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From clinching a new business deal to signing up for a new online service, we use emails for a variety of reasons. It is our messenger service that ferries all sort of information across the Internet.
The increasing dependence on emails is also a cause of concern for organizations. Email phishing still remains a serious cybersecurity risk across the world. All kinds of users, from private users to enterprises are privy to its attack. Hackers deploy a variety of email security threats that pass on malware programs, viruses and do more harm than intended to user users.
Perhaps the increasing instances of cybersecurity attacks are what has forced Internet giants like Electronic Frontier Foundation, WordPress and the rest to implement cybersecurity best practices like HTTPS everywhere etc.
SSL certificates have risen to center stage as much-have security measures that encrypt and keep information safe from hackers. Having a SAN SSL, which is also known as multi-domain SSL certificate, is more critical if you are running an online store or some sort of eCommerce store that handles payments of such sensitive information.
These certificates and a variety of other security measures help secure your website from a variety of email security threats. Such email security threats include everything from MIMA to phishing and beyond.
I am writing this post to enlighten you on the several kinds of email security threats that have become so popular today. There is a need to understand each of these threats separately. The means to fight them is not the same and often, involves stakeholder participation too.
So, let’s jump right in.
We all know viruses are the primary forms of security attacks on the Internet. But, when they are spread through email, they take a different form and shape which can confuse even expert system users.
The most common form of viruses come in the form of zipped attachments which when downloaded and extracted infect the system. Once infected, the system malfunctions or spies on data relaying it back to the hacker.
Phishing is perhaps the oldest and most common form of email security attack. In phishing, the hacker sends unsolicited emails to the victim urging them to share confidential information. This could be bank account details, login credentials and in some advanced cases even requests to make wire transfers. For the untrained eye, these emails might appear to be like originating from genuine sources making them respond as requested in the email.
Phishing again can be classified into various categories:
* Mass-scale Phishing
Phishing attacks that target a large number of email users, especially using the same email server, ISP or network.
* Spear Phishing
Targeting specific individual email users whose email id might carry critical information like corporate records, contracts, user credentials, etc.
Whaling is the same as phishing, just that a victim is specifically a person of power or responsibility who can execute decisions. Decisions, that are specifically related to financial transactions. In whaling, hackers use social engineering to send emails to personnel reporting to the manager or a CEO. Critical information like employee records, financial reports or even bank transfers is executed through whaling.
Malicious links to spam websites are largely spread through emails. Why are they malicious? These websites are created either to sell fake products or steal user information through illicit information. A common example of such malicious links is pharma products claiming to ‘reduce fat in 7 days’ or ‘artificial muscle growing pills’ which do not work in real life. In the recent days, emails carrying malicious links.
Spamming is more of an annoyance than a serious security issue. Spam emails are generally unsolicited emails from vendors citing offers, discounts and so on. While modern day spam filters help in keeping spam emails at bay, a large number of spams still find their way into user inboxes. Also, they have been known to be carrying malware programs that get into user system to cause malfunctioning.
In a zero-day attack, also known as zero-hour attack, the hacker uses a vulnerability in the software or the website to gain entry. This vulnerability is probably already known to the developer, but could not
have been fixed properly. If the attack is not contained immediately, it can spread to other systems in the network and can also cause serious disruptions in performance.
Why should you worry about all these email security threats?
Google could be reading your emails to figure out what adverts to send you. Your employer could be monitoring your web traffic to check whether you are looking for another job. Your government could be spying on your email conversations. There is a growing list of concerns that every email user is exposed to. These email security threats only make things worse.
How to save yourself from being hooked?
There are simple ways to secure your email account and also ensure its round-the-clock security. Just look for these essential features that will save you all the trouble of being hacked.
A Sender of the email: Does the email sender look familiar? If it is, double check the spelling to ensure that it is correct. Hackers often use misspelled email id’s to trick users into believing them.
Subject Line: If the subject line is overdramatic, too bare or causing confusion, it could possibly a spam or a hacked email.
Attachments: Like we said before, most of the email security attacks originate from malicious attachments. Install an antivirus software that can scan your attachments before downloading.
Links: Although not all links are malicious links whisking you away to dangerous sites, you have to careful of spoofed links hidden inside texts. Ensure that the link is an HTTPS one before opening it.
Personalization: if the email addresses you by a nickname or a name that only your close circles are aware of, be careful of spear phishing. Social engineering enables hackers to find out highly personalized details about you including your nickname.
Offer/Demand of the email: If the offer or the demand in the email seems to be too good to be true or overwhelming, do not trust it. If you wish to establish its authenticity, contact the sender by phone or in person. Such emails are best left as it is primarily sent by hackers.
Last Few Words
First things first, staying on the Internet is becoming difficulty every day. Your email is the primary target for hackers. Secure it, lest you will lose critical personal information that will lead to financial loss, damage to personal reputation or even graver situations.