(sure, as long as email isn’t all that important to your business)

When your Office 365 solution claims to include advanced threat protection (ATP), it can make you feel pretty confident that you’re covered. And with a false sense of security, you check that “implement email security solution” box and move on with your day. Unfortunately, many people find out the hard way that ATP only provides basic detection and prevention capabilities. Although ATP sounds like it’s a comprehensive solution, it’s not. It’s simply one tool in a bigger endpoint security toolbox that’s critical to providing adequate email security.

ATP Can’t Do it Alone

It’s true that advanced threat protection helps prevent zero-day malware attacks in your email environment by detecting spam, scanning attachments for viruses, and redirecting users to safe web sites. About 20 years ago, this could have been considered a robust solution. But we live in a drastically different world today, one that’s filled with crafty cybercriminals who have time on their hands and a market that’s willing to pay handsomely for their work. Some of the bad guys even do it just for fun. These factors, coupled with the fact that advanced technology makes cyberattacks more lethal and easier to carry out these days, make the job of a comprehensive email security solution much more challenging.

Case in point. According to research covered in DarkReading1, Cyrenanalyzed 10.7 million messages between September and October of 2017 delivered via Office 365, and found that almost 10% contained spam, phishing messages, and known malware. Research from Verizon2indicates that email is the most common attack vector at 96% of cyberattacks, with phishing accounting for 70% of those attacks. A common tactic for cybercriminals is to trick people into clicking on malicious links and directing them to a web site where they are asked to enter their credentials. The attackers scrape the credentials, redirect users to a valid web site, and use these credentials to log onto the network and steal company data. Most of the time the target of the attack has no clue that he was an accomplice to a security breach.

Humans Are the Weak Link

With the intelligence and safety measures made possible by advances in technology, it’s easy for enterprises and their employees to believe that cybersecurity solutions are bullet-proof. Compounding the matter is that the millennial workforce has emerged, bringing with it the practice of rapid-fire response as the new norm for communication. As such, many fall victim to fraudulent emails that appear to come from their co-workers, clients and partners, but actually carry malicious payloads waiting to be downloaded and deployed within the perimeter.

For example, attackers can use spoofing to send an email to third-party business partners with a subject like “new bank account information” and instruct them to deposit their payments into that account. By the time the victims figure out what happened, it’s too late – their deposit has been re-routed and their money is gone. In this case, not only is there a financial loss, but the company’s brand is tarnished as well. It’s clear why cybercriminals no longer need to go through the trouble of hacking into an organization’s network. They can do plenty of damage by simply exploiting its email system.

Email is Mission-critical

In today’s world, customer contracts, financial documents, confidential code, and company trade secrets are all likely to travel via email at some point in their lifetime. Even if it’s not carrying valuable intellectual property, the email system may be the key element in a business-critical workflow. As companies do more and more work via email, they must reconsider what they have in place for securing those platforms.

Consider these important questions:

  • Will your employees be able to do their jobs if their email is down?
  • Even if employees can resort to paper and hard copies, how much would the delay in business operations impact your bottom line?
  • How much time, effort, and human resources are needed to restore your email data from a secure backup?

If you’re like most organizations, email is a mission-critical application and needs to be a part of a larger security and business continuity plan. If the security in your current email system can’t cut it, what’s next? There are so many security technologies on the market today that evaluating them all and choosing the best ones can feel overwhelming, especially when the clock is ticking on the next attack attempt.

Tools for Your Toolbox

We’ve been architecting custom security solutions for a long time, helping customers deploy technologies that bolster the security in Office 365. Whether you are a large law firm, a regional healthcare institution, or somewhere in between, we’d like to share the solutions we like, and why, for enhancing your email security posture.

Advanced email security solutions like that from Mimecast and Proofpoint, ensure a safe copy of all attachments delivered via email. Documents in formats like Word and PDF are scanned in a sandbox and cleansed of malware, if there is any, and then delivered to the intended recipient. The entire process is invisible to the end user, which is a must in our book. Otherwise, end users tend to bypass security measures that create delays and inefficiencies. And we don’t need to tell you how that ends.

These solutions can also re-write URLs to a safe site to ensure there are no threats present. The web sites that the links point to are monitored for malicious activity, providing a second layer of protection. Again, the measures are all transparent to the end user so they don’t experience any disruption to their daily activities.

A vital piece to any security solution is proper training and reinforcement. With the type of solutions described above, training can be done on the fly, as needed. For example, the program can ask an employee if a URL is safe or not. If the employee responds that it’s safe when it’s actually not safe, he is given helpful tips so he will know what to look for next time. The system can also share an automated report with those in charge of training to indicate who in the company continues to click on nefarious links so that those individuals can receive additional and customized training.

With a robust email solution like that of Mimecast or Proofpoint, if the email system or the Exchange server goes down, employees can still have access to their emails, minimizing company downtime and maintaining a high level of output. And as we pointed out, email is a mission-critical application these days with Office 365 residing almost 100% in the cloud. A good email security solution can fortify your business continuity plan without requiring you to purchase or download additional hardware.

As you begin to evaluate your email security solutions, the vendors can provide you with a proof of concept based on the number of users in your organization. Once you pull the trigger, the email is redirected (invisibly of course) and you can tell immediately if the product is catching more or fewer malicious emails than whatever tool you previously had in place. By being able to immediately establish a baseline, you and your security partner can easily measure the solution’s success and quickly identify areas that might need improvement.

Conclusion

Once you have a more comprehensive email security solution in place, not only will your organization be better protected, you’ll be able to glean valuable data on the attacks that are being blocked. For instance, you’ll have the ability to track attacks on the company or its executives to quickly determine if you are a target of a broader, more sophisticated cyberwar campaign. Once you have that knowledge, you’ll know how to stop it in its tracks. More visibility allows you to act faster and with precision.

Now is the time to treat your email as a vital piece of your business operations, rather than the basic tool it was decades ago. With a more comprehensive solution, not only will you be protecting your essential assets, you’ll be dedicating valuable time and resources to bigger and better things.

To learn more about securing your mission-critical email system, please visit https://veristor.com/it-security/endpoint-security/

1 DarkReading, “Office 365 Missed 34,000 Phishing Emails Last Month.”
2 Verizon, “2018 Data Breach Investigations Report.”