Emails are one of the most common mediums of business communication. No matter how sensitive or generic the content is, we only want the intended recipient to receive it. This is exactly where the role of outbound email security practice comes in, as it can prevent Business Email Compromise or BEC attacks. Hackers attempt BEC attacks to access your company’s email accounts without your knowledge and consent to commit fraud using your company’s name.
As per FBI’s IC3 report-2022, it received nearly 20,000 BEC complaints in 2021, with an accumulated loss of almost $2.4 billion. It’s also shocking to know that as of mid-2022, losses from BEC scams have surpassed $43 billion. That’s why you must educate yourself and your team about outbound DMARC email security. This blog discusses all this in detail.
Risks Associated With Outbound Email
Threat actors take advantage of irresponsible user behaviour and unsecured email accounts to attack your employees, prospects, customers, and other stakeholders. Let’s see what the common risks associated with email outbound are.
Data Breach or Leakage
The database is crucial to every organization. Data leakage or data breach disrupts operations and jeopardizes your company’s image. Hackers attempt it by gaining access to your SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol server, the channel through which all outbound email goes. They crack your authentication mechanisms to access emails to steal and intercept sensitive and confidential information.
Spamming and Phishing
If a bad actor successfully accesses your SMTP server, they are likely to use it to send malicious emails in your company’s name. Since these emails are sent from a legitimate domain, they are likely to land in the inbox instead of the spam folder. This way, they can request sensitive information like financial details, medical details, social security numbers, login credentials, etc.
Malware injection is another outbound email security risk where hackers hide malware links or setups in the email content. They get installed on recipients’ devices when they click or download links or attachments. These malware can be used to steal and intercept information, spy, attempt brute force or keyword logging password attacks, etc.
Exploiting SMTP can also help attackers perform Denial of Service or DOS attacks where they flood your server with too many emails, causing it to crash temporarily or permanently. Without outbound email security, DOS attacks are easy to perform as they can disguise warning messages about breaches.
Best Outbound Email Security Practices
Protecting your business from cybercriminals is important for optimal performance and an untarnished public image. So, it’s better to practice the following email outbound security measures before it’s too late.
Create and Implement an Efficient Cybersecurity Plan
You may already have an outbound email security plan in place, but updating and overseeing it regularly is important. Ensure that it includes policies, recommendations, guidelines, and requirements about using email accounts. For example, it should clearly state how to react when an outbound email spam filter detects an exchange of infected emails from within your company to your contacts.
Educate Your Employees
Establishing policies is useless if you haven’t educated your employees on maintaining optimal outbound email security. Train them on identifying warning signs and taking adequate actions to contain the damage. Start by spreading awareness about detecting and responding to phishing and spam emails.
They should know what a phishing email looks like so that they don’t proceed ahead with the request made in it. Moreover, you need to ensure your IT team is approachable and capable of handling such issues.
Install Antivirus Software
Download antivirus software from a credible source (preferably a paid one) to recognize and mitigate risks associated with both inbound and outbound emails. It works by filtering and scanning capabilities to spot malware and other cybersecurity menaces. Some advanced antivirus programs align with the configuration of proxy/ relayer to filter suspicious and spam emails and block them from entering your and your employees’ inboxes. This outbound email security practice minimizes the chances of an employee opening or downloading a malicious attachment by mistake.
Implement Password Policies
Hackers use techniques to crack passwords to access your email accounts. Thus, you and your employees must secure all their accounts with unique, strong, and unguessable passwords. A complex password should tick the following checklist:
- It should be a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.
- It shouldn’t be too obvious to guess, like your pet’s name, phone number, favorite coffee shop, etc.
- It shouldn’t be used across any other accounts.
Use Outbound Email Security Tools
Most organizations focus on securing inbound emails and overlook the risks associated with email outbound. Using outbound email spam filters ensures no infected emails are sent from within your MSP or your clients’ companies to correspondents.
So, if a threat actor gains access to one of your company’s email accounts, they can send infected emails to people in your address book with nefarious intentions. This will hamper your business reputation, and your outbound gateway can get blocklisted due to a high number of spam emails.
This is where outbound email security tools rescue you by blocking spam emails when they’re on their way out from your SMTP server.
Improve Outbound Email With SPF, DKIM, and DMARC
You can change your outbound email infrastructure by implementing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. These email authentication protocols ensure that only authorized entities send emails from your domain. Let’s discuss them briefly:
SPF is short for Sender Policy Framework. It works by allowing domain owners to specify valid email servers that are permitted to send emails. Today, all the major email providers, such as Microsoft (Outlook), Google (Gmail), Yahoo Mail, AOL, and Hotmail/Outlook Live, support it.
DKIM is an acronym for DomainKeys Identified Mail, a protocol in which digital signatures are created on some of your email headers. These are then cryptographically authenticated by recipients’ servers. If the signature is valid, it specifies that the message wasn’t altered during the transfer.
DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, is a protocol that confirms if an email meets the verification standards and generates a report of the same. It tells remote servers how to handle emails that fail SPF or DKIM checks.