4 Internal Threats to Email Security and How to Avoid Them

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4 Internal Threats to Email Security and How to Avoid Them

With so many outside threats to your company's data, it can be easy to overlook those internally. To cover all concerns, organization's must still consider outbound email's potential for data loss and factor it into their email security strategy.

Many IT professionals reveal that malicious insider attacks rank as their top perceived company vulnerability - even above malware, phishing and social engineering.

Here are some types of email threats that can generate security risks within your organization and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Malicious Insider Attacks

Perhaps the most difficult internal threat to handle, malicious insider attacks can be particularly damaging. Although there are other ways to send confidential data outside the company (such as memory sticks, cameras and more), email remains a convenient means for malicious insider havoc.

Organizations are on the alert but not always sure how to proceed. With an established Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policy, organizations can proactively protect confidential data - tracking, blocking, or allowing the transmission of sensitive data on a per-user basis. This functionality is based on a combination of user permissions and prior classification of sensitive data types.

2. Accidental Confidentiality Breaches

Sending an email to the wrong recipient is embarrassing, but if it also includes proprietary or confidential company data and correspondence, the temporary discomfort is insignificant compared to the potential for irreparable business damage.

Whether it's intellectual property, documented internal processes and procedures, business plans, or client data, company information must be protected at all times to prevent users from sharing business- critical or confidential data by email.

Depending on the organization's industry and activities, the loss of data doesn't just cause reputational damage. It can also lead to heavy fines and penalties from governing bodies for non-compliance.

Whether accidental or deliberate, human error is a genuine security risk. A comprehensive email security solution can implement security checks to prevent users from sharing confidential information over email, either by providing warnings or notifying administration.

3. Risks Associated with Connected Devices

The rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs and use of connected mobile devices throughout organizations has increased productivity, enhanced collaboration and allowed users to have immediate access to email - regardless of their physical location.

With all these benefits, however, comes a fair share of risk. The fact that email is accessible from so many connected devices means that it must be part of any effective email security solution, as these devices are subject to the same inbound and outbound threats as their desktop counterparts.

Create a BYOD policy that prepares for eventualities such as loss or theft of a mobile device. It should have clearly defined data retention policies and include provisions for when employees leave the company.

Most Common Measures for BYOD Risk Control

If an employee leaves the company with his or her personal mobile device, all company data (including email and instant messaging) should be securely removed from that device. The data on the device, however, must be moved and retained on company servers in case of litigation or to satisfy other compliance requirements.

The ideal email security solution should be platform-independent, working equally well across PCs, tablets and smartphones.

4. Legal Compliance Factors

All organizations have a variety of compliance factors to consider, notably related to storage, privacy and security of data - all of which can be compromised if email security is below par.

Some standards are legislative and based on jurisdiction, data privacy, and data governance laws, for example, while others are industry specific and are required to do business.

Data retention requirements are yet another consideration. In terms of outbound mail storage, the data retention period varies depending on the jurisdiction or standard, but five years is typically considered the absolute minimum for business accounting.

Some industries' regulations, compliance and standards are more complex than others'. Managing these standards can be overwhelming and time consuming, and many require a third-party organization to verify a company has fulfilled its obligations.

The most challenging aspects of compliance, however, lie in two primary but connected areas: data loss and data privacy. Data loss is immediately obvious, whereas data privacy can be more difficult to pinpoint - referring in many jurisdictions to personally identifiable information. (PII).

A key feature common to many standards is confidential data management. Data loss can occur through outbound emails, posing critical security risks that could lead to non-compliance and corresponding penalties. Regulatory violations can also occur when client or patient information is sent to the wrong receiver, whether externally or within the company.

The Ideal Email Security Solution

  • By taking a more detailed look at internal threats, you can further define the ideal email security solution needed for your business.
  • Automate screening on all outbound emails to help prevent data loss, proactively seeking to eliminate human error.
  • Protect confidential data by classifying documents and other information as sensitive where appropriate.
  • Require user authentication permissions for sending sensitive data.
  • Send prompts alerting users to acknowledge when an outgoing message contains sensitive data.
  • Promptly deliver outgoing email to ensure time sensitivity.
  • Handle regulations, compliance, and eDiscovery needs - regardless of platform or device.

Whether the data is from the company, an employee, a partner, or a client, IT needs a strategy in place to help protect it all.

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Source: Microsoft

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