Email Security in 2023 – Your Cybersecurity Insiders Guide to Email Security Best Practices & Top Vendors

By Holger Schulze
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Email is a vital communication tool for organizations across industries but also serves as a primary attack vector for cybercriminals. To put this in perspective, over 376 billion emails are sent every single day. And according to Verizon, over 90% of malware is delivered via email.

To combat this rapidly evolving threat landscape, organizations must proactively address email security challenges. This e-guide offers an in-depth review of the email security landscape, actionable guidance on implementing and maintaining robust email security solutions, and an overview of leading email security solutions including Abnormal Inbound Email Security, Check Point Infinity Mail Protection, Cisco Email Security, Cofense Intelligent Email Security, Forcepoint Email Security, Fortinet FortiMail, Fortra’s Advanced Email Security, Libraesva Email Security, Mimecast, OpenText Cybersecurity: Webroot Advanced Email Threat Protection, Proofpoint Threat Protection Platform, Red Sift’s Digital Resilience Platform, Sophos Email Security, Trellix Email Security, and Trend Micro Email Security.

Understanding the Email Security Landscape

A thorough understanding of the latest email security trends and challenges is essential for organizations to defend against emerging threats. Let’s dive deeper into the most common and emerging email security trends, explaining their nature, significance, and providing insights into each trend.

Latest Email Security Trends

  • Phishing and spear-phishing attacks: Phishing is a type of social engineering attack where cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick recipients into divulging sensitive information or downloading malware. Spear-phishing is a more targeted form of phishing, where attackers personalize their approach to increase their chances of success. Organizations must monitor for new phishing tactics, train employees to recognize them, and implement advanced email filtering solutions.
  • Ransomware attacks via email: Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts an organization’s data, holding it hostage until a ransom is paid. Email is a primary delivery method for ransomware attacks, with attackers using malicious attachments or links to infect systems. Organizations must prioritize email security measures that block malicious attachments, educate employees about ransomware threats, and establish robust data backup and recovery processes.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks: BEC scams involve cybercriminals impersonating high-ranking executives to manipulate employees into transferring funds or revealing sensitive information. These attacks often rely on social engineering tactics and email spoofing. Recognizing the prevalence of BEC scams helps organizations prioritize executive training and secure email practices to minimize the risk of financial loss and data breaches.
  • Insider threats: Insider threats arise from employees accidentally or intentionally causing security breaches by mishandling sensitive information. These breaches can result from human error, malicious intent, or inadequate security training. Acknowledging the potential for internal security breaches highlights the importance of proper employee training and access control measures.
  • Supply chain attacks: In supply chain attacks, cybercriminals target third-party vendors to access sensitive information of their clients. These attacks can compromise email security by exploiting vulnerabilities in vendor systems or by using vendor credentials to launch phishing or BEC attacks. Understanding the risk of supply chain attacks allows organizations to assess and monitor the security of their entire supply chain.
  • Increase in remote work: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a shift in work patterns, with more employees working remotely and relying heavily on email communication. This shift has increased the attack surface and highlighted the need for robust email security measures, including secure remote access solutions and employee training on secure email practices.

Implementing and Maintaining Effective Email Security Solutions

In this section, we will explore some of the most important email security best practices, including employee training and awareness, anti-spam and anti-phishing filters, email authentication protocols, multi-factor authentication (MFA), secure email gateway (SEG), email encryption, monitoring and logging email activity, email security policies, and incident response planning. By implementing these solutions and practices effectively and keeping them up-to-date, organizations can significantly reduce the risks associated with email-based attacks and ensure that their email environments remain secure.

  • Employee training and awareness: Educating employees about email security best practices, emerging threats, and how to identify phishing emails is crucial for minimizing human error. Regular training sessions and simulated phishing exercises can help employees stay vigilant and recognize potential threats. For example, organizations can use platforms designed to create realistic phishing simulations and assess employee responses, allowing them to identify areas where additional training may be needed.
  • Anti-spam and anti-phishing filters: Deploying advanced anti-spam and anti-phishing filters is vital for identifying and blocking malicious emails before they reach users’ inboxes. These filters utilize machine learning algorithms to analyze email content and detect phishing attempts, reducing the risk of successful attacks. For instance, solutions like Mimecast’s Secure Email Gateway provide sophisticated filtering options, including real-time scanning, URL rewriting, and impersonation protection.
  • Email authentication protocols: Implementing email authentication protocols, such as SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance), helps prevent spoofing and ensures the integrity of email communications. These protocols validate the sender’s identity and verify that the email has not been tampered with during transit. For example, implementing DMARC can significantly reduce the risk of BEC attacks by allowing recipients to verify that the email originates from the purported sender’s domain.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA is a security measure that requires users to provide multiple forms of identification to access email accounts and other sensitive systems. By adding an extra layer of security, MFA makes it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access. For example, Google Workspace offers a built-in MFA feature that allows users to authenticate using a combination of their password and a one-time code sent to their mobile device or generated by an authenticator app.
  • Secure email gateway (SEG): Implementing an SEG to inspect and filter inbound and outbound email traffic for threats, such as malware, phishing, and spam, is essential. SEGs play a crucial role in maintaining email security by blocking malicious emails before they reach users’ inboxes. For example, Barracuda Essentials is a cloud-based SEG that provides advanced threat protection, data loss prevention, and email archiving capabilities.
  • Email encryption: Encrypting sensitive emails protects the confidentiality of their contents during transit and storage. Email encryption helps prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information, reducing the risk of data breaches. Look for email security solutions that offer end-to-end encryption, ensuring that only the intended recipient can decrypt and read the email content.
  • Monitoring and logging email activity: Regularly monitoring and logging email activity helps detect anomalies and potential security incidents. Monitoring and logging are essential for early detection and remediation of email security breaches. For example, analytics platforms like Splunk can be used to collect and analyze email logs, generating real-time alerts when unusual activity is detected.
  • Email security policies: Establishing and enforcing clear email security policies guide employees’ behavior and set expectations for secure email practices. Well-defined policies are critical for maintaining a strong security culture within the organization. These policies should cover topics such as password requirements, data handling, email attachments, and reporting suspicious activity.
  • Incident response planning: Developing and maintaining an incident response plan for email security incidents ensures a swift and effective response to minimize damage and prevent future attacks. A robust incident response plan is vital for managing and mitigating the impact of email security breaches. The plan should include clear roles and responsibilities, communication channels, and a process for reporting, investigating, and remediating security incidents.

Selecting the Right Email Security Solution for Your Organization

Choosing the right email security solution is crucial for safeguarding your organization’s email environment effectively. This section discusses the process and decision criteria for selecting the most suitable email security solution based on an organization’s specific needs.

Process and Decision Criteria

Selecting the right email security solution is a critical decision for any organization. With so many vendors and solutions available, it can be challenging to determine which one is best suited for your organization’s needs. Here are some key guidelines outlining the process and decision criteria for selecting an email security solution.

  • Assess your organization’s needs: Begin by evaluating your organization’s unique requirements, including the size, industry, and regulatory environment. Consider factors such as the volume of email traffic, sensitivity of the data being handled, and the potential impact of email security breaches.
  • Identify key features: Determine the key features your organization needs in an email security solution. These may include advanced threat protection, data loss prevention, email encryption, archiving, and compliance management.
  • Evaluate vendor offerings: Research and compare the offerings of various email security vendors, taking into account the features, performance, ease of use, and integration with existing systems. Consider the vendor’s reputation, customer support, and expertise in the field.
  • Prioritize usability and scalability: Look for solutions that are user-friendly and easy to deploy, manage, and maintain. Ensure that the solution can scale to meet your organization’s needs as it grows and evolves.
  • Estimate total cost of ownership (TCO): Analyze the overall cost of the solution, including initial investment, ongoing maintenance, and any potential hidden costs. Consider the potential cost savings from reduced risk and improved productivity.
  • Test and validate: Request product demonstrations or trial periods from vendors to evaluate the solution’s effectiveness and compatibility with your organization’s existing infrastructure.
  • Consult with stakeholders: Involve all relevant stakeholders in the decision-making process, including IT, security, legal, and compliance teams, to ensure the chosen solution meets everyone’s requirements.

Typical Organization Profiles and Ideal Email Security Solutions

When it comes to email security solutions, one size does not fit all. Different organizations have different needs based on their size, industry, regulatory requirements. Small and medium-sized businesses, large enterprises, and organizations using cloud-based email services all have unique requirements for protecting their email environments. In this section, we’ll explore typical profiles of organizations and the ideal email security solutions that meet their specific needs.

  • Small businesses (<250 employees): Small businesses generally have limited budgets and IT resources, making it essential for them to choose affordable, easy-to-use email security solutions that provide basic threat protection features. Cloud-based email security solutions, such as Microsoft Defender for Office 365 or Sophos Email Security, are well-suited for small businesses due to their cost-effectiveness, ease of deployment, and management simplicity. These solutions offer essential features, including anti-spam, anti-phishing, and basic malware protection, to keep small businesses secure without overwhelming their IT resources.
  • Mid-sized organizations: As organizations grow, their security requirements become more complex. Mid-sized organizations need comprehensive email security solutions that provide advanced threat protection, data loss prevention, and email encryption. Solutions like Mimecast or Trend Micro Email Security offer a good balance between advanced features and ease of use. These solutions are capable of handling larger email volumes and addressing more sophisticated threats like targeted phishing attacks, ransomware, and email impersonation.
  • Large enterprises: Large enterprises with extensive email traffic and complex security requirements need robust, scalable email security solutions offering a wide range of features. These include advanced threat protection, data loss prevention, email encryption, compliance management, and integration with other security solutions. Solutions like Proofpoint, Cisco Email Security, or Symantec Messaging Gateway are ideal for large organizations due to their high-performance capabilities, extensive threat intelligence, and adaptability to the organization’s existing infrastructure.
  • Highly regulated industries: Organizations operating in industries with strict regulatory requirements, such as finance, healthcare, or government, need email security solutions that provide strong compliance management and data protection features. Solutions like Forcepoint Email Security or Fortinet FortiMail offer advanced data protection and compliance management capabilities, including email encryption, archiving, and detailed reporting features. These solutions help organizations adhere to industry-specific regulations, such as HIPAA, GDPR, or SOX, by ensuring sensitive information is protected and well-managed.
  • Remote or distributed workforce: Organizations with a remote or distributed workforce need email security solutions that can be accessed and managed from anywhere, while still providing comprehensive protection. Cloud-based email security solutions like Mimecast, or Trend Micro Email Security are ideal for these organizations, as they offer remote management capabilities and can be deployed quickly across multiple locations.

By understanding the unique needs and challenges of different organization profiles, decision-makers can choose the ideal email security solution tailored to their specific requirements. This ensures a secure email environment and protects the organization from cyber threats while being mindful of budgetary constraints, cybersecurity talent gaps, and the organization’s existing infrastructure.

Featured Email Security Vendors

Selecting the right email security solution is crucial for protecting your organization’s email environment. Here is a brief overview of leading email security vendors and their respective strengths:

Abnormal Inbound Email Security: Abnormal, a Cybersecurity Excellence Award recipient in 2023, offers leading-edge inbound email security solutions. Known for its AI-driven detection and prevention capabilities, Abnormal stands out for providing real-time, automated response to threats. This approach allows for efficient, proactive defense against email threats, making it a prime choice for medium to large businesses seeking advanced automation. Learn more at: https://www.abnormalsecurity.com

Check Point Infinity Mail Protection: Check Point’s solution stands out with its Infinity architecture, delivering a unified, cloud-based email security solution. Notable for its advanced threat detection and prevention capabilities, Infinity Mail Protection excels at tackling phishing, ransomware, and APT attacks. The integrated approach makes it a solid choice for organizations seeking cohesive security infrastructure. Discover more at: https://www.checkpoint.com/products/email-security-software-blade/

Cisco Email Security: Cisco provides diverse email security solutions, offering both cloud-based and on-premises deployments. With advanced threat protection capabilities and seamless integration with other Cisco security products, Cisco stands out for its scalable solutions and a broad product ecosystem. Its solution are best suited for larger organizations with complex security needs. See more details at: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/security/email-security/index.html

Cofense Intelligent Email Security: Honored with a Cybersecurity Excellence Award in 2023, Cofense provides intelligent email security solutions. The Cofense platform stands out for its focus on phishing-specific threats and its user-awareness training tools, educating users to recognize potential threats. This blend of technology and education makes Cofense a suitable choice for organizations of all sizes that prioritize employee training. Visit: https://www.cofense.com

Forcepoint Email Security: Forcepoint offers both cloud-based and on-premises email security solutions with advanced threat protection, data loss prevention, and email encryption. Its flexible deployment options and strong threat intelligence capabilities make the solution a reliable choice for businesses of all sizes that require adaptable security solutions. Visit: https://www.forcepoint.com/product/content-security/forcepoint-email-security

Fortinet FortiMail: Fortinet’s email security platform, FortiMail, stands out with its high-performance email filtering, data loss prevention, and protection against spam, phishing, and malware. Its tight integration with other Fortinet security products makes it an excellent choice for organizations already using Fortinet’s suite of security solutions, particularly medium to large enterprises. Learn more at: https://www.fortinet.com/products/email-security/fortimail

Fortra’s Advanced Email Security: Fortra, a 2023 Gold Cybersecurity Excellence Award winner, offers a high-performance email security solution. Its platform distinguishes itself with advanced AI-driven threat protection, making it a standout choice for organizations seeking cutting-edge security technology, particularly those in high-risk sectors like finance and healthcare. Discover more at: https://www.fortra.com

Libraesva Email Security: Libraesva, a Cybersecurity Excellence Award recipient in 2023, offers comprehensive email security solutions. Known for its advanced threat protection and seamless integration capabilities, Libraesva is unique in its strong emphasis on combating email fraud. This focus makes it an ideal choice for organizations operating in sectors where email fraud is a significant concern. Visit: https://www.libraesva.com

Mimecast: Mimecast’s cloud-based email security platform stands out with its comprehensive protection against phishing, spam, and malware. In addition to this, it provides email archiving and continuity services. Known for its ease of use and seamless integration with popular email platforms, Mimecast is well-suited for medium to large organizations that prioritize ease of use and robust security features. Learn more at: https://www.mimecast.com/products/email-security/

OpenText Webroot Email Threat Protection: As an award winner in the 2023 Cybersecurity Excellence Awards, OpenText’s Webroot offers advanced email security solutions. Its unique approach to threat intelligence and comprehensive protection against phishing, spam, and advanced threats make it a reliable choice for organizations that place a premium on advanced threat intelligence, particularly mid to large-scale enterprises. Discover more at: https://www.webroot.com

Proofpoint Threat Protection Platform: A Gold Award Winner in the 2023 Cybersecurity Excellence Awards, Proofpoint’s comprehensive platform stands out for its focus on people-centric security. It offers advanced threat protection, targeted attack prevention, and integrated response capabilities. This platform is an excellent fit for larger organizations that need to protect high-risk users from advanced threats. Explore more at: https://www.proofpoint.com

Red Sift’s Digital Resilience Platform: As a Winner in the 2023 Cybersecurity Excellence Awards, Red Sift offers an email security solution that is part of their digital resilience platform. This platform stands out with its holistic approach to security, not only securing emails but also providing insight into the broader security landscape. It’s an excellent choice for businesses of all sizes, particularly those seeking a comprehensive view of their digital security. Learn more at: https://www.redsift.com

Sophos Email Security: Sophos offers a powerful email security solution that stands out with its use of AI to detect and respond to email threats. In addition, its intuitive management dashboard provides a simplified user experience. These features make it a strong option for small to medium businesses looking for a balance of advanced technology and ease-of-use. Visit: https://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/email.aspx

Symantec Email Security: Symantec, a division of Broadcom, provides a comprehensive email security solution that offers strong threat protection capabilities, data loss prevention, and email encryption. Symantec’s strength lies in its global intelligence network, providing real-time threat information to ensure robust defense against emerging threats. This makes it an ideal choice for large enterprises and industries facing a high volume of targeted attacks. Learn more at: https://www.broadcom.com/products/cyber-security/email

Trellix Email Security: A 2023 Cybersecurity Excellence Award winner, Trellix provides a powerful email security solution. Trellix’s unique offering is its focus on proactive threat hunting and response, providing an added layer of security over reactive solutions. This approach makes it a suitable choice for medium to large enterprises that require advanced, proactive email security measures. Visit: https://www.trellix.com

Trend Micro Email Security: Trend Micro offers an advanced email security solution that uses machine learning to block a wide range of threats. In addition, its focus on protecting against business email compromise (BEC) sets it apart from many competitors. Its powerful yet user-friendly platform makes it a great fit for organizations of all sizes, particularly those seeking strong defenses against BEC. Explore more at: https://www.trendmicro.com/en_us/business/products/user-protection/sps/email-and-collaboration/email-security.html

By evaluating these email security vendors and their respective capabilities, you can select the solution that best meets your organization’s specific needs and requirements, ensuring a secure email environment.

Conclusion

In today’s digital landscape, email security is more important than ever. Organizations must prioritize email security by staying up-to-date with the latest trends, understanding the nature of threats, and implementing robust email security solutions to mitigate risks. Employee training, advanced threat protection, email authentication protocols, and continuous monitoring are all critical components of an effective email security strategy.

We hope this e-guide has provided you with new insights into the latest email security trends and challenges, actionable guidance on implementing and maintaining email security solutions, and an overview of the top email security vendors. With this information, you can take the necessary steps to protect your organization’s email environment from cyber threats and maintain a secure communication infrastructure.

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