Companies transfer massive amounts of sensitive information throughout their organizations each day. So why, then, do so few of us make data security a priority?
Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 65% of Americans have experienced a major data breach at some point in their lives. Of the group surveyed, 16% admitted that their email account had been compromised by a third party.
Yes, unfortunately, thieves in the digital age have realized that the contents of your emails are more valuable than the contents of your wallet. And when business emails are the targets of these attacks, their respective companies stand to lose everything, from their revenue to their creditability to their customers’ trust.
Keep these strategies in mind to protect your business from the bottom feeders who rely on phishing scams and security exploits.
1. No Two Factor Authentication (2FA)According to a recent study, almost 20% of business passwords are weak enough to fall victim to brute force hacks. And while strong passwords are a good deterrent, hackers who target small businesses are sophisticated enough to subvert these rudimentary security measures.
To kick a business’s email security up a notch, look into Two-Factor Authentication. The 2FA protocol requires that users have a third piece of information on top of the basic username/password—usually a PIN or a code sent via mobile. These systems are common in cloud-based email servers like Gmail and are an effective way for businesses to tighten up their access points from end-to-end, email included.
2. Phishing Attacks
Phishing is one of the most common ways people fall victim to email exploits. Instead of actually hacking the server, criminals target business owners by posing as fake entities, such as financial institutions or business associates. They trick victims into handing over sensitive data by using mined information or linking them to fraudulent sites.
To reduce the odds of falling prey to these fraudsters, make personal email security a regular part of your team’s IT training. Educate them on the risks they’re exposing themselves—and the company—to when they carelessly handle their emails. Most of this information is rudimentary and can be explained without resorting to dedicated threat management consultants or extensive IT training protocols.
3. Not Updating Your Operating System
As much of a hassle as updates can be, they exist for a reason. When your software is patched, it’s usually to correct a vulnerability or inefficiency detected in the software. For example, the WannaCry Ransom Attack that affected more than 200,000 computer systems was due to a vulnerability that was later corrected – and people who didn’t update were still at risk of being hacked.
Stay on top of your IT teams and keep every operating system up to date. Email data breaches often go unnoticed for weeks or months after they occur and can be devastating to a company’s public image and profitability from quarter to quarter.
4. Unencrypted Emails
Email encryption is necessary to prevent third-party snooping. Without it, personal details, banking information, user credentials, and other sensitive info is at risk of being intercepted by hackers.
If you haven’t explored email encryption options with your CTO, look into solutions that offer end-to-end protection from desktop to mobile to the cloud. Do your research beforehand; many encryption suites may be more advanced (and costly) than your organization requires. Find the sweet spot between affordability and security.
Don’t Let Breaches Disrupt Your Strategy
Don’t let something as basic as email security disrupt your organization’s long-term goals. Keep your systems up to date, look into security protocols (like encryption and 2FA) and hammer out the weak links in your team through regular security education. Doing so will go a long way toward mitigating the inherent risk posed by the human component of an IT network, arguably the weakest touchpoint in any system. It may require an upfront investment, but it'll save much more capital in the long run, and it'll keep investors happy as you continue innovating and leading the company forward, rather than risking a company-wide shutdown due to preventable threats.