From the moment the first email was sent in 1971, email has grown to become a critical part of the business world, allowing companies to work more productively, no matter their size. In fact, over 100 billion (that’s billion with a b) business emails are sent each day, and because email is so critical to the workings of business, it’s also a huge target for viruses, spam, and malware. IT professionals fight the good fight when it comes to email security, but how do you know your security solution is effective?
Downtime Costs Money
Ask any IT professional or company principal, and they’ll tell you that downtime is one of their biggest daily concerns. Avoiding system failure and downtime is a constant challenge, because when systems are down for any length of time, business suffers. Productivity slows and sometimes stops completely. Getting back up and running can be a challenge all its own.
Issues that affect the depth and breadth of downtime include the age of your hardware and infrastructure, a lack of redundancy in your systems, and an inadequate or nonexistent disaster recovery plan. Some things that your business should be addressing in your email security are:
- Physical Security – physical access to equipment such as email servers and network equipment
- Spam and Phishing – Spam, that electronic version of junk mail, and phishing scams designed to ferret out sensitive information
- Viruses and Malware – because viruses and malware are widely circulated via email
- Security Patches and Updates – management of these security measures is critical
Managing The Threat to Your Email
Answering the threats that assault your email system day in and day out takes vigilance, and a series of protocols designed to catch security issues as they arise.
A good email security protocol employs multi-stage, server-level detection as well as detection on individual machines. Detection and eradication of threats as they reach your system is a safety net against downtime, and it requires examining and filtering messages in several stages. This includes multi-level scans for spam, viruses, and malware in all incoming emails – examining the contents, headers, code, formatting, and attachments. These scans seek to identify threat factors such as:
- Known threats
- Suspicious IP addresses
- Dangerous file types
- Formatting vulnerabilities
- Unusual code fragments and coding styles
- Suspicious URLs
- Unusual message architecture
Messages that run afoul of these factors are rejected and do not reach company inboxes. However, it’s important to note that no email security protocol is 100% bullet-proof; sometimes a malicious message slips through. That’s where having a solid disaster recovery plan can save you a lot of headaches.
Evaluating Your Email Security
Even if you have systems in place to stem the tide of spam and related threats to your network, it’s a good idea to periodically examine the effectiveness of your current solution. New threats arise with alarming regularity, and if you’re not proactive in circumventing these threats, you’ll eventually be looking at productivity-killing downtime, or worse. Evaluate your current solution by asking these questions:
- Do legitimate messages end up in your spam filter?
- Do messages containing spam or viruses still manage to land in your employees’ inboxes?
- How often do your spam/virus definitions update?
- Do viruses and malware still manage to infiltrate individual machines?
- How quickly are security patches and updates deployed by your IT department?
- How much effort does it take your IT staff to keep up with your infrastructure?
If you don’t like the answers to these questions, it might be time to improve your email security solution. Managing the constant threat to your email systems can consume more budget that you may be able to spare, and yet it’s so important that you can’t afford to ignore it. Fortunately, there are security providers who will help you shoulder the burden, and will provide security solutions that are far more up-to-date in their definitions than off-the-shelf solutions. If your business relies on email (and most do), then make sure your email security is reliable.