Cyber-criminals are relentless and adamant, and they’re always working round the clock to develop and unleash new ways of attacking unsuspecting internet users. With 2021 fast-approaching, and more people opting to work from home, email-based attacks remain a significant threat for companies and businesses.
For that reason, we’ve decided to enlighten our readers about the top 5 email threats that are likely to wreak havoc in 2021. We also provide actionable tips on what companies and businesses can do to reduce or prevent malicious email attacks. So let’s jump right in.
Here’s a list of some of the dangerous attacks that are likely to surface fully in the coming year:
Ransomware is some type of blackmailing where the malicious actor blocks access to a computer system until they get paid a certain sum of money. And that’s not all; the attacker also threatens to publish the victim’s confidential data if they fail to pay the ransom.
The attack mostly gets delivered via email, where the hacker encrypts the company files, holding them hostage until a payout (mainly in the form of bitcoin) is provided. With 204 million attacks registered in 2018 alone, ransomware remains one of the most prevalent cyberattacks. Here are the ransomware types to watch out for in the coming years:
- Lockers – lock you out of your computer.
- Ransomware as a service – gets hosted anonymously.
- Scareware – mimics the antivirus software appearance.
- Crypto malware – targets cryptocurrency transactions.
- Doxware – threatens to publish private information.
Phishing is where the malicious actors dupe individuals into providing confidential information by impersonating trusted figures or purporting to come from reputable organizations. The perpetrators usually use digital communication channels like emails to stage the attacks.
The idea here is simple; the attacker knows that by posing as a respected figure, the victim is likely to cooperate and reveal private details, like account login, when presented with an unsecured document. Therefore, the victims, without suspecting, get exposed to a virus. Some of the common signs of phishing attacks include:
- Incorrect punctuation, language, or grammar
- Unusual requests for confidential information
- Generic languages like “Sir” or “Madam”
- An uncommon sense of urgency
A 2018 research revealed 83% of respondents experienced phishing attacks, a 7% increase from the previous year. Therefore, phishing is, without a doubt, an email threat that will disrupt cybersecurity in 2021.
Social Engineering Attacks
In a social engineering attack, the perpetrator relies on an organization’s users to gather sensitive information instead of hacking into the system directly. The attacks are usually successful to no small extent because humans are always prone to errors. The attacker needs only to build trust then steal confidential data by manipulating the users to believe that they’re known to the organization.
Email spoofing is a perfect example of a social engineering attack. Here, the attacker uses addresses or domains that are exceedingly similar to those of the true origin. They then deceive the users into believing that the manipulated emails are from a trusted source, thus gaining access to their crucial data and the entire organization’s network.
Spear phishing is an upgraded phishing type where the attacks are highly targeted and steered towards a specific organization or individual. Cybercriminals are usually successful in these attacks because they conduct thorough research to make the emails as error-free and legitimate as possible.
Phishing attacks may also target customers. For example, if you have an online store, the hacker may email your customers about a recent purchase and then attach a link to a login page where all the credentials are harvested. With more people embracing remote working and online shopping, such targeted attacks may increase in 2021.
Despite spamming being more of a nuisance than a threat, it still forms a weak link for delivering other attacks like malware and ransomware.
Email bombing is a popular form of spamming. The attacker sends large volumes of emails to an address to overflow its mailbox, overwhelming the server and exposing it to malicious attacks. Once the user receives lots of spam messages, their attention gets distracted from key email messages, creating space for a security breach.
Email Security Safeguards
Here are some of the email security safeguards that you can leverage in planning, implementing, and upholding security in the email systems:
Implement Management Controls
Does your company have candid information security policies, risk assessment procedures, configuration management, and contingency planning resources? These are some of the primary management security controls that you need to enhance the effective operation and maintenance of email security systems.
Plan the System Implementation Attentively
Before you even get to installation, deployment, or configuration, you want to carefully plan the secure email system. This is overly essential because any slightest weak link resulting from poor planning is enough to create room for a data breach.
Secure the Email Server Application
Organizations should be exact and accurate in installing mail server services, scripts, and applications. In case of any excesses, they should be eliminated immediately through configuration, patching, or upgrades.
Secure the Supporting Operating Environment
Supporting network infrastructures like routers, firewalls, and intrusion detection & prevention systems should be tight and free of known vulnerabilities. Their security is paramount because they form a defense barrier between email servers and malicious intruders.
Back up Data Frequently
The fact that mail servers are among the most exposed spots in an organization’s network should be enough inspiration to back data up regularly. This reduces downtime in case of a service outage while maintaining data security and integrity in the mail server.
One thing we can all agree on is that the ill-intended email attacks are here to stay, if not get better in the coming years. Therefore, it’s upon businesses and organizations to employ stringent measures like backing up data and implementing management controls to prevent or reduce the threats.
But here’s the catch; a business’s primary objective is to cut on cost and optimize productivity, so creating time or galvanizing resources to set optimal security standards may be challenging. Good news: You can entrust a reliable and knowledgeable IT and security systems expert with providing the best solutions for cyber threats like phishing, social engineering, ransomware, etc. Get in touch with us today for comprehensive technological solutions.