Corporate Email Security Best Practices for Businesses

Kerie Kerstetter

Enterprise technology is becoming more and more sophisticated. Unfortunately, so are the email-based security threats to your business. Now, more than ever, establishing effective corporate email security best practices is an important step to secure your business.

Reports show that 90% of cyberattacks are carried out through email, and successful attacks cost organizations over $1 million per incident on average. With sensitive information increasingly being communicated through email, you require advanced security solutions to protect your enterprise from spear phishing, ransomware, and other malicious, email-focused attacks.

To protect your business' sensitive data, you need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to email and data security. An effective strategy for sensitive company data is comprehensive, proactive and offers 24/7, real-time protection against email threats that can compromise the security of your organization.  

Best Practices for Corporate Email Security

The best email security strategy for your business will be tailored to your organization and the unique threats you face in your industry. However, there are some universal best practices every enterprise should incorporate to mitigate against email-based vulnerabilities.  

1. Master the Basics of Email Security

With so many potential threats out there, developing and implementing a corporate email security strategy to protect your organization can feel overwhelming. But an effective security solution doesn't have to be overly complicated. You can start by ensuring that your enterprise follows some basic best practices for email security.

First, you should ensure that you have a comprehensive corporate security solution in place that is both user-friendly and fully managed. Some key components of a cloud-based email security solution include end-to-end encryption, email attachment scanning, spam filters, and URL analysis. Without these protections in place, your organization is vulnerable to a wide range of email-borne threats.  

2. Train Employees in Security Awareness

Providing employees with security awareness training equips them with the knowledge and skills they need to help protect your organization. Your employees are the first line of defense against cyberattacks. Even if your C-suite and IT team understand the importance of email security, they won't be able to safeguard your business against email threats without educating employees throughout the organization.

Comprehensive security awareness training should include education about the importance of corporate email security, how to recognize and protect sensitive data, and the consequences that a security breach might have for your company. Without this knowledge, your employees are will struggle to protect your organization from email threats. A successful approach to corporate email security requires all parts of the business to be informed and work together in defense of threats.

Since the majority of insider security breaches result not from malicious attacks, but from human error or negligence, sharing knowledge with employees can help prevent these attacks from happening.  

3. Identify and Address Vulnerabilities

The biggest mistake you can make with corporate email security is underestimating your vulnerability, leaving your organization open to malicious cyberattacks and data breaches. No matter the industry or size of the organization, every company has weaknesses that attackers can exploit to access sensitive information. Identifying and understanding your weaknesses allows you to address them effectively before they can be exploited.

Educating your employees about potential weaknesses during security awareness training empowers them to help safeguard your business against threats. Your employees send data back and forth every day, and they are on the front line of an effective data security initiative. If they don't know how to identify potential threats, or don't even know what those threats are, they can't support your efforts to protect email security within your organization.

Not only should your security awareness training educate employees about the threats that exist through email, it should also help them understand how those threats affect your company and the unique vulnerabilities it faces.  

4. Plan for the Worst Case Scenario

At the same time you're working to implement email-based threat prevention policies, you'll also need to prepare an action plan that outlines what to do in the event that one of those threats results in a security breach. Taking quick, decisive action the moment you become aware of a breach can make the difference between a momentary inconvenience and irreparable damage to your business.

For example, do your employees know who to notify if they discover their account has been compromised? Document and distribute a clear, step-by-step process for employees to follow in the event of a cyber attack or digital security breach. Ensure everyone in the organization knows where to find this emergency action plan and how to follow it.  

5. Create Regular Backups of Important Data

In the case of a ransomware attack, it will be critical for your company to have recent backups of all important files. Though more advanced ransomware variants may potentially destroy backups, there are a few approaches you can use to protect your backups. They include supplementing keeping additional copies in multiple locations, isolating backups so they are harder for ransomware to access or compromise, and testing backups frequently to detect any issues or vulnerabilities. An effective backup strategy is comprehensive and ongoing, ensuring that there are no gaps or weaknesses in your company's data integrity.  

6. Authenticate Senders

Authenticating email senders can help prevent phishing attacks, which make up an estimated 90% of corporate data breaches. Sender authentication uses cryptographic standards and protocols to verify that emails actually originate from the supposed sender. In addition to phishing, sender authentication can also help protect your organization against email spoofing and business email compromise (BEC) attacks.

To make the verification of senders possible, sender authentication standards  such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC  must be implemented. Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is an open standard framework that specifies a method for preventing sender address forgery. DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) provides an encryption key and a digital signature that verifies that an email message has not been faked or altered. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) unifies mechanisms used in SPF and DKIM, allowing domain owners to declare how they would like email from that domain to be handled if it fails an authorization test.

Implementing sender authentication protocols as part of your cloud email security solution is key to effective protection against phishing and other email threats. Look for sender authentication solutions that feature SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to analyze and track the veracity of the sender.  

7. Combat Credential Phishing in Office 365

Microsoft Office 365 offers seamless collaboration and productivity capabilities, making it an increasingly popular enterprise platform. However, the same integrations that make Office 365 so easy for employees to use also make it a vulnerable target for credential phishing.

According to Osterman Research, 40% of Office 365 users have experienced credential theft despite the platform's existing protections. If your organization uses Office 365, you should have additional security strategies in place to safeguard against employee account takeovers.

Office 365's email security is highly dependent on defense-in-depth. The Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) basic email security features of Office 365 rely on traditional email filtering techniques, which are ineffective against more sophisticated, targeted cyberattacks. Adding an advanced cloud email security solution on top of Microsoft EOP can help you better protect your enterprise against email-borne security threats.  

8. Use Secure Email Alternatives

The threats to an organization that travel through email are becoming more and more advanced. Having a comprehensive and fully managed email security strategy in place can help combat these threats and protect your enterprise from a full-blown, successful cyberattack.

For especially sensitive data, like governance materials, consider exploring some secure alternatives to email communication. With all of the potential threats that surround corporate email, the best way for enterprises to protect sensitive data is to implement secure communications technology. Diligent, a leader in governance technology, provides reliable and private secure communication tools that allow you continue to communicate efficiently while also mitigating risk.  

Diligent Secure Communication Technology: Comprehensive Security for Governance

Diligent Secure Communication Technology provides comprehensive data protection that allows your business to protect sensitive information using encrypted workflows, while also offering a seamless user experience. With best-in-class data security technology, Diligent Secure Communication Technology allows your governance team to collaborate safely. Over 16,000 leading organizations trust Diligent with their enterprise communications, with a 98% loyalty rate.

Diligent offers reliable and private secure messaging tools that feature end-to-end encryption and eliminate unnecessary risk from key communications. Secure file sharing solutions also ensure that sensitive data isn't exposed to email-based cyberattacks. With Diligent Secure Meeting Workflow'', you can work together in a collaborative environment that is also completely secure.

Do you have additional questions about corporate email security? Are you looking to improve your corporate email security strategy or explore alternatives to email when it comes to sending sensitive information? Diligent can help your organization improve collaboration, productivity, and security with comprehensive, end-to-end solutions. Contact us to find out more.

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Kerie Kerstetter
Kerie Kerstetter is a former Senior Director at Diligent and the Next Gen Board Leaders. She has done extensive work into how governance and ESG technologies empower leadership to make informed, data-driven decisions while mitigating cyber risk. Kerie was one of the founding members of Boardroom Resources, the premier educational resource for board members, acquired by Diligent in 2018.