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The Essential Email Security Guide for Email Marketers

Emails are the best marketing tool available. It is inexpensive, scalable, and efficient in driving great RoI. Studies have shown that 66% percent of consumers have made purchases online as a result of an email marketing campaign. Some professionals even admit that emails are one of the best internet services available which offer the most value for money. The explosion of data-driven tools has helped marketers to map customers, personalise their experience and fulfil their every need like never before.In trying to build up trust and reputation, many email marketers forget the most crucial issue that is security. Safety is the fundamental pillar of faith. If you cannot guarantee the security to your subscribers, your campaign and product have already failed. Cyber-crimes are rising day by day. That is exactly why every email marketer requires a good email security guide to avoid these circumstances.

Emails can not only the best source for digital marketing but can also be the best channel for cyber crimes.

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Recently email attacks have become so sophisticated, that it is difficult for brands to fight back. Around 97% percent people globally cannot identify an advanced phishing email.To make it worst most people open their mails in mobile devices which make it harder to spot a phish. – Movableink

It is a very unpleasant situation for brands and users. Security and business are at stake. Email fraud costs companies around the world in billions. It can permanently destroy the brand reputation. Subscribers would most likely stop interacting with brands after being phished or spoofed by them. Phishing attacks are on the rise worldwide since 2011.Using the right Email security guide majorly helps you to overcome these situations and provides you a good email protection.

Let’s first understand how email fraud works and what its types are.Then we will move on to provide a simple email security guide required to protect your emails.

Workings of the email fraud landscape:

Since 2011 there has been a sharp rise and evolution in the email fraud landscape. Cyber criminals constantly come up with new and sophisticated ways to leverage email cause harm to the customers and businesses. The first stage of email security guide is to first find out the loopholes.We must first know what are the tactics used.

Below are three tactics used by cyber criminals:

1. Spam:

Spams are classified as unsolicited emails sent in bulk. Even if spams do not have the threat like a virus-infected attachment, junk email can quickly overwhelm a user making it challenging and impossible for owners to view legitimate messages. In some cases, spam may contain phishing links which trick users into giving confidential information to cyber criminals, or malware sites that download malicious software onto the user’s computer. The spam problem has become so bad in the recent years that some users are abandoning email addresses instead of combating the problem.

Spams has also become the delivery medium for both phishers and virus attackers. On a daily basis billions of spams are sent.

Below are ways by which spammers find valid email addresses:

Purchasing or trading lists with other spammers.

They use unique software which helps crawl web pages, mailing list archives, internet forums, and other online sources that contain email addresses. Dictionary harvest attacks are used by spammers also known as an attack where valid email addresses at a particular domain are found by guessing and using common usernames in email addresses at that domain. Spammers also acquire valid email address with the promise of free services or other offerings.

2. Spoofing:

Spoofing can be defined as the forgery of an e-mail so that the message that appears to have come from a person or brand other than the actual source from the cyber criminals. Spoofing takes place in many ways. One the most common way is by concealing the actual sender’s name and the origin of the email; sometimes the source may be masked from the recipient. In a case of email fraud the criminals use at least minimal spoofing, since they are trying to avoid being tracked by security agencies and users.

Below are the spoofing methods employed by cyber criminals to unlawfully acquire user data:

Spoofing is done in various ways, one of it is domain spoofing, in which the precise sending domain of the brand is mimicked. Cousin domain threats are when messages that spoof the brand name but are not from domains owned or controlled by that brand. In display name spoofing the name that comes before the “from” address in the header field of the email is mimicked. In subject line spoofing, the subject line is imitated by the cyber criminals to get the subscribers to open the malicious emails which may contain worms or viruses.

vodafone

The tools required to spoof email addresses are very easy to acquire. You just need a working SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol), a server that can send email, and the right mailing software.

Viruses, worms, and Trojans:

The virus, worms, and Trojans are delivered as email attachments, these destructive codes can devastate the receivers system, turn their computers into remote control slaves known as botnets, cause recipients to lose serious money and take over banking and credit card details. Trojan horse keyloggers, for example, are known to surreptitiously record system activities, giving unauthorized external parties access to bank accounts, private business websites, social media accounts and other resources.

3. Phishing:

Phishing can be defined as a kind of spam that is intended to trick email recipients into giving sensitive information or credentials for malicious reasons; this information is then misused. Phishing attacks try to utilize social engineering to steal a particular consumers’ personal and financial data. These attacks are carried out by “spoofed” emails which give links to bogus websites that are specially designed to trick customers into revealing confidential financial data like credit card details, account numbers, usernames, passwords and Social Security numbers. Phishing perpetrators operate by hiding under phony identities and names that are stolen from corporate banks, online businesses, and credit-card companies. They can also masquerade as government agencies and banks that the recipient might recognize.

Email Security Guide-worm-emails

Below are the ways by which phishing are carried out:

Phishing can be carried out by tracking email servers into delivering the emails to the inbox of recipients by masquerading the “envelope from” address which is hidden in the technical header of the email. The emails are made to look legitimate by spoofing the company’s name in the “Display Name” field so that customers do not recognize it. Phishing is a serious offense and sometimes these cyber criminals also copy company logos to make their malicious emails look authentic, they also legitimate company domain or a domain that looks like it is “from” the field and subject lines.

Users are directed to malicious websites through a link, or they are given malicious attachments. All these things make it difficult for users to differentiate between authentic emails and malicious emails. Here are few more findings by different security and network companies:

  • Twenty-three percent people globally open phishing emails. – Verizon
  • RSA has identified that there is a phishing attack every minute. – RSA
  • Over 50% of the email, users receive one phishing email per day. – Phishing
  • Eleven percent recipients open attachments. – Verizon
  • 5 out of 6 big businesses are affected by phishing attacks. – Symantec
  • Half recipients open these emails, and seventy percent phishing attacks come from domains that aren’t owned by brands. – Verizon

How can you identify a Phish?

We already wrote a guide in blog post – 11 Easy Ways to Identify Phishing Emails, apart from those practices, you can quickly have a look through following details:

Do not believe everything you see

  • Even if you find an email that appears to be from a valid email address do not believe it as it does not guarantee that it is legitimate.

Look for threatening language in a subject line

  • Phishing emails try to make sense of urgency or fear.

Try to analyze the salutation

  • If the email is addressed to a vague “Valued Customer” beware it may not be legitimate. Most businesses use your first

Look at the emails don’t click

  • Try to move your mouse over any links embedded in the email. If the link address looks weird and spammy, don’t click on it. Type the website link in the address bar if you find it suspicious rather than clicking on it. It can save you from unsolicited emails.

Never give out any personal information for banks

  • Legitimate banks never ask for personal credentials via email. Don’t give them out to anyone online.

Check the emails for spelling mistakes

  • Marketers are pretty serious about emails. They never make any spelling mistakes or have poor grammar.

Review the signature in email body

  • If there are no details about the signer or information on to contact the company it may be a phish. A legitimate business would provide proper name, source, and a contact phone number.

Global impact of email fraud:

Business revenue may suffer as a result of email fraud. Phishing costs brands around the world around $4.5 billion every year. These extra charges are due to:

  • Fraud charges that are associated with stolen credit cards.
  • Cash withdrawals that are related to online trading accounts.
  • Time spent by employees in dealing with such fraudulent transaction.
  • Customer support calls.
  • Email marketing revenue is lost because of phishing.

The longer the phishing attacks are active, the more the brands pay. Brand reputation is eroded with the revenue. Phishing is one of the major concerns for businesses as it can lead to large-scale losses. It can destroy a cooperation never to rise again.

Email Security Guide-customers

Customers love to communicate with brands via email, but they also quickly abandon communication once trust is broken. More than forty percent consumers are less likely to interact with a brand after being phished or spoofed by them. It is one of the reasons that phished brands can be a major hit to their email marketing programs and lower their revenue.

Email Security Guide – How to fight back?

An email security guide helps you oppose and fight against these troublemakers.Businesses should make security part at their planning stage for any new initiative or marketing program involving email. Marketing and security teams need to collaborate on any new venture. Poor email security jeopardizes deliverability of legitimate messages. Therefore poor email security would cost you in millions and may even be the end of your business. Protecting email users and their system from cyber attackers is a continuous job which requires multiple security tools and a good email security guide to help you walk down the process .

There are many ways in which email fraud can be prevented. This email security guide provides a few  precautions and methods towards email security that can be taken by brands to stop this:

1. Educate your customers:

Education is one of the primary email-defence tools and a important guideline of email marketing guide in combating email fraud. No matter how sophisticated email authentication protocols you use some malicious email will always reach the inbox of your recipients. Users who are properly educated and made aware of email threats are less likely to open potentially virus-infected attachments, phishing links or perform any risky actions. Education is an excellent way of mitigating the impact of fraudulent messages. Creation of customer-education portal which including articles on how to spot a phishing attack is a great way to assure customer safety.Remind your clients that you’ll never ask them for certain information over emails.

2. Advice client to use Client Security:

All the leading email clients now have security settings, anti-spam tools, phishing filters and other features that are designed to isolate dangerous messages before they can inflict harm. Email users should be advised to investigate all of these functions and use them as their first line of defense against cyber-attack.

3. Advice users to use a firewall and anti- virus tools:

A firewall can filter out malware-laden attachments and other types of unwanted materials. Anti-Virus tools do a good job of removing viruses, worms, and Trojan horses from incoming email messages.

4. Collaboration across departments can prevent cyber-attacks:

The marketing and security teams should work together in providing security to the users. A corporate policy should be dictated for authentication protocols for sending domains. This is yet another major point in the email security guide.

Few authentication protocols that can be helpful:

These are a few major steps to be taken while following the email security guide.

1. Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM):

This allows organizations to take responsibility for transmitting an email in a way that can be verified by the email providers. It is made possible through cryptographic authentication within the digital signature of the email.

2. DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance):

This ensures that only legitimate email is properly authenticated against the established DKIM and SPF standards. The fraudulent activity coming from domains under the brand’s control is blocked forever before even reaching the customer’s inbox.

3. Sender Policy Framework (SPF):

This allows brands and businesses to specify who is allowed access to send email on behalf of your domain. List the IP address of the authorized sender in a record that email providers, when sent receive an email. In case that the IP address sending email for the brand’s sending domain is not listed in that SPF record, the email fails SPF authentication.

email security guide-security-status-warning

Above screenshot shows the email warning shown by Gmail mailbox when it receives an email from un-authenticated domain where proper DKIM and DMARC records not implemented properly.

Related post: 11 Myths about SPF, DKIM, DMARC and the Reality – Marketers View

Try to get more information about DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance) to understand what it does and how it can help marketers to protect consumers, by making sure that unauthenticated emails do not get a chance to reach their intended victims.This is an important point to be noted in email security guide since it does have a major impact on the security in the near future.

Always identify your sending domain owners:

Carry out an audit on everyone who is sending emails to you or your brand. These lists include third parties and give information about that list back to security. This sender information is highly helpful in cleaning up email authentication practices and also ensures that the necessary third-party policies are in place. Divide your responsibilities and monitor your work daily.

This email security guide along with these tools can be highly valuable to stop email frauds. But, educating the customers is the best way to ensure they are safe. Communication from the side of the brand ( from marketing team ) is one of the best ways to keep them informed.

Comments

3 Comments

Richard Belford

Thanks for the tips ankit.
Phishing scams are typically given within the type of spam or pop-ups and are usually tough to notice. Once the fraudsters get the personal info, they will use it for every type of fraud, swing our good credit and good name in danger. Because phishing is one amongst the foremost devious kinds of fraud, It’s necessary for everyone to become aware of varied styles of phishing scams besides on learning the way to protect against them. These tips and precautions are must be followed.

Becca

Hey Ankit, yet another great blog post from your end. It has all the important information that will drive an email marketer towards taking steps in building up email marketing security. The authentication protocols are the best according to me. Thank you so much for sharing this useful information through your blog.

Emily

Superb work Ankit! You have managed to put all the important points that are essential for email security that every email marketer must follow. It is indeed a great piece of guide and does absolute justice to its headline. Thanks for sharing it.


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