11 Email Security Best Practices You Shouldn’t Miss (2022)

Summra Ahmad
Summra Ahmad

Last updated on

April 11, 2022

Email marketing is a great tool to engage with your customers. You can use it to promote your business through newsletters, discount offers, or product information. 

However, emails have also long been the target of cybercriminals who use them to distribute spam, malware, and scams.

As per Greathorn 2021 Email Security Benchmark report, email security was ranked as the top IT security project of 2021

Therefore, you need to take significant measures to secure your marketing emails. Use two multi-factor authentications (2FA) and a password manager for your accounts. You can also provide limited access to employees for email accounts and educate them about the importance of staying safe online.

Well, in this guide, you will learn how to keep your email marketing safe for your company and customers.

But, let’s first understand email security, its importance, and the common email marketing threats.

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What is email security?

Email security refers to the methods and procedures to protect email accounts, content, and communication against unauthorized access, data loss, or other malicious threats.

The techniques and methods include login security, email encryption, spam filtering, fraud prevention, and cybersecurity education. 

What makes email security practices so important?

importance of email security

Email is a play tool for hackers and cybercriminals to spread malware, spam, and phishing attacks. It is also one of the main entry points to access an enterprise network and breach valuable company data.

Around 92% of all malware is delivered through email. 15 Billion spam emails are sent daily, and around 45% of all email is spam. 

In addition, 95% of business email compromise losses were between $250 and $984,855. 

Therefore, implementing effective security practices is very important. 

 6 Common email marketing threats

email marketing threats

Here are the six common threats:

  1. Spam: It is classified as unsolicited emails sent in bulk. In a few cases, vector spam can include links that install malware files. 
  2. Phishing: It is an attempt by cybercriminals to steal personal information or break into online accounts by using deceptive emails, ads, links, or messages. As per Verizon, 36% of breaches involve phishing. 
  3. Malware: It involves using malicious code by cybercriminals that they distribute in email messages to infect one or more devices. In 2020, the email malware attacks were up by 600%.
  4. Spoofing: It is a technique cybercriminals use in spam and phishing attacks. It is used to trick users and make them think that the message is from a person or entity they know or can trust. 
  5. Botnet Messages: It is a method of infecting a network of computers with malware. It controls a single attacking party known as the ‘bot-header’. It is used to attack, steal data, send spam, and access the device and its connection.
  6. BEC (Business Email Compromise): In this method, the tracker gains access to a business email account and imitates the owner’s identity. The attacker generally targets companies who conduct wire transfers and have suppliers abroad through this method. 

How to spot email threats?

reasons people get scammed

Here are the ways that you can teach your employees to spot email threats:

1. Suspicious email address

Check for any emails that use display name spoofing to disguise the real sender. These emails look like legitimate entities, or trusted individuals have sent them. Check the header to view the sender’s email address and look for subtle differences, such as extra characters or additional letters.

2. Sense of urgency

In addition to checking the header of an email, you also need to check the body of the email. If you notice any strange request that puts you under pressure to take action, then the chances are that it contains malware. Therefore, analyze the language of the email to notice any sense of urgency. Also, check for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes as most spam emails are not well written. 

3. Information verification requests

Any email that asks you to verify, review, check, or confirm any information is likely an email containing malware. Therefore, verify the sender's email address before you confirm the information.

4. Suspicious attachments

An email with an unexpected attachment, asking you to open it can contain malware. Attachment file extensions that can be suspicious are .zip, .xls, .js, .pdf, .ace, .arj, .wsh, .scr, .exe, .com, .bat., and .doc.

5. Instruction to click a link

Be aware of emails that encourage you to click towards a website. It may have malware! Before clicking on the link, check the URL. If it is a hyperlinked link, then over the text and check the link before you click. 

11 Effective email security best practices

Despite the emergence of team communication tools, such as Slack or MS Teams, emails still are the primary option for many businesses for internal communication. 

By 2025, the total number of email users worldwide will be around 4.6 billion. 

Therefore, businesses must implement security measures for their email marketing to prevent the risk of email vulnerabilities.

Here are the best actionable steps you can take to protect your company and customers during your email marketing efforts:

1. Encrypt marketing emails

Sometimes emails contain customer-sensitive information, making them vulnerable. Therefore, it is crucial to secure these emails by encrypting all emails between you and your customers. 

encrypt marketing email

First, you should use an ISP (Internet Service Provider) with a strong reputation for its security. There are cheaper options as well. But a data breach can be even more costly to recover from if the ISP security is weak.

Here are three more ways to encrypt your marketing emails:

  • Asymmetric encryption: You can create a public key to enable people to encrypt the messages they want to send and then create a private key exclusive to you for decryption. Free software for asymmetric encryption is GnuPG.
  • Encryption in transit: You can encrypt emails while en route from one email server to the other. One of the top software is OpenSSL which offers complete encryption for data in transit. 
  • Enterprise email encryption: You can encrypt emails using email solutions applications. These applications can include cloud-based solutions or an extra hardware device. You can use Proofpoint for encrypting your  emails. 

2. Use email security software

In addition, use high-quality email and security tools that are not prone to easy manipulation or infiltration.

Invest in password managing software, phishing, and spoofing blocking software. 

Here are a few options:

  • Mimecast: It helps to block phishing. 
  • NordPass: Offers an encrypted vault for storing all your passwords. It allows you to store unlimited passwords. 

Moreover, email firewalls allow you to filter emails with attached malware and other problematic materials. Antivirus software can also be used to scan for viruses, worms, and Trojan horses before you download anything.

Other cybersecurity tools that you can use are:

  • Network security monitoring tools
  • Penetration testing
  • Packet sniffers
  • Network defense wireless-tools
  • Web vulnerability scanning tools

3. Use 2-factor authentication

It’s one of the standard practices and an effective security measure. 2FA requires that a user provides two pieces of identifiable information before signing in, making it significantly harder for hackers to get into an account, even if they have the password. 

2-Factor Authentication is both free and easy to use. All you need is to tinker with your account settings a little in password management.

Since websites and services do not activate it by default, you have to manually configure it on your account settings. Take a look Gmail’s authentication popup below. 

email authentication

4. Update the devices you use to login

With the emergence of remote work, many employees are encouraged to use their device for working and use it to log in to business email accounts. However, it's way more difficult for an organization to track personal devices, which is a significant security risk.

Employees may have malware on their devices, potentially exposing their login credentials, causing their data to be leaked and further damaged.

If you're an employee, constantly update the device you're using to log in and run antivirus scans to ensure the device isn't infected with malware.

Updating software offers plenty of benefits. Most of the updates include repairing security holes discovered during the update. Plus, it will fix or remove computer bugs. 

Other than that, updates can add new features to the device and remove outdated ones. Updating devices regularly is a highly suggested practice.

5. Only use trusted Wi-Fi networks

If your company doesn't use a wireless connection, or if you're working remotely, ensure that you're always connected to the internet via a trusted Wi-Fi network that is adequately protected with WPA.

Public Wi-Fi networks are the most conventional place for hackers to attack. 

Suppose you log in to your email while connected to an unknown or publicly accessible network. In that case, anyone could potentially track your actions and gain access to personal information.

Trusted Wi-Fi Networks allow transparent data transfer. A computer that uses a trusted network has an Administrator to administer to prevent private and secured data from leaking. Since this network provides limited access and has strong firewalls, the computers are more secure and confidential. 

6. Have email authentication standards

You need to focus on email authentication standards using transactional emails or curated content emails to enhance email security. 

email security tips

These standards give you control over how your domain is used and who is trying to attack your domain. Thus, email authentication standards secure you from becoming victims of spam, spoofing, and phishing attacks. 

Here are three email authentication standards:

  • Sender Policy Framework
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance

7. Always investigate emails before clicking anything

Email scams are prevalent, and even the most innocent-looking email can contain an attachment causing damage to your computer and email account. Therefore, it is important to learn about email blacklists.

Only open attachments and links from users you trust and investigate the message to ensure it's coming from a reputable source. You can do this by inserting the subject line into a search engine and seeing if other users have received a similar email and reported it as potentially dangerous.

At times attackers send spear-phishing emails that look like they have been sent actually from your friend or your bank. The worst part is that the attackers have taken over a real email account or phone number for phishing purposes.

However, there is a way to combat the situation. If the source is legit, check the texts. The email account with text out of character is the major reason you must doubt its authenticity. Also, if you find anything weird about a message from someone you know, such as if it has a request in it, there is a real possibility that the email is impersonated or the email ID is hacked.

8. Consider DMARC

You can activate DMARC domain protections to protect your company from cybercriminals. It helps you to prevent attackers from using a legitimate corporate domain in phishing campaigns.

email authentication records

DMARC uses two email authentication methods:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): It decides and restricts the mail server that can send an email for a specified domain name. In this way, it allows you to detect and block email spoofing.
  • Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM): DKIM reduces the chances of your emails getting identified as spam. In addition, it discourages others from spoofing your email, especially when combined with SPF.

DMARC email security makes phishing attacks visible, allowing you to gain full insight into your email channels. It also protects your business against spoofing and brand abuse. 

However, to achieve high security, you must use DMARC, SPF, and DKIM in combination.

9. Carry out routine internal checks

It is important to keep your data safe and confidential, for which you need to have a checklist that you must run regularly to prevent breaches. 

Here are some measures that you can take:

  • Keep your business list of email addresses confidential with restricted access.
  • Scan your email software from time to time to check any technical issues or viruses using anti-virus software.
  • Conduct internal risk audits to analyze the risk levels or vulnerabilities by rendering the services of an ethical hacker.
  • Regularly clean out your email list to filter out spam trap email addresses.

10. Secure the email gateway and create backups of critical files

An email gateway allows you to scan and process all the emails you sent or receive, ensuring that threats are allowed in. It uses a multi-layered approach to authenticating all the email traffic. 

You can implement a secure email gateway on your premises using an appliance, a virtual appliance or a cloud. It depends on the type of email server that you are using. It can be a cloud-based email server, such as Microsoft Office 365 or an on-premises email server, such as Exchange. 

While selecting a secure email gateway, you need to consider:

  • Deployment options
  • Spam effectiveness
  • Malware effectiveness
  • Threat intelligence
  • Outbound content control
  • Response capabilities

In addition, it is better to create a backup of important and confidential files beforehand as it minimizes the potential damage and devastation in case your systems and network have been attacked. 

However, the ransomware variants may sit idle for weeks in some cases. Once triggered, they can destroy backups as well. 

Therefore, create additional copies of your critical files in multiple locations and perform restoration exercises regularly.

11. Create awareness

Educate your customers about email scams through your blogs or FAQs. 

Here are the steps you can take to make your customers understand the importance of email cyber crimes:

  • Always use a disclaimer at the end of your emails, informing them how to find fake and spoofy emails. 
  • Create a post on your website addressing various email scams your customers face. 
  • Create FAQ pages and answer most of the questions and queries related to email scams.

You need to teach and show your customers what real spam looks like. Emphasize the importance of checking who they are getting a message from. Also, warn the user not to click on any link or attachment from unknown sources. 

Final thoughts

Email marketing remains the top tool to reach out to new customers. Still, it's essential to stay safe while using it to prevent causing any damage to your customers or organization. This can be done by:

  • Monitoring your email accounts
  • Investing in the right software
  • Consistent device updates are one of the many ways you can protect the security of your email marketing campaigns.

To ensure your email campaigns are encrypted and do not redirect to other sources, use email marketing software like Mailmunch to target your audience, segment the email list, and reach them on time of promotions!

Create fully optimized and encrypted emails with Mailmunch’s email template library. No coding is required!

Author Bio

Summra Ahmad

A bookworm and a pet nerd at heart, Summra works as Content Writer at Mailmunch. She loves to play with keywords, titles, and multiple niches for B2B and B2C markets. With her 3 years of experience in creative writing and content strategy, she fancies creating compelling stories that your customers will love, igniting results for your business.

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