Seclored: The Data Security News Blog

How to Choose the Best Enterprise Email Security Solution

Category: Data Security

Email is one of the most popular avenues of attack for threat actors. It shouldn’t be surprising, given that email remains the most important communication channel for businesses of every size globally. When you make a significant strategic decision, you express it primarily through an email to an individual or a team. When you communicate with customers or prospects to grow your business, you do it over an email.

Logging into software is often done with your email address, and that’s also often how permissions are managed and user accounts created. If that information is stolen, threat actors can do anything from selling stolen credentials on the dark web to moving deeper into your systems for data exfiltration.

As a result of the critical nature of email, having the right email security solution in place is absolutely crucial. The right email protection tool prevents data exposure, secures mission-critical messages, and ensures overall improved security of the organization. Unprotected emails are like bullets; you cannot return them once you fire them.

But how does one go about picking the right solution to defend your emails? This blog post will outline the specific requirements you should look for while searching for threat protection for sensitive email communications.

What Is Email Security?

Email is by far the most popular method of communication today, with 347.3 billion emails sent daily around the globe. The emails can be for sales deals, marketing messages to prospects or customers, or internal operational communication. The ubiquity of email makes it a prime avenue of attack for cybercriminals. Phishing messages remain among the most common vectors for initial access, with 36% of successful data breaches involving such emails. Other research estimated that 3.4 billion malicious emails are sent each day.

Email security is the discipline of protecting email communications and accounts from unauthorized access, loss, or any form of compromise. These email-based threats include malware, ransomware, business email compromise, credential theft, and, of course, phishing attacks. Email protection can also involve ensuring the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of the messages themselves.

The practice of email security itself can involve message encryption, data loss prevention, and secure email gateways in addition to user behavior analysis and content security. Ensuring long-term threat protection for sensitive information without compromising usability can be a challenge in securing emails. The ubiquity of email usage within the enterprise makes defending against email-based threats a more delicate dance than most.

How Does Email Security Work?

The goal of protecting emails is to ensure that the messages and data associated with email are secure while being as unobtrusive as possible for daily business needs. There are, in general, three main ways that email security functions:

  • Stopping the emails at the origin by deploying Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions and Secure Email Gateways (SEGs) – An SEG acts as a proxy for an organization’s email server. When configuring an SEG, the DNS MX record is set to point to the SEG’s cloud-based proxy. Any email sent to the organization will then be redirected to the SEG’s proxy. A data loss prevention tool deployed on top of an SEG identifies intellectual property and regulated information in emails and ensures that it’s not sent to unintended recipients or transmitted in insecure ways.
    • Pro: Email is cleaned and sanitized well before it ever hits the actual corporate email server, including being checked for malicious URLs and malware.
    • Con: Cloud-based email solutions make it difficult to reliably deploy a SEG. If organizations use certain corporate email solutions, they may not have the ability to have the additional barrier of a SEG.
  • Encrypting the emails in transit to avoid eavesdropping – Secure email encryption is the authentication process through which plaintext emails are scrambled to only make them readable to the intended recipient. Email encryption platforms typically operate via a software gateway or a policy-based decision engine. They might have additional features, but typically, encrypting email starts with public key cryptography and digital signatures. On the other end of the conversation, a key exchange needs to occur so the intended recipient can easily decrypt and read the secure email.
    • Pro: Email remains securely encrypted while in transit, preventing any threat actors from reading the email if they were able to actually intercept it.
    • Con: If your intended recipient wants to read the email but hasn’t received the key or has lost it, then they can’t read the communication.
  • Securing the emails even after being delivered to the recipient so long as data is in use – Some email security tools offer the ability to limit who can read the information in the delivered email. This can be through a combination of encryption and passkeys, forcing the recipient to use the passkey to review the email or using a cloud-based email solution with a secure email inbox for recipients to review the sensitive message.
    • Pro: Data remains secure even after receipt by the intended person.
    • Con: This adds friction to the process of sending and receiving email.

Email security tools protect emails in at least one of the ways mentioned above. However, with the increasing demand for a higher level of security, the list of desired features for an effective security solution keeps growing.

What Are the Email Security Gaps in Enterprise Organizations?

Despite most organizations having some email security already deployed, whether a standalone product or used in conjunction with their email provider, there are still a number of gaps in their protection.

Based on what we can see, there are typically five main gaps:

  1. Recipients gaining unfettered access to sensitive data after it leaves the sender’s outbox
    Enterprises often complain that they cannot control what happens to the email after exiting their email server. One of their common concerns is that sensitive information may find its way into the wrong hands.Solution:
    Using an effective Enterprise Digital Rights Management system allows the sender to assign specific usage rights to the recipients, allowing them to view the email and use the information, albeit in a limited capacity. As a result, while the recipients may view the data, they may not copy it or take screenshots for later use.
  2. Saving the emails till long after the association with the participants has ended
    Many of us are guilty of this practice. We tend to save information and documents in our inboxes, either professional or personal. While it may be okay on a personal level, these actions are likely to have disastrous results. It may lead to malicious use of information.Solution:
    Assigning expiry dates to email attachments allows the enterprises to rest easy that their information is not likely to be misused in the long run. Of course, it is advisable to keep a reasonably short expiry period to ensure that the recipients are done working with the information and do not get stuck due to expired emails.
  3. Using “other” devices to view and respond to emails
    We are a mobile generation in all senses. We have synced all our information with all our devices to access them anytime we want. But are our devices safe? Do you ever wonder? Organizations are often concerned that a document protected by on-premise security protocols may not be as secure when accessed using other devices like a home computer or mobile devices.Solution:
    Applying persistent, granular usage controls ensures that data, once protected, stays protected, irrespective of where and how it is accessed. As an organization, you can have complete control over your data, which means you can decide who gets to view it, copy from it, or even take a screenshot of it.
  4. Trusting the users to decide the sensitivity levels of outgoing information
    One person’s meat is another’s poison. Data that is sensitive for one group of users may not be as significant for some others. But the fundamental truth is that all data is sensitive. Then who gets to decide the sensitivity level of each type of data?Solution:
    Mapping rules and attributes of an existing enterprise system to an effective digital rights management system enables you as an organization to automate email security, leaving little to no room for user discretion. Now, you can ensure that the right teams access the information, albeit with limited functionalities, resulting in a secure environment for data collaboration. Additionally, even when there is a group of administrators who decide the sensitivity of an email, they won’t be privy to your data. Only the file owner may determine who gets access to the file to do what.
  5. Detecting a data breach caused by an email but no evidence to prove it
    Consider an unfortunate situation when you find that your organization has undergone a data breach. A thorough investigation reveals the source of the data breach to be an email opened by an unauthorized user. But all of this is useless because you do not have the proper evidence against the guilty party.Solution:
    Attaching policies to emails allows you to track your email’s journey as it passes through each touchpoint, depending on the permissions assigned. As a result, at any point, you have a detailed log of every action your email has undergone so that you can easily detect the source of a breach (should one happen) and also furnish proof related to it. You can also set alerts on the email in case of any unauthorized attempts.

What Top Email Security Features Should You Be Looking For?

The following is a list of features expected in an efficient email security solution.

  • Password policies
  • Content filtering
  • Reporting and log search
  • Administrator management
  • User management
  • Data classification
  • Data-centric security
  • Unauthorized recipient check

Let’s dig deeper into these aspects and learn the most wanted features for effective email security solutions.

Password Policies

The password is of paramount importance for email security. Weaker passwords can cause loss of both data and reputation for the organizations. Additionally, password policies are a complex web of rules and regulations. Enterprises must maintain a balance while selecting and enforcing the policy surrounding passwords.

An ideal password policy should balance safety, convenience, and memorization. According to experts, the high frequency of password changes can increase the chances of password compromise. If you keep the password policy too stringent, employees will have difficulty remembering the passwords and either writing them down or using tools to remember them. Enterprises can choose alternatives to passwords like RSA tokens or two-factor tor authentication.

Here are a few trends in password security:

Password policies

We suggest the following tips while setting password policies:

  • Use strong passwords: Passwords consisting of complex combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numerals tend to work as solid passwords
  • Never reuse passwords
  • Mandate two-factor authentication for employees
  • Block access on multiple unauthorized attempts

Content Filtering

Content Filtering

One of the vital aspects of content filtering is identifying the classified information shared over emails within or outside organizations. If we go by reports and analysis, emails were the second most common medium of data leak in 2016. Fraudulent emails, as part of a phishing strategy, are still a hacker’s favorite tool to obtain credentials.

Content filtering deals with government compliance and protection against the misuse of corporate emails. Many Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) solutions provide data-centric security around emails. But, standalone systems cannot offer wholly secure and usable systems to protect outbound information.

Content filtering requires a complex rule engine with multiple parameters and conditions to analyze. It’s a challenge to provide this in a simple format. Make sure the system you are evaluating has the following:

  • Mechanism to define custom filters based on organizations and geolocation
  • Predefined filters for standard data types
  • Filter both inbound and outbound emails
  • Filter based on DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) signature

Reporting and Log Search

Reporting and Page Analytics

While email security is one big area, it becomes the elephant in the room without efficient incident reporting. So, while having a robust email security system is good, it is even more essential for the solution to support incident management and efficient log searching.

Make sure the system you are evaluating has the following:

  • Separate reports for admins and users.
  • Configurable frequency of reports.
  • Allow flexibility to generate reports as and when users request manually.
  • Detailed log search, i.e., based on IP, countries, senders, recipients, and many more.
  • Search based on attachment content of standard file formats
  • Ability to move logs to SIEM systems.

Administrator Management

Admin management

The administrator management console of the solution should be simple and provide as much flexibility to end-users.

It should allow administrators to do the following tasks:

  • Create global and domain-level policies
  • Allow searching end user’s quarantine or global quarantine.
  • Granular usage control
  • Activity audit of administrators
  • Multiple domains
  • Integration with the identity management system of the enterprise
  • Multilingual support

User Management

User Management

Security is not an IT admin’s only job anymore. We need to involve users where they can actively participate. When it comes to email, it directly impacts end users with efficiency.

An efficient email security solution should have the following features:

  • User and admin console
  • Ability to set up spam, quarantine, and block listing rules
  • Generation of reports to end-users and insight into their email activities

Data Classification

Data classification

The email security system should provide email classification based on the content of the mail. Alternatively, the solutions should have ways to integrate with existing data classification solutions and have a mechanism to write rules based on data classification. Most of the email classification systems use classification for emails as x-headers and attachments as custom properties. While classifying the data might not be provided by email security systems, identifying the already classified content is a must-have feature.

For example, the system should understand that an email has classified content that needs to be blocked while sharing with external domains. Classification-specific solutions can classify emails and documents.

Make sure the system you are evaluating has the following properties:

  • Capability to write rules based on x-headers
  • Capacity to write rules based on custom properties of attachments
  • Ability to route emails via classification systems

Data-Centric Security

Data centric security

Though most of the above reasons help your post-facto analysis of the emails, the proper security of the email can come only when the emails remain always protected during the transmission and the data usage.

Enterprise Data Rights Management (EDRM) solutions provide data-centric security for emails. But most of them don’t have the remaining email security features. Because these solutions are designed for data-centric security, their functionality revolves around the data. The best possible email security solutions allow organizations to plug their EDRM solutions into email security solutions.

Unauthorized Recipient Check

Unauthorized recipient check

Wrong recipients are one of the reasons for data leakage because users make mistakes while marking emails. Modern email security systems are working hard to prevent emails from being automatically sent to unauthorized users. With machine learning & AI, it’s possible to identify whether an email has reached an unintentional user.

Other Features

Content filtering, reporting, and data classification are mandatory for any email security solution. However, the following features improve the functioning of an email security solution and add to its value on an enterprise level:

  • Anti-spam
  • Anti-virus and anti-malware
  • Outbound filtering
  • Email spooling and continuity
  • Email archiving

Conclusion

Choosing an email security solution is a vital activity for the modern enterprise. What makes a good one for your business is one that works with your daily operations to protect critical communications and sensitive data without interfering with your business’s normal operations. Make sure that whatever email protection tool you use merges powerful protection of sensitive data and security functionality that defends against malware and malicious URLs in addition to phishing attacks and spoofing.

If you’re ready for robust enterprise email encryption software, check out our Seclore’s Email Encryption Plus. Email Encryption Plus is an enterprise email encryption software for advanced email security. It comes with built-in Data Classification and integrates with existing Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions and Classification solutions to automatically apply granular usage controls to protect emails and attachments in transit, rest, and even while in use.

Darshan is a technical leader and manager with over 15 years of experience in the information security domain. He has successfully managed project management, delivery, building, and software development teams. He is a highly motivated, challenge-driven, innovative team player with good interpersonal skills. Darshan has a simplistic approach to solving the most challenging problems. In addition, Darshan loves to fix things, as it gives him ultimate satisfaction.

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