possible attack techniques and the time to respond before widespread damage occurs.
  • Monitoring data exfiltration. ATP empowers your IT team to monitor email communications for signs of data exfiltration and alert administrators when questionable activity is pinpointed. It’s like an early warning system that lets your response teams investigate, lock down access, and prevent data theft.

Advanced tools are a robust shield against even the most brutal attacks. By layering these tools over the standard methods of email security for a small business, you are implementing a defense-in-depth strategy to diminish the risks and gain further control over cyber threats targeting your users and data.

The bottom line

The most effective email security software for business use combines technologically advanced AI threat detection with secure gateway services. To learn more about how Spambrella’s solutions can maximize inbound threat protection, outbound data breach control, and business continuity, contact our team for a consultation.

Additional reading:

How to Secure Outbound Emails

Email spoofing: What is it and how to prevent it

Why is Security Awareness Training Needed?