In the digital age, even with a growing number of online communication tools, email remains an indisputable classic.
With the increase in email usage over the decades, hackers saw a profit opportunity compromising cybersecurity with intricate and diversiform network threats.
When it comes to email security, most users don’t have an adequate system in place. Assuming email services or the latest antivirus software will all block cyber-attacks.
We have listed the five most common email security threats and how to best overcome them.
Email spam can block your inbox and servers
Unsolicited bulk email, otherwise known as spam, is unwanted email sent in large quantities. It mainly consists of ads trying to sell certain products or services. Although they might seem harmless at first, spam is far from risk-free.
Studies have shown that 14.5 billion spam email is sent every day around the globe, which makes up to 45% of all emails sent. In spite of the development of advanced anti-spam software, individuals and businesses alike suffer the consequences of spam email that finds its way to the inbox. More than half of the participants of a recent survey said that spam was a major problem.
The world’s largest generator of spam email is the US. In the 2nd quarter of 2016, it accounted for 10.79% of global spam volume. It was followed by Vietnam, India, China and Mexico.
Such a large volume of junk can easily use up valuable server space. It can affect your network resulting in network downtime and bringing your daily business operations to a halt.
However, as annoying as it can be, spam is relatively easy to deal with. From creating safe lists, or choosing between automatic and manual filtering, users can avoid overloading their inboxes with unwelcome messages. Email clients and webmail providers have filtering options, which enable users to select a level of protection. Also, permanently delete all suspected junk email instead of moving it to the Junk folder.
Protect yourself from a malware infection
Email is the most common entry point for malware. It is estimated that 2-4% of all emails contain some type of malware. Email attachments are one of the oldest ways to spread malware. The content of the message encourages users to download a malicious file and launch it. Often there’s a link to a malicious site in the body of the message, which thanks to drive-by downloads automatically installs malware just by clicking a link.
Most email services can perform virus scanning and remove a dangerous attachment. With the fast evolution of viruses, worms, Trojans or spyware, the anti-malware software have difficulties to keep up.
Zeus and CryptoLocker are types of malware that infect devices through email. These are some of the most dangerous malware that can empty your bank account. Thanks to this malware, cyber criminals steal millions of dollars every year, even forcing companies to file for bankruptcy.
There are now about 1.7 billion pieces of malware that could potentially infect your inbox. According to Kaspersky Lab’s data, Germany topped the list of countries targeted by malicious mailshots in Q1 2016, followed by China, Brazil, and Italy.
Malware is no joke, but there are certainly ways to protect yourself from it. First of all is to install anti-virus/malware software and keep it up to date. Regularly update your operating system and run scheduled virus scans. The simplest way, of course, is to block links and attachments in suspicious emails.
Phishing attacks through email
Phishing is the act of tricking somebody to voluntarily reveal his or her personal information. Those email messages are created to steal money from users by posing as a legitimate company.
The common practice is for attackers to send messages with a link to a malicious site. Those links then take users to a website that will try to convince them to install the malware. In many cases, the link provided in a phishing email leads to what seems to be the website of a reputable business. Oftentimes even posing as one that provides a familiar service such as social media or online banking sites, in order to trick users to give out sensitive information.
Thanks to cunning social engineering cyber criminals, attacks are based on the potential victim’s online activity. According to Wombat, 85% of organizations suffered phishing attacks in 2015. The Anti-Phishing Working Group reported in its Q1 Phishing Activity Trends Report that between October 2015 and March 2016 the number of phishing websites increased by 250%.
Get informed and understand how scams and phishing attacks work. Learn to identify common phishing attacks and make sure to disable links in phishing emails. Keep your information secure and never enter sensitive data following a suspicious link in an email.
Block Cyber criminals from your email
Cybercrime has a 1,4% ROI according to a report by Trustwave. Email, unfortunately, is the most obvious choice for cyber criminals to make a profit. Most likely criminals will continue to find new ways to exploit the usage of email and take advantage of users’ poor email security practices to make a fast buck.
Currently, the most widespread web threat is the Blackhole Exploit Kit. Different anti-virus software solutions have detected between 30-90% of all web threats that resulted from this Exploit Kit. Released on a Russian hacker forum in 2012, the Kit can collect significant information about a user, such as location, operating system, browser, the exploited piece of software on the victim’s computer, and exploit their browser’s vulnerabilities. This information is so valuable in phishing attacks that cyber criminals are willing to rent it out for up to $700 a month.
To stay safe online, especially while using email, make sure you secure your network with WPA or WPA 2 encryption and avoid using open Wi-Fi. Open links and attachments you completely trust and scan everything you download to your computer for viruses. Pay attention to what you agree to install and only download software from trusted websites.
Email threats are going to be an ongoing issue
Email malware creation increases by 26% year over year, with about 1 million malware threats created every day. There are now more pieces of malware passing around than ever before. Even though we are now far more aware of the email security issues than the early 2000s, phishing reports are growing exponentially.
Email security threats are becoming more and more advanced that Michael Siegel, a research scientist at MIT, believes 75% of breaches go undiscovered for weeks or months. The issue of email-based threats and cybersecurity is very real and users should take every measure to protect their data.
Now, we didn’t list these email facts to put you off email. They are just a reminder that you should take cybercrime seriously and be proactive in finding the best email security solution for you.
The benefits of email outnumber any potential risks. Choose a reliable email client (like Mailbird for Windows or Airmail for Mac i.e.), treat unwanted email with extra caution and gear up with anti-malware software (such as Norton or Avira). Furthermore, avoid downloading attachments from suspicious senders and protect your data with unique strong passwords for all your accounts. These are a few steps to minimize risks and continue using email effectively.